LONG BEACH—With the East Coast Pro Showcase only a day in the past, the Area Code Games started up in Long Beach on Tuesday and will run through Sunday. The event is being at held at historic Blair Field—the home field for Long Beach State’s baseball team—which was built in 1958. The stadium has undergone renovations since 1958 but still has an old-time feel. The outfield wall is cinder block with an old layer of blue paint, the stands are half metal bleachers and the dugouts are for the most part uncovered. It is a place where many of the scouts in attendance have a lot of experience either watching games or even playing. While walking up the bleachers to get some shade, one scout stopped me and asked if I had ever been to Blair before. As this is my first time at the field, I responded with a “no”.
“You know, this is where the game was invented,” the scout said to me half jokingly.
Regardless of the actual validity of the statement, I can see why someone would want to invent a game such as baseball in Long Beach—solely based on the weather. The difference between the brutal heat at the East Coast Pro Showcase and the enjoyable mild and sunny weather at Blair Field is night and day. Imagine the most ideal climate for watching a baseball game, and you have a good idea of what I’m trying to say.
The action on Tuesday began with batting practice and was followed by two nine inning games. There was one more nine inning game played Wednesday morning, followed by two seven inning games. For the rest of the showcase, days will consist of four seven inning games per day, except for Sunday when there will only be three games played.
With five of the 20 games already in the books, I have had a chance to see every team play at least once. From a first look, here are a few position players (not necessarily the overall best prospects) from the 2009 class that have created some buzz thus far:
Jacob Marisnick, rf, Riverside (Calif.) Poly HS
Marisnick played in the second game of today’s action and wasted no time getting noticed as he drove a ball at-least 380 feet off the left-centerfield wall for a triple. The ball would have been long gone out of most ball parks, but at Blair the symmetrical fence reads 348 in left, 387 in left-center and 400 in centerfield. Marisnick is a 6-feet-4, 200 pound physical specimen with both strength and athleticism. He ran a 6.7-second 60-yard dash in the preliminary testing and also posted a vertical jump of almost 36 inches. Playing right field, Marisnick showed an above-average arm, possibly the best of any position on his team.
Mitchell Haniger, rf, Archbishop HS, Santa Clara, Calif.
Like Marisnick, Haniger showed plus-power potential at the plate and a strong arm in the outfield. He made solid contact in two of his at-bats, driving one ball off the very top of the left field wall for a triple. Haniger is listed at 6-feet-2, 180-pounds and showed off a powerful throwing arm from right field.
Randall Grichuk, of, Lamar HS, Rosenberg, Texas
The popular phrase to describe Grichuk is “wiry strong”. Listed at 6-feet, 195-pounds, the sound of the ball hitting Grichuk’s bat was distinct both Tuesday and Wednesday as he made solid contact in five of his seven at-bats. Grichuk runs well at 6.85 seconds but can not play centerfield. Offense will be what gets him to the next level.
Geno Escalanate, c, Ridriguez HS, Fairfield, Calif.
Escalante first grabbed my eye when I saw him throw a few times from behind the plate. He has a very strong arm, that at-times seems like it could be erratic, but during tonight’s game, he made several strong accurate throws chasing runers. I clocked him at 1.9-seconds to second base on two separate occasions as runners tried to steal. Then at the plate, Escalante singled up the middle in his first at-bat and stroked a fly to ball over 390 feet to deep centerfield in his second at-bat. I liked Escalante’s approach at the plate, his strong arm and physical body. He is listed at 5-10, 185 pounds.
Jacob Lamb, ss, Bishop Blanchet HS, Seattle
At 6-feet-3, 190 pounds, Lamb is a physically strong athlete that caught my eye during infield/outfield practice before his game today. He showed an above-average arm at the short stop position—possibly the best arm of all the position players on his team—and smooth actions. Then, at the plate, he hits from the left side and has bat speed and power potential in his stroke. The question is whether Lamb will be able to stay at the shortstop position throughout the next level of baseball. If he fills out anymore, he may outgrow the position, and he already is not a good runner as he ran the 60-yard dash in 7.28 seconds.
With only three games being played Wednesday, I was able to eat dinner and be back to my hotel by 7 p.m. It almost feels like I took a half day at work. With four games slated for tomorrow, beginning at 8:30 a.m., I’ll probably need the rest.