SEBRING, Fla.—Between getting bumped off my first flight, sitting on the runway in the layover flight for an extra 45 minutes, waiting in a 40-person line to get my rental car, driving an hour and a half south of Orlando without seeing one Starbucks, spilling a giant glob of mustard on my shorts and realizing I lost a $5 bill out of my pocket when I was trying to buy a Gatorade, today wasn’t exactly my day. Not that I’m complaining. The worst day watching baseball sure beats the best days at some other jobs, and for that I am grateful. But, despite all my mishaps, this wasn’t anywhere near the worst day watching baseball—there are just too many good players here in Sebring for it to even come close.
2009 marks the 17th-consecutive year for the Florida Athletic Coaches Association Baseball Classic in Sebring, the event’s co-director Travis Rapp said, but an annual all-star game has taken place in the county for more than 30 years.
"There’s a lot of work involved, but the day of it just flows—baseball does that," Rapp said. "We tell the kids to just come, relax and have fun. It’s just fun to see the future all-stars of baseball come kick it around as teenagers and this is the only all-star game that I know of that pits the best players in a state against each other."
The event features four teams of the best seniors in the state, divided by region. Most of the players have been scouted all spring and, in most cases, last summer and fall on the showcase circuit, as well. It’s always said that the first impression is the most important. But in scouting, sometimes the last impression is the most important and with less than two weeks until draft day, these players have one final shot to show what they can do. This makes it a must-see event for scouts, and there were about 75 on hand today as the position players took on-field batting practice with wood bats.
There are 18 players on the rosters that are among our Top 200 draft prospects. Here are those players by team . . .
•Austin Maddox, c, Eagle View Academy, Jacksonville
•Keyvius Sampson, rhp, Forest HS, Ocala, Fla.
•LeVon Washington, of, Buchholz HS, Gainesville, Fla. (Though, for some reason, Washington wasn’t at the first day of the event for batting practice. I haven’t gotten any answers as to whether he’ll be at the games tomorrow, but I’ll keep digging).
•Deven Marrero, ss, American Heritage HS, Plantation, Fla.
•Dane Williams, rhp, Archbishop McCarthy HS, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
•Steven Baron, c, Ferguson HS, Miami
•Stephen Perez, Gulliver Prep, Miami
•Nick Franklin, ss, Lake Brantley HS, Altamonte, Fla.
•Patrick Schuster, lhp, Mitchell HS, New Port Richey, Fla.
•Mychal Givens, ss/rhp, Plant HS, Tampa
•Reggie Williams, of, Brooks-DeBartolo HS, Tampa
•J.R. Murphy, c, Pendleton HS, Bradenton, Fla.
•Michael Ohlman, c, Lakewood Ranch HS, Bradenton, Fla.
•Scooter Gennett, ss, Sarasota (Fla.) HS
•Michael Heller, rhp, Cardinal Mooney HS, Sarasota, Fla.
•David Holmberg, lhp, Port Charlotte (Fla.) HS
•Bobby Borchering, 3b, Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers, Fla.
•Michael Zunino, c, Mariner HS, Cape Coral, Fla.
This year’s players are following in the footsteps of Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones, Gary Sheffield, Casey Kotchman, Prince Fielder and Zack Greinke, among others.
"Events like this are extremely helpful because you can see all the top prospects in this year’s draft on the field at one time, competing against one another," a National League area scout said. "The truly-talented players will rise to the occasion and stand out above the rest."
Watching batting practice was a little confusing because the rosters I have list the players’ numbers they’ll be wearing in the games tomorrow and Saturday and are completely different form the numbers they wore during batting practice. However, one player that stood out today with the most impressive performance was Bobby Borchering, who ranks No. 16 on our Top 200 list. Borchering has some of the best power in this year’s class and hit several balls over the fence from both sides of the plate.
Games begin tomorrow with North vs. South at 2:30 p.m. and then East vs. West at 7:30 p.m. The two losing teams will face off on Saturday at 11 a.m. and the winners will play the final game 30 minutes after the first game ends.