MESA, Ariz.—The 18th annual Under Amour All-America Preseason Tournament, hosted by Baseball Factory, began Friday night with Opening Ceremonies held at Sloan Park in Mesa, the spring home of the Chicago Cubs. This tournament is one of several events held by Baseball Factory as a precursor to the Under Armour All-America Game, held each summer at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
During the Opening Ceremony for the preseason tournament, four players were announced as selections for the Wrigley Field game, including Nolan Gorman (Sandra Day O'Connor High, Glendale, Ariz.), Matthew Liberatore (Mountain Ridge High, Peoria, Ariz.), Mason Denaburg (Merritt Island (Fla.) High) and Jordan Groshans (Magnolia (Texas) High).
About 400 players, split geographically into 24 teams, played games and received professional coaching on Saturday and Sunday. This event is different from other showcases in that instruction takes precedence over actual competition, with daily sessions dedicated to hitting and fielding work for each team. Games are structured so that sides change after five batters regardless of the number of outs and all batters start with a 1-1 count in order to keep the action moving quickly.
Groshans was the only one of the four players selected for the Wrigley Field event to participate in games over the weekend, playing for the Texas squad on Saturday. The righthanded-hitting shortstop, whose older brother Jaxx also went through the Baseball Factory programs, showed athleticism and a loose, easy stroke at the plate.
Being named to Under Armour game fulfills a long-time goal for Groshans.
"It's a really good honor," Groshans said. "Growing up I used to always watch the game and tell myself I wanted to be there . . . it's unbelievable."
Groshans' development as a ballplayer doesn't come as a surprise to Steve Bernhardt, Baseball Factory's executive vice president of baseball operations.
"Jordan has a pretty complete all-around game for a young player his age," Bernhardt said. "From a tools perspective, he pretty much checks all those boxes. We think he has a chance to stay at shortstop . . . He's a very hard worker, kind of old school, what they would call a baseball rat. He's the first guy to the field and the last guy to leave. He just lives it. His goal is to maximize his potential and be the best possible baseball player that he can be."
While the Baseball Factory staff is already familiar with players such as Groshans, other participants can use the preseason tournament to put their name on the map for future consideration. Last year's surprise player, 2018 shortstop Raynel Delgado (Miami Lakes, Florida), returned to Mesa looking noticeably stronger, and will be a strong contender to be selected for this summer's game in Wrigley Field.
The pop-up player from this past weekend's competition was Paul Moore, an outfielder from Ashburn, Va., from the class of 2019. Moore wasn't well known before the event, but quickly drew attention in batting practice sessions. A muscular lefthanded hitter, Moore showed off good bat speed and an ability to use his hands well, resulting in big power and loud contact. Major league scouts working the event quickly added Moore to their organizations' watch list for the upcoming high school season.
"There are a lot of talented players out here and sometimes it's difficult to really stand out," Bernhardt said about Moore. "Our group of scouts and coaches over at the batting practice field immediately started the buzz about Paul after his two rounds over there . . . We had seen him once before at a one-day workout and he did well, but he really put himself on the map with the way he was driving balls and squaring up an awful lot. It's that rare lefthanded power that's hard to find."
Moore appreciated the agenda with much of his first full day in Arizona being focused on batting practice and outfield drills instead of games, especially since one of his priorities is to improve his outfield defense.
"It gave me a chance to warm up and kick off some of the rust from the months we had off," Moore said. "There are a lot of good scouts and a lot of good instruction . . . I can improve my ability and improve my skills to play."