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Team California enters Wood Bat tourney as favorite

By Allan Simpson

Tournament schedule

JUPITER, Fla.—The best high school baseball players in the country have been pooled together in the past at major showcase events like the Area Code Games and Team One Showcase. But never before have so many elite players been gathered in one place at one time—and in a competitive situation, to boot—as the Baseball America/Perfect World Wood Bat Championship, which starts here Friday.

The four-day event will bring together more than 1,000 of the nation's top high school players, in what for most will be their final competition of the 2000 season.

It should attract a large number of scouts and college recruiters, and will give recruiters, in particular, a final look at high school seniors before the one-week NCAA early-signing period begins in the second week of November.

Fifty teams will compete for a spot in Monday's championship game. The teams will be grouped into 10 pools of five teams apiece, with the top 16 teams advancing to bracket play.

Many of the country's top youth league teams will be participating, with some bolstering their rosters for the tournament with top players from several states. Other teams, including one sponsored by Baseball America, have been assembled solely to participate in the event.

More than half the top 50 prospects in each of this year's senior, junior and sophomore classes, as ranked by Prospects Plus, will be in attendance.

Handicapping the top five teams in attendance:

1. Team California. This team includes four members of the Team USA junior squad that earned a silver medal at the World Junior Championship this summer in Edmonton. Those players are outfielder Chris Carter (Walnut Creek, Calif.), outfielder/lefthander Matt Chico (Fallbrook, Calif.), shortstop/righthander J.J. Hardy (Tucson) and lefthander J.P. Howell (Sacramento). The team also has righthanders Moses Kopmar (Berkeley) and Steve Papazian (Long Beach). All but Chico are ranked among the top 50 seniors in the country by Prospects Plus.

2. Baseball America. This team has pooled players from all around the country, led by shortstop Andy Gonzalez (Melbourne, Fla.), outfielder Billy Paganetti (Reno, Nev.), catcher Landon Powell (Apex, N.C.), first baseman Mike Sweeney (Chesapeake, Md.) and righthander Chas Taylor (Austin)—all ranked among the nation's top 100 high school prospects for the 2001 draft. The team also includes outfielder/righthander Delmon Young (Camarillo, Calif.), the top prospect in the Class of 2003.

3. Dallas Tigers. Outfielder Mike Wilson (Tulsa), a potential first-round pick next June, is the team's best senior prospect, but the Tigers have loaded up on four of the top 14 prospects in the Class of 2002: righthanders Jeremy Bonderman (Pasco, Wash.), Mark McCormick (Clear Lake Shores, Texas) and Mike Pelfrey (Wichita), and first baseman Cory Shafer (Choctaw, Okla.). Despite being just a junior, Bonderman was picked the all-tournament righthander at the World Junior Championship.

4. East Coast Prospects. Another all-star team assembled just for the tournament, this squad features junior shortstop B.J. Upton and senior third baseman David Wright, high school teammates at Hickory High in Chesapeake, Va. Upton is the No. 3-rated prospect in the Class of 2002; Wright, a Georgia Tech signee, was one of the top recruits in this year's senior class. The team also includes top prospects from all over the east coast.

5. East Cobb (Ga.) Astros. The Astros represent the nation's No. 1 youth baseball program and will bring some of the program's most celebrated players like righthander/first baseman Kyle Davies, the top-ranked senior in Georgia; righthander/first baseman Micah Owings, the top-ranked junior in Georgia; and righthander Allen Ponder, the top-ranked junior in Alabama.

Look for daily coverage of the event on baseballamerica.com and perfectgame.org

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