Time For Some Action




BALTIMORE--Between workouts, a home run derby and Saturday's nine-inning game, there are a number of tools on display at the Aflac All-American Classic festivities. However, the most impressive might be Jerry Sullivan's musical talent. The righthander from Mount Olive High in Flanders, N.J., has hit 94 mph on the gun this summer, and this afternoon he flabbergasted a number of his Aflac teammates and coaches when he settled in at the hotel lobby piano to tickle the ivories with classic tunes and even some Coldplay.

Sullivan's recital was a breath of fresh air for some players, as their schedule for the week is quite regimented and thorough. It included a Wednesday afternoon visit to Johns Hopkins hospital's pediatric oncology unit and a Thursday seminar on media training and a motivational talk from Jim Morris, a.k.a. Disney's "The Rookie."

After all the fanfare, a game will be played Saturday afternoon that will be televised nationally on Fox Sports Net. The East won the first annual game in 2003 while the West took last year's contest, so regional bragging rights are on the line. Although it is an all-star game, the coaches seemed confident that the competitive juices will be flowing once game time rolls around.

"I know the adrenaline will start pumping on Friday night or Saturday morning and they will (want to win)," said East manager Bobby Howard, the head coach at Columbus (Ga.) High. "They are competitors. Not only are they the best baseball players talent-wise, but they are super competitors or they wouldn't be here either. They will care about who wins."

The starting pitchers were announced Thursday. Righthander Matt Latos of Coconut Creek (Fla.) High got the call for the East and Jordan Walden of Mansfield High in Arlington, Texas, will start for the West. Latos and Walden are two of the hardest throwers in the class. Latos was clocked at 96 mph earlier this summer (he was in the 89-93 mph range last week in a dominant turn during the East Coast Showcase), while Walden has been clocked as high as 97.

Thin Roster

While Latos is slated to be one of eight East arms available for Saturday's nine-inning game, Walden and the West could be slightly thinner in pitching depth. Infielder Jared Mitchell from Westgate High in New Iberia, La., and lefthander Brett Anderson of Stillwater (Okla.) High were leading their summer league team, the Midland Redskins, deep into the Connie Mack World Series. Depending on the outcome of their recent games in Farmington, N.M., they may not arrive in Baltimore in time to play.

"It doesn't matter how many people you have on your bench, it is who plays and how they play," said West manager Ron Davini, a 34-year coaching veteran from Phoenix. "If we have to play 16 kids or 14 kids, that means they play a little bit longer and get more showtime. That might be the time when they shine best."

Contributing: Alan Matthews