By David Rawnsley
October 22-26 will mark the 12th annual World Wood Bat Association World Championships, although the event has neither been called that since day one nor has it been held in Jupiter every year. It just seems that way.
I have personally been at the last nine WWBA World Championships. There are at least five Perfect Game staff members (Jerry Ford, Betty Ford, Andy Ford, Tyson Kimm, Jason Gerst) who have been on hand for all twelve. It would be interesting to see how many team coaches, scouts and college coaches have been at all twelve dating back to 1998 when a Perfect Game team won the championship and RHP/SS Beau Kemp was named the Most Valuable Player.
(If you have been at all twelve WWBA World Championships, or at least the past eleven…we’ll spot you the first….send me an email at email@example.com and we’ll recognize you in a blog next week.)
With literally thousands of games to draw from, we thought we would take a look at the top 10 WWBA World Championship Highlights from the last 12 years, although as Jerry Ford remarked when the topic came up, “This is fun, we should do 25!” It sounds like he’s paraphrasing the immortal Ernie Banks’ philosophy of baseball.
10. Future All-Star Brian McCann (2001) blasting two home runs in a playoff game, one of which might rank as the longest home run ever hit at the World Championships. It carried across the road and into the parking lots where condos now reside across from the Blue Quad.
9. Kyle Drabek’s (2004) curveball and attitude in closing the last three Houston Heat games in the playoffs in their 2004 championship, with his father and his third baseman’s (Kody Clemens) father watching closely. The Phillies future 1st round pick sat at 94 mph with a plus/plus curveball, as unhittable of stuff as we’ve ever seen at the World Championship.
8. The late RHP Nick Adenhart and RHP Eric Hurley (2003) pitching against each other back on the Red Quad with seemingly the whole scouting world watching. Both threw outstanding and Adenhart left Jupiter as the #1 ranked prospect in the 2003 class, although he later suffered an elbow injury that cost him his senior season. Hurley ended up as first round draft pick in 2004.
7. LHP Tyler Matzek and RHP Shelby Miller (2008) pitching for the Braves Scout Team in the 8 pm game Friday night last year under the lights on the Blue Quad, with just about every scout and coach in Jupiter packed around the field. Matzek didn’t disappoint but Miller, if anything, threw better. Both went on to become first round picks in the 2009 draft.
6. CF Colby Rasmus (2004) going 12-21 and driving in 15 Rbi’s for the runner up Ohio Warhawks, including a couple of grand slams. Rasmus had missed most of the previous year after elbow surgery and was even then overshadowed by his younger brother, RHP Cory Rasmus, before his incredible offensive display. Both Rasmus brothers went on to become first round picks.
5. Primetime Prospects 1B Nicholas Avila (2005) hitting a home run in the dark off 15 year old RHP Robert Stock’s 95 mph fastball to defeat the heavily favored Braves Scout Team 9-8. Many thought the game, played on a Red Quad field without lights, should have been called before the inning ever started. It was Stock’s last appearance at Jupiter, as he later skipped his senior year of high school to enroll early at Southern California.
4. OF/LHP Ryan Sweeney (2002) winning the MVP on both sides of the ball, getting 13 hits in 8 games and throwing 10 scoreless innings for Baseball America, including a shutout in the semi-finals. Not only was it a dominant performance that scouts should have remembered more when Sweeney slid to the second round in the 2003 draft, it was particularly sweet being from the hometown Cedar Rapids star.
3. OF/1B Chris Parmelee (2005) going 7-10 with 11 walks, 3 home runs and even 6 stolen bases in almost single handedly leading ABD deep into the playoffs. Not only was the performance unprecedented, it was the way that some very, very good pitchers treated him with Pujols/Bonds type respect. You don’t see that at this level with hard throwing teenage pitchers.
2. RHP Rick Porcello (2006) throwing 94-98 mph with a nasty 81 mph curveball, impeccable command and looking like a Major Leaguer while doing it. You couldn’t say he was going to be a successful big league pitcher 2 ½ years later, but if ever a high school pitcher looked close to the big leagues, it was Porcello on that day.
1. LHP Scott Kazmir (2001) pitching on the far back field at the Red Quad with 400 scouts/coaches jammed into every possible spot to watch him throw 94-96 mph with a hammer of a breaking ball. While this type of scouting hysteria has happened since (see Matzek/Miller below, for example), this was in the early years of the World Championships and defined what the event could become for the scouting community.
Off Field/Non Player Honorable Mention
4. Experiencing the incredible downpour that washed out the East Cobb Astros/Chet Lemon’s Juice championship game in 2005. Water was overflowing out of the stands onto the field!
3. Having “The Rookie” LHP Jim Morris, ably assisted by big league outfielder Dimitri Young, coach the 2002 Baseball America team to the championship.
2. Switching Jupiter to Fort Myers on a couple weeks notice (2004) when hurricane damage made the Roger Dean Complex light towers look like broken bats.
1. Watching the helicopter fly over the complex (2007) trying to dry fields.