West defeats East 4-2
AFLAC Vice President Al Johnson presents Ike Davis (West) with the MVP Award
The 2004 AFLAC Classic started with the “Players Dinner” Tuesday evening August 3rd. Players were introduced to the AFLAC, Sports America, Perfect Game and Baseball America staffs. Also introduced was Mark Noble and his staff from Athletica and Bob Kelly from Striker Bat “the official” wood bat of this years classic. The president of Perfect Game, Jerry Ford, presented two awards that were earned at the PG National held earlier this summer at Tropicana Field in St Pete, FL. The Home Run award was presented to Cameron Maybin (Arden, NC) and the Fastest Man award was presented to Justin Upton (Chesapeake, VA). 32 of the 40 AFLAC All Americans played in the Perfect Game National showcase.
The week ended with the East team leaving the bases loaded and the West team earning a hard fought 4-2 victory. In between the opening dinner and the final players get together a huge group of scouts had the opportunity to see the talented players up close and personal. Scouts also followed another group of talented PG selected players who worked out and played a nine inning game the first two days.
Day one provided a good look at the fielding/throwing/hitting ability of the position players. Probably the most astounding feature of the first day was the number of tape measure shots hit during BP. Many of the AFLAC All Americans hit balls deep into the surrounding woods at the practice facility. No one stood out more than Texas catcher and switch hitter Preston Paramore. Paramore hit several balls 400+ into the right field woods. Then he turned around and hit them just as far and as often into the left field trees. There was no shortage in raw power as several players put on a display that lost baseballs (about 9 dozen) deep into the woods. After the workout the AFLAC players went to visit the children who are patients at John Hopkins Hospital. 30 plus Perfect Game players took the field and worked out for the many scouts including at least 10 Scouting Directors. Kieron Pope (Gay, GA) was the star of this workout hitting many balls that landed deep into the woods. Pope, in fact, showed power that compared favorably to any of the AFLAC All Americans. The AFLAC players went to Camden Yard in the evening to watch the Baltimore Orioles play the Seattle Mariners.
Day two started a bit late due to a severe thunderstorm that moved through the area the night before. It was a replay of day one except for an even a larger number of scouts and at least 15 to 20 scouting directors in attendance. Chris Dominguez, PJ Phillips, Justin Upton, Cameron Maybin, Brett Wallace, John Egan, Jordan Danks, Paramore and several others continued to amaze the scouts with another power display. The AFLAC players then left to visit the ESPN Zone and the Babe Ruth museum. The Perfect Game players then worked out and played a nine inning game at the Bachman Sports Complex in front of a huge group of scouts and scouting directors. Some interesting notes from the PG workout included speedster RJ Anderson (FL) running a 6.3 60 yd sprint and Kieron Pope running a 6.43. Anderson is one of the countries very best defensive outfielders. Catcher Cody Neer (FL), Brian Hobbs (MD) and Chadd Hartman (FL) displayed plus raw power during pregame BP. The game featured some outstanding pitchers and outstanding defensive players. A few players really stood out at the plate as well. Florida Shortstop David Adams was 2 for 3 to continue his great summer at the best and most competitive events. Adams was one of the top hitters at the PG National and the WWBA/PG Championship in Marietta, GA before being named the top hitter at the East Coast Pro Showcase in Wilmington, NC. Kieron Pope hit a home run over the center field wall while both John Dischert (DE) and Jason Rago (CT) had two hits in the game.
A few pitchers put on a show for the high level scouts. There were at least 3 or 4 pitchers who threw well enough that they could easily have been named AFLAC All Americans. Perhaps the best arm in the mid Atlantic this year belongs to Brandon Erbe (MD). Erbe has gone from being a mid 80s pitcher last year to touching mid 90s this summer. He didn’t disappoint the scouts, showing a fastball touching 93 mph and a fast smooth arm action. Shawn Garceau (FL) stopped off in Maryland before heading to Farmington, NM with the Florida Bombers and the Connie Mack World Series. Garceau has been 90-93 every time we’ve seen him this year. In Maryland he only topped out at only 91, but with plus plus life and outstanding command. Dominican 16 year old Edgar Garcia has created a ton of interest since appearing in the PG National and the WWBA/PG Championship in Georgia. In Georgia he was just flat unhittable, throwing 91-94 with three solid MLB pitches and great command. Garcia was nowhere near as sharp in Maryland, but he still showed low 90s velocity and a very good breaking ball. Perhaps the star of the game and the player that helped himself the very most was Matt Olson (VA). The 6’4 RHP was very good at the PG National and the other events he’s been at this summer, but this time he was extra special. Olson showed outstanding sink on a consistent 91-93 fastball and he had plus command of every pitch he threw. One NL scouting director stated that Olson’s performance was as good as any he’s seen this summer. All in all, it was a very good event for the players and the scouts. It gave the scouts something valuable to do in between the AFLAC workouts and game.
Thursday evening a very large group attended the AFLAC Players Awards Dinner at the Wyndham Baltimore Hotel. Justin Upton was presented the Jackie Robinson Award as the top rising Senior in America. AFLAC Honorary Chairman Cal Ripken Jr. and the late Jackie Robinson’s wife Rachel Robinson presented the award. Justin Upton has established himself as a player of both strength and character,” said Al Johnson, vice president of advertising, AFLAC. “His excellence both on and off the field makes him the fitting recipient of the AFLAC National High School Player of the Year honor.”
Day three saw the AFLAC All Americans workout in the morning. Several players ran the 60 yard dash while others were a bit stiff and sore electing not to run. The fastest electronic laser times were recorded by Cameron Maybin 6.42, Ben Booker (TX) 6.45 and Austin Jackson (TX) 6.51. Speedsters Justin Upton and Andrew McCutchen did not run. After another short BP session the players went back to rest up for the game that evening.
Ripken Stadium is a beautiful baseball park. Pregame workouts went well and at 5:30 a couple hundred scouts attended a get together, sponsored by AFLAC, in the club room. At 6:30 the Home Run contest started with Sean O’Sullivan hitting the first pitch out of the park. O’Sullivan hit three including one over the 404’ sign in right center. The participants included O’Sullivan (CA), Chris Dominguez (FL), Jon Egan (GA), Ralphie Henriquez (FL), Justin Upton (VA), Cameron Maybin (NC), Jordan Danks (TX), Ryan DeLaughter (TX), Preston Paramore (TX), and Brett Wallace (CA). In the first round nearly everyone hit at least one home run, but Paramore, Dominguez, and O’Sullivan hit three each. However, three would not make the finals as Maybin put on a show, hitting 4 long ones including two 430’ shots, well over the scoreboard in left center. Then Danks hit 5 out of the park in his first 8 swings. Maybin was skunked in the 10 swing hit off between he and Danks. It took Jordan Danks exactly one pitch to earn the home run derby trophy as he parked one into the freeway, almost nailing a passing car. The power displayed by these hitters using wood bats made for quite a show.
The nine inning game itself had moments to remember and a few to forget. On a somewhat chilly night the pitchers seemed to all be down a notch from previous performances. O’Sullivan was as good as any as he breezed through an inning striking out the side on 91-93 mph live fastballs and one of the best curveballs in the game. Local favorite Steve Johnson threw well 89-90, Bradley Clark (FL) was down from his usual 92-94 heater, but showed a plus plus breaking ball. Buster Posey (GA) showed good life on his 93 mph fastball. Chris Volstad (FL), Ryan DeLaughter (TX), Josh Zeid (CT), Beau Jones (LA), Shane Funk (FL), Jeff Lyman (CA), Eric Massingham (CA), Ryan Mitchell (TX), Zach Putnam (MI), and Ryan Tucker (CA) all showed 90+ velocity but, we’ve seen them all better in the past. Putnam was up to 92 several times and Tucker used his live 91-92 heater to bail out of a bases loaded jam. The Stadium gun readings seemed to be significantly lower than our Stalker readings.
A few Highlights of the game
INF Nick Romero (CA) made some outstanding plays at short and 2nd base.
C Jon Egan (GA) threw a couple of lasers to 2nd base and looked very good defensively.
SS Justin Upton (VA) beat out an infield roller running a blazing home to first.
3B CJ Henry (OK) made some nice plays
3B Brett Wallace (CA) doesn’t look like a runner but he stole home.
OF Jordan Danks (TX) made a nice catch in the right field corner.
OF Cameron Maybin had two SBs
Stars of the game
OF John Drennen (CA) had two base hits and stole two bases.
1B Ike Davis (AZ) hit the only home run in the game and was named MVP.
INF Ben Booker (TX) had two hits and played well defensively.
STAR of the game
OF Andrew McCutchen (FL) went 4 for 5 setting an AFLAC game record, stole a base, and he played outstanding defense. The only time the west team retired McCutchen was on a long fly ball deep against the wall. While Ike Davis walked once, hit the go ahead homerun and deserved the MVP award for helping his West team win the game, Andrew McCutchen was the offensive star of the 2004 AFLAC Classic.
The AFLAC All American Classic was televised nationally on Fox Sports. Millions of viewers will get the opportunity to see these outstanding prospects. In just two years the AFLAC Classic has become the top event for rising high school seniors. They treat the players like big leaguers and they treat the scouts and fans the same way. While we are proud of all our PG accomplishments in holding the highest level scouting events, everyone including Perfect Game takes a back seat to the AFLAC Classic. Thanks to AFLAC and Sports America this event has already become baseball’s equivalent of the McDonald’s All American High School Basketball Classic. I guess it should because Bob Geoghan and Sports America originated and still run the McDonald’s event that is in it’s 28th year.
The game was televised with Fox Sports announcers Bob Rathbun and former major leaguer Tom Paciorek doing the play by play. Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. is the honorary chairman and spoke at both the Banquet and was interviewed during the telecast. All proceeds from this great event go to the Childrens Hospital to work on eliminating Pediatric Cancer. AFLAC is very much involved in this fight and it is very apparent during all phases of the AFLAC All American Classic.
Other AFLAC Notes:
Several players were introduced and tested by Mark Noble, Conelly Duncan and Charlie Davidson of Athletica. Perfect Game and Athletica are forming a baseball partnership for a very important reason. Perfect Game is established as the #1 scouting service in baseball and has had over 1,300 PG players drafted by MLB clubs in just the past three years. This includes 66 first round selections. Mark Noble is recognized as the #1 injury prevention specialist in the United States. He has worked with the Duke University basketball program for the last 18 years. 20 years ago top level basketball stars were having ACL knee surgeries at an alarming rate. Since Mark Noble has been with the Duke program there have been not one “0” ACL surgeries at Duke in those 18 years. The ACL injuries involving the knee are very similar to the type of elbow injury that requires “Tommy John” surgery. Mr. Noble has developed a program that tests athletes and finds potential injuries (Weaknesses) before they become serious, resulting in surgery. Obviously this is an important valuable breakthrough for players, Major League organizations and College programs. Once these weaknesses are revealed in most cases Mr Noble can turn that weakness into an area of strength within 6 weeks. Taking someone headed for Tommy John or Labrum surgery and actually making them stronger is something that baseball people can not ignore.
On a sad note:
We had more than one parent call us from another event their son was attending on the west coast during the AFLAC Classic. They said that some scouts involved in helping run this other event were telling the players to avoid going to Perfect Game events and if the player was an “06” grad to turn down the selection to next year’s AFLAC Classic. This is very disturbing and speaks volumes about those who would give such advice. If the goal is to give young players the very best opportunity available to be seen by the most important people in baseball, why avoid Perfect Game or even more, avoid the AFLAC Classic. Perfect Game has had over 1,300 draft picks in just the past three years including 66 first rounders. An interesting point is that the scouts who were saying these negative remarks were telling young players these things at the very same time that their own Scouting Director was in Maryland watching the AFLAC All American Classic. If it wasn’t so sad it would be almost funny. In fact, we counted at least 22 Scouting Directors present in Maryland and you can bet that most every scout and college coach in America will be among the many millions who watch the game on Fox Sports.
A Special Thank You
Mike Dimond and the officials who run the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington NM. The Connie Mack World Series is a great tournament that draws more fans to the park (crowds of 10,000) than any other high school age event in the country. The organizers are real baseball people who understand the value to players, fans and baseball in general of the AFLAC Classic. Because of their understanding and interest in baseball, the Connie Mack organizers agreed to push back their starting date to accommodate any players who had a conflict between the two events. To our knowledge this included a few AFLAC All Americans including Bradley Clark and Cameron Maybin who play for the Midland Redskins. It also allowed Florida Bomber pitcher Sean Garceau the opportunity to play in Maryland during the AFLAC event. The Connie Mack officials went to great lengths helping the AFLAC Classic.
From Beginning to End:
The AFLAC All American Classic is a high class event. The many scouts and college coaches that attended were treated with the respect they so much deserve. The players would all say that they really enjoyed the experience and received “Big League” attention. Cal Ripken Jr. is a great role model and spokesman for baseball. Sports America proved once again that they are the very best at organizing these type of events. AFLAC has become a big player for the game of baseball. The children at the hospital who benefit so much from this event are outstanding and deserve everyone’s best effort. All in all, a “great” event and one that is held for all the right reasons. The 2004 AFLAC All-American Baseball Classic raised $60,000 for the division of pediatric oncology at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, the game’s official charity, as part of AFLAC’s ongoing commitment to support research and treatment of pediatric cancer.
A Tribute to these AFLAC players
Justin Bristow Richmond, VA
Bradley Clark Tampa, FL
David DiNatale Parkland, FL
Chris Dominguez Miami, FL
Jonathan Egan Hephzibah, GA
Shane Funk Panama City Beach, FL
Ralphie Henriquez Key West, FL
Steve Johnson Kingsville, MD
Matt Lea Collierville, TN
Kent Mathes Orlando, FL
Cameron Maybin Arden, NC
Andrew McCutchen Fort Meade, FL
Mark Ortega Palm Beach Gardens, FL
PJ Phillips Stone Mountain, GA
Buster Posey Leesburg, GA
Miers Quigley Roswell, GA
Iain Sebastian Columbus, GA
Justin Upton Chesapeake, VA
Chris Volstad Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Josh Zeid New Haven, CT
Ben Booker Bruceville, TX
Jordan Danks Round Rock, TX
Ike Davis Scottsdale, AZ
Ryan DeLaughter Corinth, TX
John Drennen San Diego, CA
Diallo Fon Suisun City, CA
Jeremy Hellickson Des Moines, IA
CJ Henry Oklahoma City, OK
Austin Jackson Denton, TX
Beau Jones Destrehan, LA J
eff Lyman Alamo, CA
Eric Massingham Benicia, CA
Kyle Maxie Hattiesburg, MS
Ryan Mitchell Magnolia, TX
Sean O’Sullivan El Cajon, CA
Preston Paramore Allen, TX
Zach Putnam Ann Arbor, MI
Nick Romero Chula Vista, CA
Ryan Tucker Temple City, CA
Brett Wallace Sonoma, CA
A Tribute to these players who played in the PG showcase
Steve Vitale East Meadow, NY
Tin Johnson Blue Bell, PA
Derek Goughenour Millersville, MD
Cody Railsback Denton, TX
Nate Curd Brooklandville, MD
Brandon Erbe Baltimore, MD
Samuel Elam Mesquite, TX
Dave Caldwell Baltimore, MD
Lee Epps Merriam, KS
Alex Peguero Riverdale, MD
Brian Hobbs Gambrell, MD
Evan Bigley Lancaster, TX
Jason Rago Fairfield, CT
Mario Duarte Tampa, FL
RJ Anderson Seffner, FL
Seth Henry Berwick, LA
Matt Rogers Paoli, PA
Mike Roberts Prince George, VA
Brian Muldowney West Chester, PA
Cody Neer Orlando, FL
Edgar Garcia Dominican Republic
Pedro Alvarez Riverdale, NY
Anthony Shawler Chesapeake, VA
Kieron Pope Gay, GA
Chadd Hartman Windemere, FL
Tyler Tomer Wallingford, CT
Shawn Garceau Royal Palm Beach, FL
David Adams Margate, FL
Josh Eidell Norristown, PA
John Dischert Wilmington, DE
It is a great honor for Perfect Game to be in charge of selecting the AFLAC All Americans. It is an even bigger honor to work so closely with the many professional people associated with the event. The event is great and the cause is even greater.
For more about the AFLAC Classic, here is the link http://www.aflacallamerican.com/index2.cfm