SAN DIEGO -- Each of the more than 60 top prospects that were in attendance at the PG National Games Monday and Tuesday had their own reasons for being there, and it usually had something to do with getting in front of the scouting community. In short, they just wanted to get the exposure.
There is nothing wrong with that attitude nor that single-mindedness of mission. That is, after all, what this is all about. It should be the intent of every aspiring prospect in attendance at a major underclass event like the PG National Games to put their best foot forward in front of the scouts and college coaches and recruiters.
That said, there was also something refreshing in the response given by Burbank, Calif., shortstop and right-hander Jack Flaherty -- the class of 2014's No. 15-ranked national prospect who was attending his first Perfect Game event -- when asked why he was there.
"I just wasn't ready to finish playing baseball here at the end of the summer," Flaherty said under a cloudless southern California sky Tuesday morning before playing in the day's first game at Triton Ballpark at UC San Diego. "I just finished up at the Area Codes (Games) and I just kind of felt like I wanted to keep playing baseball against some of the top guys in my class."
The weather was glorious during the PG National Games' two-day run and it was certainly understandable why any young man would just want to keep playing baseball as long as he is able, especially a prospect with Flaherty's skills.
His national standing started to shoot through the roof in the spring as a sophomore member of the powerful Harvard-Westlake (Calif.) High School baseball team. That was the team that featured future 2012 first-round MLB draft picks in pitchers and 2011 Perfect Game All-Americans Max Fried and Lucas Giolito and began the season ranked No. 2 in Perfect Game's national high school rankings.
Giolito went down with an injury early in the season but with Flaherty stepping up to become a dominant starting pitcher, the Wolverines managed to finish 25-4-1 and No. 14 in the final PG rankings.
"Going in with Lucas and Max there were obviously high expectations and everybody was looking at us and everybody was gunning for us," Flaherty said Tuesday. "When Lucas went down, it was a rough week and everybody was wondering what was going to happen with us the rest of the year. But we picked each other up ... and we started rolling from there."
Flaherty (6-3, 200) was a big reason why. He hit .397 (31-for-78) with two home runs, 13 RBI, 19 runs and a .479 on-base percentage, while also stealing 11 bases in 12 attempts. But more importantly was what he accomplished on the mound in Giolito's absence; he finished 6-1 (one save) with a 1.77 ERA while scattering 46 hits over 51 1/3 innings with 52 strikeouts against 13 walks.
"I didn't try to do too much when I was pitching, I just went out there and tried to do what I had to do to help us win," Flaherty said.
He threw a complete game six-hitter with six strikeouts in Harvard-Westlake's big 6-2 win over Russell County (Ala.) at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational in Cary, N.C., in late March. After that outing, Harvard-Westlake head coach Matt LaCour told Perfect Game: "His upside is as an everyday player but he's definitely good enough to be a two-way player in college."
Flaherty had a two-run single to help his California (Gold) team to a 4-2 victory over West (White) at the PG National Games Tuesday morning. He was hitless in California's first game and didn't pitch in either game here the last two days.
The expectations Flaherty had for himself coming into the National Games were high, as always. This was his first PG showcase event -- he was on the San Gabriel Valley Arsenal's roster for the 17u Perfect Game World Series in Peoria, Ariz., in late July but didn't play -- and he came in determined to show everyone what he was capable of.
"I always expect the best out of myself; I'm not going to expect anything less than giving everything that I have," he said. "At (an event) like this, I'm never going to look back and say, 'Oh, you had a bad day.' I'm just going to expect the best out of myself no matter where I go to and no matter what I'm up against."
Playing in this event with more than 60 of the top 2014 and 2015 prospects in the country made it easier for Flaherty to reach those expectations.
"It definitely makes you raise your game," he said. "Playing against the other top guys makes you step you game up a little bit."
Flaherty should have many more opportunities to play with and against the best, perhaps as recently as next month when SVG Arsenal sends two teams to the Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championships (Underclass) in the Phoenix area. Flaherty is expected to join the Arsenal at the 2012 PG WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., at the end of October.
He also got an up-close and personal look at the nation's top upper classmen when he attended the Perfect Game All-American Classic presented by Rawlings at PETCO Park on Sunday night.
"That is an unbelievable event," Flaherty said. "Those guys out there, I got to meet quite a few of them at the Area Codes and it was fun to go watch them play.
"I'd love to play in that game," he added with a smile. "If I happen to be there, that would be unbelievable, it would be a great thing, especially after being out there watching them (on Sunday). I wanted to be out there then."