SAN DIEGO—Sunday’s Aflac All America game, won by the East squad, 5-3, can be comfortably described as the triumph of the little guys. Several players who enjoyed terrific performances can charitably be identified as “undersized," with some scouts wondering out loud if the heights and weights listed in the program were, let’s say, generous.
The premier player in Sunday’s game as well as the Aflac practices on Friday and Saturday was Francisco Lindor, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound switch-hitting shortstop from Montverde (Fla.) Academy.
Flashing a playing style similar to Jose Reyes, Lindor is exceptionally quick and fast. His smooth and fluid fielding actions permit him to make all plays required of a shortstop with ease and grace. Lindor’s throwing arm is strong and accurate, and he projects as a potential major league gold glove winner.
A veteran scout who has seen Lindor frequently explained that Lindor has often been brilliant in workouts and showcases, but has struggled to transfer those showings into game results. Sunday’s showing may provide a breakthrough for Lindor, giving him the confidence to translate his talent into actual game production.
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SAN DIEGO—There's an old notion that a professional should act like he's been there before when he's on the field. Apparently, it applies to high school players now, too.
In the case of Sunday night's Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic, won by the East team 5-3, virtually all of the participants had been here before. Not on the field at the Padres' Petco Park necessarily — although West shortstop Phillip Evans and first baseman/pitcher Daniel Camarena are locals who had played here with their high school teams — but a big league ballfield nonetheless.
It is the opportunity afforded elite players these days. The experience has by no means become routine. And the Aflac players still treated it with the appropriate respect. But they weren't as wide-eyed as those who have come before them.
CHICAGO—Saturday marked the third consecutive year the Under Armour All-America Game powered by Baseball Factory was played at Wrigley Field in Chicago, a good conclusion to a four-day event that provided some of the best high school players in the country with a unique and unforgettable experience. Thirty six players arrived in Chicago on Wednesday and were outfitted with Under Armour equipment and clothing before getting a tour of Wrigley Field. After the tour they had a banquet at the stadium and listened to Cal and Billy Ripken speak about their experiences in baseball.
On Thursday the players worked with younger athletes at a Ripken Camp, before taking the field themselves and getting instruction from the Ripkens, as well as several other coaches with professional experience, at University of Illinois-Chicago's field that essentially has Sears Tower as a batter's eye. After the day at UIC, the players headed down I-90 to U.S. Cellular to watch the White Sox and Twins battle for the top spot in the American League Central.
The players returned to UIC on Friday for the event's workout day, which was attended by approximately 75 scouts and a handful of college recruiters. For dinner, the players, event staff and others dined at one of Chicago's landmarks—Harry Caray's Italian Steakhouse.
"When I got the call for this, it was one of the best moments of my life," Connor Castellano said. "Some of these guys out here will only play on it once, but some of them will play on it 1,000 times. So, it's living the dream, basically."
SAN DIEGO—Francisco Lindor hit just one home run this season for his high school team at Florida's Montverde Academy.
"I'm not a power hitter and I probably won't become one," said the 5-foot-11, 175-pound Lindor.
He certainly looked like one Saturday at the University of San Diego's Cunningham Stadium. This weekend's festivities for Sunday's Aflac All-American Baseball Game include a home run derby. Lindor, like every other hitter in the game, had an opportunity to step to the plate. Never mind that most of the players hit at least five homers for their high school team this season. In fact, five of the competitors reached double digits.
SAN DIEGO—As memorable as the Aflac All-American Baseball Classic should be for those who take the field Sunday at the Padres' Petco Park, event organizers hope the players remember it for experiences that go beyond baseball.
Participants for the East and West teams went through a workout and scrimmage Friday morning at the University of San Diego. Following lunch on the campus, the players and their coaches boarded a bus bound for the nearby Rady Children's Hospital, which has been a beneficiary of the game since 2006. In connection with the event through the years, Aflac has donated $805,000 toward the research and treatment of pediatric cancer.
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