By Allan Simpson
October 11, 2001
The world's biggest scouting event has gotten bigger.
The Baseball America/Perfect Game World Wood Bat Championship–scheduled for Jupiter, Fla., from Oct. 26-29–has increased in size from 50 teams in 2000 to 64 teams this year.
“The demand this year has been overwhelming,” said Perfect Game's Jerry Ford. “We were in a position where we had to turn teams away.”
The event has become so large that some games may have to be played at an alternate location from the 12-field spring training complex shared by the Montreal Expos and St. Louis Cardinals.
Teams from all over the United States will participate in the event, as well as teams from Canada, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. The tournament is limited to players in high school.
More than 1,500 players should be in attendance, including most of the top prospects in the Draft Classes of 2002, 2003 and 2004. It is anticipated at least 90 percent of the top 50 high school seniors, as ranked by Prospects Plus, will play. A similar number of top juniors is also expected.
Most of the nation's top summer programs, including powerful East Cobb from Marietta, Ga., are sending teams. In many cases, teams have recruited players from all over the country to beef up their rosters.
Team Florida USA has been tabbed as the early favorite. Among the players it has recruited is lefthander Scott Kazmir, the No. 1-rated high school player in the Class of '02.
Last year, Kazmir played for a team of top prospects assembled by Baseball America, which won the championship and will be back to defend its title. The BA team featured Kazmir and fellow lefthander Jeremy Sowers, a first-round pick of the Reds in 2001. Outfielder Delmon Young, the No. 1-rated player in the '03 class and the younger brother of Reds outfielder Dmitri Young, also played for the BA team.
The BA team will be coached again by Jim Morris, the former Texas high school coach who returned to pro ball after a 10-year absence and reached the big leagues with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. A movie that chronicles Morris' unlikely rise to fame is scheduled for release later this year.
More than 500 scouts and college recruiters are expected to attend the four-day event, which will also serve as a showcase of sorts, as players will use wood bats and run electronically-timed 60-yard dashes–all standard showcase features.
Skillshow, Inc., a Seattle-based video recruiting service, will also video players in attendance for distribution to college recruiters and scouts.
“You get the best of both worlds,” Ford said. “You get to see the top players playing for keeps in a showcase environment.”
The field of 64 will be split into 16 pools with teams playing the other three teams in their pool. The top two teams in each pool will then advance to a 32-team championship bracket with the final game scheduled for Oct. 29. The bottom two teams in each pool will advance to a 32-team consolation bracket.