Aflac Classic Notebook

Iowa players stick together




Tim Beckham led the East to the win in the Aflac Classic, but Beckham was not the only notable player who starred during the game.

High school baseball in the state of Iowa drew more scouts than usual this summer, as two of the state's top prospects squared off in the state's 3-A title game. After B.J. Hermsen and West Delaware High held off traditional power Xavier High and outfielder Brent Warren in an 8-0 victory to claim the crown, both players teamed up on the West squad for the Aflac game, marking the first time two players from the Hawkeye State appeared in the Aflac game the same year. The two players have played together outside of their high school teams since they were 12, making their reunion in San Diego extra special.

"We hadn't seen a pitcher like him all year; all we saw were guys throwing 65-70 miles an hour," said Warren, who was hitless in three plate appearances against Hermsen in the championship game. "He's a great pitcher, and it's nice for the state of Iowa to get a little bit of the respect I think it really is beginning to deserve.

"We're never going to pump guys out like California and Florida, but with (White Sox prospect Ryan) Sweeney a few years ago and Johnny (Gilmore, an Aflac participant in 2006 who was drafted 34th-overall by the Braves) this year, I think you're starting to see the area producing some special players."

Warren went 1-for-4 with an infield single in the game, and admitted he was only about 75 percent back from open-heart surgery in December. He had the operation to repair a rare congenital heart condition that initially prompted several doctors to declare his playing career over before the surgery. "It feels great to be here, to have my health and to be able to have so much to look forward to," Warren said.

• For Skipworth, his success wasn't coincidental. After working out for three days with a bat that was provided by an event sponsor, he switched to his usual model before the game, and said after batting practice that he felt much more comfortable with his more familiar lumber. "They said they can't make us use their bats, but they'd like for us to, so I gave it a shot, and it's a nice bat. I just like the way the weight's distributed so much more with mine," Skipworth said. "The barrel's bigger and balls jumped off my bat way better during BP. My swing feels a lot more natural and comfortable."

• Some scouts believe Eric Hosmer has as good a chance to play in the major leagues as any player in the Aflac game this year, and while his skills need a lot of development, he's already got one big league road trip under his belt. The first baseman from American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla., was playing in Farmington, N.M., the week leading up to the Aflac game, which caused him to miss the East Coast Showcase, Area Code Games and three Aflac workouts. After winning tournament MVP honors in Farmington and leading the Midland Redskins to the Connie Mack title, Hosmer boarded a private jet provided by the Midland program Saturday morning and arrived in San Diego in time for batting practice.

"I was glad I was able to make it, and I even got an extra hour of sleep because of the time difference," Hosmer said.

• Because of an injured elbow, Hosmer's high school teammate, switch-hitting catcher Adrian Nieto, missed time during his junior season and spent much of this summer in a DH role. His play behind the plate in the later innings of the Aflac game not only helped secure the win for the East, but also showed scouts that his catch and throw skills are on par with his quick, powerful bat.

Nieto picked off two baserunners with accurate, strong snap throws, though his effort was spoiled on the first one when third baseman Ethan Martin (Stephens County High, Toccoa, Ga.) mishandled the throw. Nieto then gunned down Chris Amezquita (Servite High, Anaheim) at second base from his knees on a stolen base attempt to end the eighth inning.

• Ferrara was one of the first selections to the team, being named to the East roster back in May, but he hasn't pitched in more than two months and was one of four pitchers in attendance unable to throw. Ferrara has experienced shoulder pain that hasn't subsided as quickly as he'd hoped, and he visited Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., two days after the game to have his shoulder examined.

"It was hard. Knowing I could have been a part of that, but not able to, was tough," Ferrara said.

Andrews determined that Ferrara's shoulder did not require surgery, and the lefthander will continue rehabilitation.

Jarred Cosart (Clear Creek High, League City, Texas) was scratched from the West rotation when he strained a muscle in his back during pregame warmups. He said he could have pitched if needed, and didn't believe there was any long-terms concern as he walked off the field after the game carrying his equipment bag.

• It's been an up-and-down summer for Houston outfielder Robbie Grossman, but the rising senior from Cypress-Fairbanks High (Cypress, Texas) made a pair of splendid catches in center field, twice robbing Harold Martinez (Braddock High, Miami) of extra-base hits. Grossman and Martinez were two of nine Aflac All-Americans whose next stop was Joplin, Mo., where they will compete for a spot on the U.S. junior national team.