CHICAGO — Mother Nature wasn't on Under Armour's side today.
During warmups and for the first couple innings of the Under Armour All-America Game presented by Baseball Factory, the weather was beautiful. But dark clouds started rolling in during the third inning and heavy downpour caused a 90-minute break in the action. With steady rain during the final three innings, the game was eventually called in the eighth when outfielder Fernelys Sanchez from Washington High in New York was drilled in the back by a pitch that slipped out of the pitcher's hand.
The National team beat the American team, 6-4.
"For us, it was important to try and get as much as the game in as possible," Baseball Factory spokesman Jason Budden said. "It's unfortunate that we had to end early, but we were able to get all the primary pitchers to throw and all position players got in the game. It was a great outing. I thought the kids showed great and I'm really excited with how it turned out, even with the weather."
The pitcher on the mound in the eighth inning was righthander Jamie Callahan. His stuff wasn't as sharp as he's shown in the past and he had trouble locating, giving up two walks and two singles before drilling Sanchez right at the top of the spine.
"I picked up the rosin bag and it was wet, too," Callahan said. "I used a little bit of the (dry) jersey I had left, but once my cleats started clogging up, I lost all control. By the time I got out there, the rain had been drizzling pretty hard. I felt pretty good in the 'pen, but then I got out there and my cleats started clogging up and the ball got wet and it just wasn't an ideal pitching environment."
But Callahan has a mellow, happy-go-lucky attitude and shook it off by looking on the bright side.
"It's a great experience and I've had a lot of fun," Callahan said. "The outcome wasn't how I wanted it, but I would advise anybody to come to this. Under Armour does a great job and it's put together so well."
Other players echoed that sentiment and didn't let a little bad weather cloud the experience overall.
"It's unbelievable," shortstop Gavin Cecchini said of the experience. "It starts when you fly in and you get to the hotel and you walk in the room and it's like Christmas. You have your jersey set up for you, you pick your cleats and glasses and you get measured for stuff. It's unbelievable and the way they run this thing is first class. And then playing at Wrigley Field where all the history is, man, it's unbelievable."
Cecchini probably had a better sense of what to expect, since his brother Garin played in the event two years ago.
"I kind of knew what to expect," Cecchini said. "I knew they were going to give us a ton-load of stuff and I knew that the game is so exciting, so I was real grateful and thankful to get a chance to play here."
Cecchini went 1-for-5 on the day with a double, the American team's only extra-base hit on the day. The double was laced to the right-center gap and came on an 82 mph curveball from righthander Tyler Gonzales from Madison High in San Antonio. Cecchini squared a couple other balls up that didn't fall in and played good defense, earning him the American team's MVP award.
"I felt really well," Cecchini said. "In a couple at-bats my timing was off—a little late and a little early—but I squared one up in the right-center field gap and got a double and I hit one decent my first at-bat. I felt good at the plate and it was a good day, overall. I felt good in the field and made all the plays, so it felt good."
The National team's MVP was Jesmuel Valentin from the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. Valentin went 2-for-2 with a double, a single, a walk and he was hit by a pitch in his final plate appearance. Valentin showed scouts he can square up good velocity—the double came off a 93 mph fastball and the single was against 94.
"I felt awesome—this is an opportunity I've always been waiting for," Valentin said. "I just came to have fun, but obviously it's an great to win an MVP and look good in front of the scouts and see my entire family and know my friends are watching back home. I was just trying to do my best and make my family really proud."
Valentin said about 30 family members were at Wrigley to watch him play and there was a houseful of friends and family watching back home in Puerto Rico at his grandfather's house.
"I was seeing the ball really well," Valentin said. "Lately I've been hitting the ball really good. I went to the East Coast (Professional Showcase) and had a great tournament and then I came here and just continued to do the same thing."
The switch-hitting Valentin also showed good hustle on the bases, something he learned from his father, Jose, who spent 16 years in the big leagues with the Brewers, White Sox, Dodgers and Mets.
"My dad always told me that you have to hustle," Jesmuel Valentin said. "You have to show the scouts you can run, show the scouts you can hustle and that you're a good player."
Sunshine State Showdown
Before the game started, there was a home run derby that featured eight players, four from the American squad and four from the National squad. The participants included third baseman Carson Kelly from Westview High in Portland, infielder Mikey White from Spain Park (Ala.) High, outfielder Lewis Brinson from Coral Springs (Fla.) High, catcher Stryker Trahan from Acadiana High in Lafayette, La., Byron Buxton from Appling County High in Baxley, Ga., third baseman David Thompson from Westminster Christian High in Palmetto Bay, Fla., catcher Clint Coulter from Union High in Vancouver, Wash. and outfielder Franmil Reyes from the Dominican Replublic.
But, in the end, it came down to the two hitters from Florida—Brinson and Thompson.
The ball was not traveling well out to left field today, but Brinson was still able to launch four home runs total—two in each round—to win it.
"I was feeling good," Brinson said after the game. "To see the balls leave Wrigley like that is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and it felt great."
In the game, Brinson went 1-for-3 with a single, a walk and a stolen base. But he came up limping a little after the slide into second base and had to leave the game, shortly before it was called.
"It was just a little cramp in my (left) hamstring," Brinson said. "But I'm good, though. I'm feeling good now. It didn't take me out for long, but even though it's not sunny out, it's still hot and I didn't drink enough water."
Three righthanders touched 94 mph in the game: Ty Hensley from Edmond High in Santa Fe, Okla., Teddy Stankiewicz from Keller (Texas) High and Nick Travieso from Archbishop McCarthy High in Southwest Ranches, Fla.
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