Area Code Games open
By Josh Boyd
The six-day scouting combine kicked off at Long Beach State's Blair Field with six hours of batting practice, infield practice and 60-yard dashes, followed by a home run derby and the first of 22 games.
This year's group of players has been dented by the World Junior Championship going on in Quebec, with the main losses being Lastings Milledge and Delmon Young, who could be among the top three picks next June.
Scouts still said this is a deep crop, though, and every major league organization is represented with at least an area scout. Some teams, including the Padres, Astros and Rockies, are here in full force with up to 10 scouts, using the Area Code Games as a starting point for 2003 draft preparations.
"What we do in the summer dictates what we will do next spring," Padres scouting director Bill Gayton said. "Time is so important in the spring, so we can decide now, depending on what kind of read we get, who we will see in the spring."
Batting practice also provided scouts with an opportunity to get a read on the players to watch over the next five days. But it can be deceiving.
"There are 'showcase kids' who look great in these events, but then when they play in a game they don't show baseball instincts," Gayton said. "So many times we like the tools, but then they show a different stroke in the game and have no instincts."
With more than 225 players on hand, batting practice gave scouts and college recruiters an idea of who to bear down on in the coming days.
"We're identifying swings," Gayton said. "We're just breaking down the mechanics of the swing. We can always make adjustments later."
The Brewers, an all-California team, put on the most impressive hitting display on day one. Leading their assault was sweet-swinging 15-year-old Trevor Bell, who isn't eligible for the draft until 2005, and three catchers. Bell was selected as the 14-year-old winner in Baseball America's annual Baseball For The Ages program in 2001. Milledge was the 16-year-old winner.
San Fernando High's D.J. Lewis launched several balls out of the spacious park, while Tulare Union's Graham Harrison and Marina's Daric Barton showed nice strokes from the left side. All three competed in the home run contest but didn't leave the yard.
Mater Dei's Daniel Perales and Harvard High's Brennan Boesch will also get a lot of attention throughout the week.
Most of the players here will graduate next summer, but Bell is not the only player from the Class of '05. Indians farm director John Farrell's son Jeremy and B.J. Upton's younger brother Justin are also headed for their sophomore years.
Some scouts already project the younger Upton to develop into a better player than B.J., who was the second overall pick to the Devil Rays this year.
Other notable bloodlines include White Sox general manager Kenny Williams' son Kenny, former Phillies infielder Manny Amador's brother Anderson, Pete Incaviglia's nephew Thomas and Bip Roberts' son Markus.
Alexandria, La., third baseman Jordan Mayer, who was regarded as one of the top underclassmen in Long Beach last year, won the home run derby with two homers. Vienna, Va., first baseman Jared Kubin and Mamaroneck High's Chris Vasami were the only other two to hit home runs out of the 22 participants.
The afternoon's only game featured a scary moment when Miami catcher Alex Garabedian was hit in the head with a pitch. He was on the ground for more than five minutes as trainers attended to him. He walked off the field with assistance, but there was no word on his condition before the game ended.
For more information on this year's Area Code Games, check out www.studentsports.com.
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