All American Game : : Story
AFLAC CLASSIC ON FOX SPORTS THIS WEEKEND
Published: Monday, September 01, 2003
Don’t miss it, September 20th, check for local listings.
Below is the article we wrote after the outstanding AFLAC CLASSIC.
I have been watching high school baseball for years and years.
I have never seen anything that compares to this AFLAC event.
We at Perfect Game were very proud to be a part of it.
Inaugural AFLAC Event
Ft Myers, FL - The East defeated the West 5-3, but the game was secondary to the real reason behind the first ever AFLAC All American Classic. Chris Nelson from Decatur Georgia was named the MVP going 2 for 3 with a home run against the top high school pitching in America. Nelson a shortstop/pitcher who plays for the National Champion East Cobb Yankees, did not pitch in Ft Myers. Nelson was clocked up to 97 mph in Farmington, NM., at the Connie Mack World Series.
Matt Bush another outstanding SS/P from San Diego, CA., showed the 2,500 fans why he is ranked among the very best in the country. Bush smashed a two run homer and made some nice plays at short. He showed the strongest infield arm during workouts and pitched an inning topping out at 94 mph.
Twelve pitchers threw at least one inning with eleven of them throwing 90 mph or better. The one exception was 88-89. Nick Adenhart (Hagerstown, MD) was a consistent 90-93 with a plus curve ball and a good changeup. The only hit he gave up in three innings of work was the Bush home run. Jay Rainville (Pawtucket, RI) threw 2 innings topping out at 94 mph with a very good breaking ball. He was stronger in the second inning he pitched. Andy Gale (Durham NH) was the third East pitcher and while he threw most of his fastballs 88 to 91 mph, he may have been the most impressive of all. His 79-80 slider and changeup worked well and he had pin point command on this night. Gale retired all six hitters he faced, striking out five. Mark Rogers (Orrs Island, ME) threw a lot of 92 mph fastballs and a sharp breaking curve to finish the game and get the save. We’ve seen Rogers better this year, but he was still very effective. David Armstrong (Arlington, TX) did lead off an inning with a hard hit double down the left field line. The West threw 8 pitchers one inning each. The star studded staff led off with Homer Bailey (LaGrange, TX) Bailey was 90-94 mph with a good low 80s slider. He did give up a couple of unearned runs when Chris Nelson led off the game with a line shot up the middle, Dexter Fowler (Alpharetta, GA) then legged out an infield single. After Bailey recorded a strike out Jared Kubin (Oakton VA) hit a ground ball that could have been a double play but the throw from second baseman Trevor Plouffe (Northridge CA) ticked Fowler’s hand giving the East bases loaded with one out. Neil Walker (C, Gibsonia, PA) then lined an RBI single into right centerfield. Big, 6’10/225, Kenn Kasparek (Weimer, TX) looked very good throwing 89-92 with an excellent breaking ball and showing great mechanics for such a tall right hander. Erik Davis (Mountain View, CA) has enjoyed a great summer being named the top prospect at the Perfect Game National and the top pitcher in the World Championships while pitching for Team USA. In Ft Myers his velocity was down a bit, but it didn’t seem to matter as he dominated hitters once again. His fastball was 88-91 with great life and his three pitch arsonal is one of the best in the country. Javier Guerra (Denton, TX) may be the most talked about high school pitcher in the nation. The TV announcers debated at great length about Guerra’s unique delivery. In Ft Myers he was very good to say the least. His fastball was 90-94 with life and his breaking ball was equally impressive at 79 mph. Some may argue that his “hopping” delivery is illegal, but there’s no denying that Guerra has a special arm. Will Jostock (Lapeer, MI) threw well, but was the only pitcher who stayed under 90 on our gun. He did throw many pitches at 89 mph though. We’ve seen the 6’6, Jostock up as high as 93 before and despite not reaching that velocity in the AFLAC game, he did pitch very well. Troy Patton (Magnolia, TX) was the first lefty of the day and he looked very good. We’ve seen Patton throw harder than the consistent 89-90 (lots of 90s), but his breaking ball was exceptionally sharp. Matt Bush then pitched an inning showing why many think he has the best arm in the nation. He was consistently between 91-94 with a low 80s slider. He did give up a blast to Chris Nelson on a 92 mph fastball, but looked very dominating other than that. Chuck Lofgren (Burlingame, CA) played the game as an outfielder and showed one of the best bats during workouts. He looked equally good on the mound throwing everything 91-92 mph. It will be a tough decision for MLB clubs who need to figure out if he has more potential as a LHP or a power hitting outfielder.
There were other pitchers on the rosters who didn’t pitch, but are well known 90+ mph arms. We have seen Steven Marquardt (Kennewick, WA), Trevor Plouffe and Chris Nelson in the 90s before. We have seen catchers Chris Kirkland (Knoxville, TN) and Chris Garcia (Miami, FL) touch 90 also. Of course, two Florida pitchers who couldn’t pitch are Giavoni Gonzalez (Hialeah, FL) who may be the top lefty in high school baseball and Eric Hurley (Jacksonville, FL) who we’ve seen up to 94 this year.
A few plays that stood out during the game included watching speedster Greg Golson (Austin, TX) run down a shallow fly ball, making it look very easy. Big Tyler Beranek (Waukesha, WI) who swings the bat very well showed his athletic ability by going back and making a tough catch on a little hump back liner. Brad Emaus (Senoia, GA) made a couple of nice plays at shortstop. Bush also made a couple of good plays at shortstop and Neil Walker (Gibsonia, PA) caught all nine innings for the East, showing good blocking skills and a strong, very quick, arm.
The pre-game home run derby started slow, but heated up in a hurry. Beranek hit two in the first round with Eric Campbell (Owensville, IN) and Preston Clark (Rockwall, TX) each hitting one. In the second round Beranek managed one monster shot to left center, but was eliminated when both Clark and Campbell hit two. In the final round of 10 swings Clark hit three including one long one. Campbell took home the trophy when after failing to hit one in his first five swings, he hit four consecutive home runs out of the big ball park. Each home run Campbell hit was longer than the one before it. His last shot went high over the trees behind the left field wall.
The 60 yard sprint was electronically (laser) timed. It seemed like the large throng of MLB scouts were getting hand held times .1 to .2 slower, but we always report the electronic times. Anytime an all American team is selected you know there must be some outstanding tools in the crowd. The fastest man on a very soft wet outfield track in Ft Myers was Greg Golson. We’ve actually timed Golson faster than the 6.41 we got him at the AFLAC event. Here are the 60 times for all that ran.
Greg Golson (TX) 6.41
Dexter Fowler (GA) 6.47
Chris Nelson (GA) 6.49
Warren McFadden (FL) 6.59
Michael Taylor (FL) 6.64
Matt Bush (CA) 6.64
David Armstrong (TX) 6.66
Joseph Dunigan (IL) 6.67
Eric Campbell (IN) 6.68
Tyler Beranek (WI) 6.71
Cale Iorg (TN) 6.72
Trevor Plouffe (CA) 6.73
Steven Marquardt (WA) 6.81
Andy Lentz (WA) 6.95
Jared Kubin (VA) 6.98
Stan Widmann (TX) 7.03
Chuck Lofgren (CA) 7.16
Brad Emaus (GA) 7.18
Chris Garcia (FL) 7.18
Preston Clark (TX) 7.18
Luke French (CO) 7.26
Chris Kirkland (TN) 7.81
During the fielding workouts the top outfield arms were Greg Golson and Michael Taylor. Both have plus major league arms. Golson was actually clocked from the outfield at 95 mph. All outfielders showed average to better MLB arms.
Top infield arm was Matt Bush by far, but Chris Nelson did not throw and he also has a cannon from shortstop. All the infielders showed good actions and strong arms.
The catchers were all excellent with Chris Garcia and Chris Kirkland showing the most raw arm strength. It’s hard to beat Preston Clark’s over all ability behind the plate and as a hitter. Neil Walker missed the workout portion. Alex Garabedian (Miami, FL) was named to the All American team, but did not participate in the workout.
During the several batting practices during the 3 day event, many players stood out. The Florida and Tennesse players all looked very good. Michael Taylor seems to be the guy that scouts were focusing extra hard on and he didn’t disappoint them. Joe Dunigan hit two long ones out of Hammond Stadium in pre-game hitting. The amount of power some of these high school players show is astounding when you take into account that everything, including the game, was played with wood bats.
Fox Sports, Paul Kennedy and former Yankee Jim Leyritz did an outstanding job of covering the game. People will be more than pleased when the game is telecast nationally September 20th. I think everyone will see that this was a BIG LEAGUE production. The field was painted with the AFLAC All American Classic logo and the mound was encompassed by a great big star. Make no mistake, this was a big one!
As was stated earlier, the game and the workouts were secondary issues when it came to this event. The AFLAC All American Classic was all about the kids. Yes, it was great for the talented players, but it was even better for the many children who are patients at the Children’s Hospital. AFLAC is very much involved and interested in the treatment of pediatric cancer. Every cent raised by this event goes to the Children’s Hospital. The players proved to be outstanding caring citizens while visiting the children. The children enjoyed some happy moments and the players learned how truly lucky they are to be so talented and healthy. This was a definite big winner for everyone involved from the arrival at the airport to the post game party after the fire works display. Even the Florida and Tennessee players who could only watch the game would say they will never forget just how special this occasion was.
The Coaching Staff was selected by Perfect Game and Baseball America. All were excellent to say the least. Mike Roberts former head Coach at UNC has a son in the big leagues. Garth Iorg played 9 years in the big leagues and he’s coached or managed at every level including the major leagues. Charlie Sullivan is the head coach at Dematha High School in Maryland and a long time legend in that part of the country. Omar Washington is a former Red Sox and was a 2nd round draft pick. Cecil Espy played 8 years in the Big Leagues and really there’s only one Cecil Espy. Cecil may have been the most happy to get Stan Musial’s autograph. Like everything else involving this event, the coaches were spectacular and great ambassadors for the game of baseball.
Stan “The Man” Musial was the featured guest at the pre game banquet. The 82 year old Musial, named one of the top five living players didn’t disappoint the large crowd. He light heartedly mentioned, “You know if I were at home watching this on television, I’d be asleep right now.” He also claimed the secret to his hitting success was that he always hit the ball to right field or left field, but stayed away from center field. “The best and the fastest player was out there and the fences are much deeper.”
Sports America who organized the event proved to be the very best. It’s no wonder that the McDonalds High School All Star Basketball event televised by ESPN each year is such a great success. We have never seen people so organized and knowledgeable running a sporting event.
Fort Myers Miracle’s staff was a great host. It’s no wonder that this franchise keeps winning awards from the front office to the grounds crew. The Lee County Parks Department is second to none.
The Lee County Sports Authority is in our opinion the best and most progressive group in their field anywhere in the nation. These hard working people do so much more than just talk a good game. We have enjoyed our relationship with the leaders in Ft Myers for many years now.
Baseball America helped organize and promote this big event. The pre-event coverage was unprecedented in high school baseball. Then again there’s never been anything like the AFLAC All American Classic. That is, until next year, when it will be better yet without the problems associated with this years classic.
Perfect Game’s part in the event was to select and invite the players. PG supplied Fox Sports detailed information on these players and coaches both before and during the game. PG was also responsible for running all the workouts, practice schedule and the actual game. Selecting players for the very first AFLAC all American team is a very tough job to say the least. There were over 100 players strongly considered and any one of them would have been a good choice. We do feel very proud of those that participated. They showed their ability, but more importantly they showed their character and their class! We are very honored to have been asked to help. This was a great weekend for the great game of baseball.
AFLAC was nothing less than the perfect sponsor for this wonderful event. The famous commercials with the “duck” became a theme of sorts. Players and fans received stuffed “quacking AFLAC” ducks and bobble head AFLAC Ducks. The AFLAC commitment to pediatric cancer stems from personal experiences of the founders of the company. Baseball has a great friend and supporter in AFLAC Insurance. Everything in Ft Myers was first class. Everyone’s excited about making next year even better.
We have come to realize, nothing ever runs perfectly. The AFLAC All American Classic was no exception. The high school rules that caused some players the opportunity are very unfair. We have read comments that unknowing people have made. Things like “they just are exploiting the players” Please, I am a father and if I still had a high school son, I would only hope and pray that someone would exploit my son in exactly this way. I would thank them forever. Understand that these players were treated like big leaguers and it cost them absolutely nothing. Keep in mind that the only people who made money are those at the Childrens Hospital. Know that Perfect Game and others spent lots of money and spent lots of time and effort trying to help as much as possible. Baseball needs more positive events like the AFLAC All American Classic.
We love baseball!!!!! And because of that we understand that AFLAC and Sports America deserve to be honored for producing the greatest high school baseball event in history. Don’t miss it on Fox Sports, September 20th. Check for local listings. This is “must” viewing for all baseball fans.
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