The traveling road show that annually comprises the Perfect Game tournament schedule has added a stop in October 2014 that promises to open new doors and present even more opportunities for high school-aged prospects in the state of California.
The inaugural Perfect Game California World Series will be held Friday through Sunday, Oct. 3-5, on at least eight university and college stadiums and fields sprinkled around Southern California.
The event will be divided into two divisions – Upperclass for prospects in the class of 2015 and younger, and Underclass for those in the class of 2016 and younger – and the 16 teams that will compete in each of the tournaments will be selected by Perfect Game officials and extended invitations to participate. All 32 teams will have their operations based in California.
“I’ve been waiting for this to happen for awhile,” said Mitch Spiers from the Carlsbad-based Team California Warriors. “Perfect Game is great, and for it to come into Southern California like this, it’s just going to open up better baseball around the rest of the state.”
The Team California Warriors join 10 other top-tier programs that have already been extended and accepted invitations to field teams in both divisions. They include: GBG Marucci (from Los Angeles); San Diego Show (San Diego); CBA Marucci (San Bernardino); NorCal Baseball (Pleasanton); Trombly Baseball, (Placentia); Southern California Bombers (La Puente); Playa Vista Orioles (Playa Vista); BPA DeMarini Elite (San Juan Capistrano); SGV Arsenal (West Covina), and CCB Elite (San Jose).
The SoCal Renegades (San Dimas) have accepted an invitation to field a team in the Upperclass division only.
Most of the Cali-based travel ball organizations already invited to the California World Series have sent teams to the Perfect Game/EvoShield Upperclass and Underclass National Championship tournaments in the Phoenix area the last three years and several have won PG national championships in the Arizona desert.
“We’re definitely looking forward to it. Perfect Game events are always really well run and there is always great competition,” Michael Garciaparra from GBG Marucci said. “Unfortunately, we’ve always had to travel to Arizona just to find the fields to play on so this is exciting. Sometimes you can’t always get your best players out there just due to travel restrictions and stuff like that.
“I think this field is going to be pretty strong overall because you’re going to be able to have people drive to these games and maybe spend the night in their own beds as opposed to having coordinate travel and hotels and all that other stuff.”
Jon Paino from CBA Marucci spoke of a different kind of “mileage” the prospects involved with the inaugural PGCWS will pile up, and he wasn’t talking about the miles put on vans, buses and cars while traveling over U.S. Interstate 10 to Phoenix.
“This is something we’ve been waiting for awhile now,” Paino said. “With the mileage that the players get during the event and then even beyond the event with the Perfect Game evaluations and the blogging and all the write-ups and everything that are associated with it, we’re all pretty excited.”
NorCal Baseball and CCB Elite are true Northern California organizations, so they will be leaving their neighborhoods to compete in the PGCWS. But it beats the heck out of going clear across the country to compete in an elite Perfect Game event, according to NorCal’s Rob Bruno.
“NorCal Baseball has participated in a couple of the Jupiter (PG WWBA World Championship) events, but the challenge we have is that it’s quite a task to get so many kids over to the East Coast and they miss three or four days of school,” he said. “This is going to allow us to have the top organizations here in California where we think that year in and year out, California baseball is really the best in the country. … This will allow us to stay on the West Coast, not miss as much school and play unbelievable baseball with unbelievable teams.”
Another drawing card of the event is the venues at which the games will be played. While the sites have not been officially announced, most will be at NCAA Division I universities.
“Not only does it help the colleges that we’re using, it also gets the kids kind of fired up – ‘Hey, I can play here someday; this is where I want to play someday,’” Garciaparra said. “Not only are you going to be playing at a (first-rate facility), it’s kind of inspiring and it gives them something to shoot for.”
CBA Marucci’s Paino added: “In Southern California, facilities are kind of at a premium. With Perfect Game coming in and reserving some those nicer collegiate fields, I know the kids are going to be excited about playing at college venues and just to have a top-notch event like this in California is great.”
Tim Olivarez from the Playa Vista Orioles said that while he has several players from his organization get drafted the majority of the prospects that come through the Orioles’ program end up playing at the collegiate level, often at a powerhouse programs in Southern California.
It is on those programs’ fields that the PG California World Series will be played.
“These are real nice college fields, good fields,” Olivarez said. “I think this (inaugural) PG California World Series should be a good one. It’s going to draw quite a few college recruiters … and the word will get out and they’ll be out taking a look at these ballplayers. It should be well attended on the college recruiting end.”
“It’s going to add to the exposure for all the kids,” Spiers said. “It’s an opportunity for the colleges to take a look at all the talent, and these are the matchups the college recruiters want to see.”
The high level of competition the PG California World Series is sure to offer is another aspect of the event that is attractive to the participants.
“I find it to be exciting because we have a lot of kids that play baseball here in California, period, and having a club tournament for 16 teams from some strong organizations that have been invited, the field won’t be watered down,” the Playa Vista Orioles’ Olivarez said. “… We’re excited about playing some real good competition.”
Scott Reed from the Southern California Bombers looks at the invitation to the PGCWS as another tool at his disposal to sell his organization to the area’s rich trove of prospects. Having the event right in the prospect’s backyard is the biggest selling point.
“With this being local and with as many times as we go to Arizona already, it makes it that much sweeter,” he said. “It’s a huge event and it’s something that as a program we can announce to our parents and players at those two age levels and let them know that we’ve got a big-time event and it’s right here in our backyard. And with the college fields that are going to be used, it’s going to be top-notch. It will be something that we will obviously talk about until the time comes.
“Even though it’s still eight months away it will be something that we’ll start gearing up for; it’s the first one and with the teams that are in it, it will be just as good as any other (tournament) across the country, I’m sure.”
Perfect Game founder and president Jerry Ford acknowledged the PG California World Series marks the beginning of a “larger commitment” toward high school baseball in both Northern and Southern California.
Tory Hernandez, a former head of baseball operations for the Los Angeles Angels, has been brought on board to increase PG’s reach in California, and full-time administrative staff members and scouting personnel including Brad Clement, Matthew Bliven and Todd Gold will continue to focus their efforts on the West Coast.
“To say that we are taking California seriously would be an understatement,” Ford said. “This very high-level tournament is long past due, with California being the top baseball state in the country. It will be one of several PG events added to the schedule for 2014 and beyond.
“We are going to work with the top teams, find the best players and tell the entire nation who they are,” he continued. "It’s nothing different than what we always have done, we just want to do it even bigger and better.”
There are spring high school seasons to be played and summer and early fall Perfect Game national championships to be claimed before 32 elite upper and underclass teams take the field in Southern California in early October. But, already, there is a buzz in the air.
“There’s really nothing like it yet in California,” Paino said. “We get so spread out with some of the events in Arizona and some teams prioritizing with other events, so there’s never really a ‘best of the best’ event in California. This has kind of been a longtime coming.”