Tag Archives: Tournaments

Wilson Premier Classic | Best Travel Ball Teams Play

Wilson Premier Classic Tourney

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Travel ball's only major failure, if we were forced to name one, is the lack of a national title for the best teams in the nation. No doubt, many groups like the Perfect Game, Triple Crown and a number of others run a World Championship in some fashion or another. But there is no consensus on where all the best teams play.

Wilson has tried one solution. And in terms of creating an elite group of teams by invitation only, and decking players out with some dead serious swag, few travel ball championship tourneys do as well as the Wilson Premier Baseball Classic.

Below we gathered some exclusive images from the event this year in Phoenix. We also included their press release . You can see our exhaustive list of reviews on Louisville Slugger and DeMarini Bats

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Wilson Premier Classic Tournament
Wilson Premier Classic Tournament
Wilson Premier Classic Tournament
Wilson Premier Classic Tournament
Wilson Premier Classic Tournament
Wilson Premier Classic Tournament
Wilson Premier Classic Tournament
Wilson Premier Classic Tourney
Wilson Premier Classic Tournament

Wilson Premier Classic Press Release

CHICAGO, IL (Sept. 12, 2017) – More than 50 teams from 21 of the most elite travel baseball
clubs in America will face off in the second-annual Wilson Premier Classic September 22–25 in
Peoria, Ariz., at the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners spring training complex. The
invitation-only baseball tournament will feature national championship travel ball teams, D1
prospects and projected top draft picks.

It’s the premier tournament for young players to showcase their skills and abilities in front of
scouts while competing for a championship. In 2016 the WPC had more than 150 college
coaches, five MLB first-round draft picks, 200 D1 college commits and 10 Perfect Game All-
Americans in attendance. Thirteen of the pitchers in 2016 recorded velocities above 90 mph.
“The Wilson Premier Classic is a tournament that exposes players to the top recruiters across
the country, featuring three age groups in a four-day period,” Wilson Premier Baseball National
Director Matthew Bliven said. “The best clubs and players from the 2018, 2019 and 2020
graduating classes playing in one central location is extremely desirable for college coaches and
pro scouts. You’re going to find up-and- coming professional or collegiate baseball players
throughout all of our games.”

MLB® scouts and college coaches from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC will be among those in Peoria to see how these players fare against top-level competition. Rosters feature highly regarded prospects like Jarred Kelenic and Joe Gray Jr., both potential top-10 2018 MLB Draft picks according to Baseball America and other outlets.

In total, the Wilson Premier Classic will feature approximately 900 players, with more than 300
of those rated as “high follows” by the major scouting services. Participating powerhouse clubs
featuring sought-after players include the EvoShield Canes, San Diego Show, Team Elite and the Orlando Scorpions, among others.

All participating teams are sponsored by Wilson Baseball’s family of brands – DeMarini,
Louisville Slugger, EvoShield and Wilson. The four brands will showcase equipment and products for participating teams and create a best-in- class experience for those who attend.

“The Classic serves as the perfect opportunity to highlight the very best of what it looks like to
work with Wilson and our incredible family of brands,” said Rob Partin, Grassroots Marketing
Manager for Wilson Baseball.

See the full text on Wilson Premier Classic

Perfect Game Series Recommendations | Jayce Blalock in the Trees

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Does the kid hitting look familiar? He should. As his face is all over twitter and Instagram for fulling the prophecy of hitting into the trees. Who would have thought we unsuspectingly caught a glimpse of Jayce Blalock hitting against a JBR kid at last years Perfect Game.

Here is the video of him just demolishing a ball 350+ with the 917 Prime from Louisville Slugger. Video is from ESPN.

Our 11U Perfect Game Series Classic showcase has wrapped up with the conclusion of Day 4 and 5 . We sit in the hotel room after getting shelled by a good team from North East Georgia in the 4/5 game. Had we won, we would have played the one seed Georgia team. A win at that game would have put us in the championship game Saturday morning. Instead, we get the chance to relax a bit more and write some final Perfect Game Series recommendations for those considering attending.

Observation #1: Elite Pitching Finally Arrived!

Perfect Game Series Recommendations

In fact, not only did we finally see 65+ mph pitching today, but the entire level of play seems to have taken a bump upwards. This was a very encouraging sign and it was fun to see some real juice on the bump.

Observation #2: More Teams with Fewer Players

Perfect Game Series Recommendations

Of the few things we mentioned we’d like to see change, we add an adjustment to the amount of players on a team. 12 players is simply too many when we are looking for good playing time. In the 11U they had 9 teams. At 12 kids per team, they could have easily made another team (and maybe two) if they limited teams to 10 (the optimal number).

Observation #3: Championship Game on Saturday is Good for Locals Only

Perfect Game Series Recommendations

If you are in driving distance of the tournament, then the final game on Saturday is something easy enough to deal with. If you don’t make it that far, just pack up the car and get on with it. However, if you flew into town, a flight change from Sunday to Saturday or Friday evening is highly inconvenient if possible at all. If the Tournament wants to attract kids from farther away, they should consider finding a way to fit the Championship Game into the same day as final bracket play.

Recommendation #1: Play Outfield

Perfect Game Series Recommendations

Most elite players on their local teams play middle infield. A few others might be big enough bodies to excel at 1st or 3rd base. As well, moving from short to third isn’t an incredible change in pace. As such, the vast majority of players on these teams play infield and not very many have experience in the outfield.

If you’d like a better shot at excelling at the Perfect Game Series Classic, we’d recommend playing outfield. You’ll have more opportunity to play by not sharing reps with the other 8 shortstops on the team. Only one player on our team played the outfield regularly during their season and they never sat the bench.

That is, of course, if you don’t play catcher. Catchers are needed at this level just as much (and maybe a bit more) than outfielders.

Recommendation #2: Reach out to Companies for Gear

Perfect Game Series Recommendations

As an elite player at a major national tournament we would guess you might have some success getting free gear from name brand companies. Contact these folks on twitter, Instagram or facebook. Tell them you are off to represent a certain team at the Perfect Game and would love some batting gloves or wrist bands. You might even get real lucky with a bat or polo. The reality is, these companies have millions of dollars in marketing budgets, and the idea of giving away a shirt or two so an elite player can represent their brand at a major tournament is a no brainer.

Recommendation #3: Plan on Free Time

Perfect Game Series Recommendations

Unless the format changes (and there may not be info on that in advance), plan on a lot of free time. We stayed at a hotel and wish we would have chosen a beach house for no other reason than the paintings in this one room are getting a bit dull. It would make some sense, especially in the evenings, to plan for some trips to the beach or maybe even Disney World if you want the 5 hour round trip. You could also hit up a Tampa Bay Rays game (about a 2 hour drive north) or a 3 hour easterly drive for a Marlins game.

Recommendation #4: Our Final Verdict

Perfect Game Series Recommendations

On the whole, we are glad we gave this tourney a try. Our 11U is a legit player in his home state and has competed well against these kids. There were a few players who should probably stay home next time, but maybe someone is thinking that about us too. The league may not have had the best talent we’ve ever seen, but there were a dozen or two kids, on the whole, that were top end players in the country, no doubt. It was fun to compare our skills to theirs directly.

We’d love to see more baseball oriented events (like some practices with the coaches). We’d also like to see a few more coaches on the sidelines to help. The umpires could be better—but that’s true for even the MLB somedays. We’d also like to see the Perfect Game Classic scrub talent for defensive skills—not just monster hitting 1st basemen. We’d also like to see a structure that removes the geographical bias we discussed a few days back.

Will We Back?

Next year we likely won’t come back. The level of baseball does not far surpass what we can find at local competitive tournaments and so is not a big enough draw to outweigh the week long commitment and long distance travel. Especially considering the expense. This doesn’t mean we aren’t happy we came this one time. Playing with kids from all over the country and seeing the Puerto Rican team cheer on their players were memorable experiences. Throw in the number of baseball phrases we learned from parents from all over the country and we are better for being here. We saw a number of a quality ABs and had a chance to play the field with some of the best in the country. The deep Georgia drawl of parents encouraging their boys will not soon be forgotten.

As we say with our bat reviews, this is not one size fits absolutely everyone advice. If you live close enough to drive, then it’s likely a much better experience. Everyone has their own back story and this could be the perfect fit for some. But, we can check this off our bucket list. And next year, find something a little more local.

Perfect Game Showcase Review | Day 3 & 4 In the Books

Perfect Game Showcase Review

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Our Perfect Game Showcase review continues into day three and four. (See Day 1, Day 2 (Pitch Smart)Day 3 & 4, And Day 5 Recommendations). Days three and four have consisted of pool play games starting at 8am, 10am or 12pm, depending on your schedule. We have been scheduled for double headers on two of our three pool play days.

Day 3 & 4 Itinerary

Perfect Game Showcase Review

Our days have consisted of, basically, the game and then our hotel. More baseball could be watched as there are games both before and after and scouting is always a bit fun. However, it’s simply too hot and muggy to do this with any amount of enjoyment.  The idea of an air conditioned hotel room or restaurant is too enticing. Further, Game Changer is running at the tournament, and you can get a good feel for other games just based on their score charts.

While we trudge through the schedule we have thought a few improvements we’d like to see. We comment on those below. But, before we start complaining, we don’t want to give the impression this isn’t fun. The Series Showcase Classic from Perfect Game—especially in the youth (non high school) games—are a relatively new experience for this organization. From what we’ve gathered from some other parents, this year’s event is leaps and bounds better than last year’s. We can confidently assume next year’s will be better than this.

As such, these observations are to be instructive in terms of your expectations. Knowing, full well, the following year’s events could very well address these issues.

Observation 1: Why No Practice?

Perfect Game Showcase Review

To date, there simply isn’t enough baseball. Most families, at least not on the Florida teams, have traveled considerable distances to come to Florida to showcase their skills. And while Disney World and the ocean are attractive features no doubt, we are families here to have their son play baseball and get better at it. We can go to theme parks and the movies in the winter.

Why not, we wonder, have more organized baseball time outside of the 2 hour (6 inning) game per day, especially considering the amazing facilities surrounding us? I am sure the kids would love to do it (and many could use it in terms of learning a new position). If the game starts at 8am, then you are done by 10am. Back to your hotel by around 11am. Then what? Watch TV until the next game tomorrow? That’s a long way and a lot of money to watch ESPN in your hotel room.

If we were to come back, more opportunities during the day to play baseball with these talented kids and our smart coach on great fields would convince us. This doesn’t need to entail more games. But some clinics, hitting sessions or general defensive strategy sessions might be just enough to feel like we are at a baseball tournament.

Observation 2: More Coaches?

Perfect Game Showcase Review

Teams only have one assigned coach. There are no assistants—even among the parents. Local college players, who clearly know their stuff, is the general resume of the coaches. But, as anyone who coaches youth will know, a one man coaching band no matter his capability is a recipe for missing chances to be a helpful coach.

More coaches per team would increase the amount of legitimate instruction given to the players, and would help the coach strategize better for a higher level of baseball. Not the end of the world in terms of a successful tournament, but if we were to come back, we’d confirm the number of coaches per team and hope they could find another to help manage.

We should note, we think our coach is great. He’s a baller, knows his stuff, and garners a lot of respect from the boys. But there’s more to manage in a 7 game competitive series than one guy can handle. (As the most obvious example, we’ve yet to play with a first base coach).

Observation 3: The Model Biases for a Certain Type of Player

Perfect Game Showcase Review

As we mention in our Day 1 observations, many of these players qualified for these teams based on their statistical performance at Perfect Game tournaments throughout the country. This is all well and good, until you realize the only stats they considered were offensive ones. As such, these teams are made up of many exceptional hitters—many of them very big ones. But, as far as we’ve observed, compared to our extensive experience watching 8 to 15 year old’s play baseball for the last 8 years, defensive skills and baseball IQ are wanting at the tournament.

Don’t get us wrong, some are great all around players and see the field well under any circumstance. But defensive errors are way to common in these games to be considered Elite baseball. You could argue many of these errors may be attributed to players not being accustomed to their position (as middle infielders are in great abundance here). Fair enough (and something practice might help). But the number of defensive errors on every team we’ve watched is even beyond what we’d expect from a localized competitive team—not an all-star team from a large swath of the country.

On the whole, the over-emphasis on offensive production in the selection process deflates the general quality of defensive baseball we’ve observed thus far. There are too few athletic basehitter type that hit for singles, rangey center fielder’s where everything is routine or vacuum’s of 2nd baseman. In other words, there is much more to successful baseball play then filling up the OPS column. Yet the perfect game model appears to bias itself out of these players where the entire line up can go deep, but a can of corn to right field is now a 50/50 ball.

Observation 4: Team Talent Disparity

Perfect Game Showcase Review

We’ve spent many hours in local baseball leagues attempting to make teams even for more competitive games and better experience. We’ve learned it is a nearly impossible task. Equaling out statistical categories across teams and thinking this will make teams equally competitive is naive. Far too much goes into a team’s success to get that right—especially considering these players are largely unknown defensively and on the mound.

On the whole, this tournament has done a pretty good job, considering the challenges, making the teams even. There are definitely some better teams, which, without surprise, are the teams made up of players who qualified by statistical  success in a previous tournament. But with day 3 and day 4 in the books, we’ve yet to see a game get completely out of hand, or where either team wasn’t in striking distance.

Observation 5: Some Great Talent, but not Elite

Perfect Game Showcase Review

What may be the most surprising to us is the lack of elite pitching. Every team has at least one player who can throw in the low 60s. 62 mph is the best we’ve seen and 3 or 4 different kids have touched it. Yet while 62 mph at 11U is impressive, it is by no means the best we’ve personally observed in the age group during high level state wide tournaments in our home state. 64 to 67 mph is where these top 4 or 5 pitchers hit with one grazing 70 every so often. We’ve yet to see an 11U at the Perfect Game keep 62+ for more than an inning let alone ‘elite’ levels.

We haven’t seen everyone just yet, so we’ll hold our tongue.

Additionally, we have observed some elite defensive talent at the tournament but it is the exception rather than the rule. Defensive ability, on the whole, is lacking to be considered an elite tournament.  These are simply not the best 11U gloves and defensive arms in the country. Each team might have 1 or 2 kids with show stopping glove work. The rest might be above average for sure, but far from elite at their position.

Hitting is where the tournament shines, we’d claim the top 10 hitters in this tournament may be as good as any group of top 10 hitters you could find in the entire country. Massive kids with great balance and impeccable mechanics are found on every team. A couple teams have more than a few of them. It’s really quite fun to watch—and against a dearth of real elite pitching talent there are plenty of deep balls. (Our perfect game bat article might be of interest).

Perfect Game Bats | Elite 11 Year Old’s Gear Check

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We spent some time at the 11U Perfect Game in July of 2016. Since we review baseball and softball bats, we thought it to be fun to do a gear check on what the so-called ‘best of the best’ swing. Indeed, what better proof of the ‘best bat’ than in the actual pudding? Amid our thousand different ways of determining the best bat, maybe finding what some of the best players swing  as their Perfect Game Bats is our best idea yet.

In particular, these are some of the best players in the big barrel and senior barrel baseball space, whose parents clearly hold no bar in what they might spend on their kids’ endeavors. Surely they must swing the best bats, right? Maybe.

Home Run Derby Bats 1st, 2nd & 3rd

The 11U Perfect Game, as we detail in an earlier post, selected 15 players among the 200 or so participants. These 15 players get 10 swings in the opening ceremonies to see how many taters they can drop. They came from every team in the tournament, and the vast majority of them could crack serious distance with their bat. We kept track of the Perfect Game participants’ bats, of course. And we present them to you here.

Perfect Game Bats

The winner of the home run derby used the 2015 Easton XL1. Not surprising considering this end loaded two piece composite was built, in the big barrel space, for the exact hitter in the video. We personally would have loved to see the Drop 5 CF7 in this kid’s hands, but who are we to judge? For crying out loud he won!

Perfect Game Bats

2nd and 3rd place came from Puerto Rico and had, at least what we thought, were the smoothest swings of the bunch. They used, much to our surprise, a 2015 Catalyst from Louisville Slugger and a 2015 Easton S1.

Perfect Game Bats

Home Run Derby Perfect Game Bats: The Others

Perfect Game Bats

We were surprised at the breadth of the different bats used among the remaining 12 contestants. And, if we’re being critical for really no reason, we were surprised at how many bad choices there were. A home run derby bat choice, in the composite and aluminum space, is critical. Clearly, there are not enough people reading this blog.

Of those 12, 10 different bats were used. In no particular order:

  • 2015 Easton MAKO (Used by two different players. Great choice.)
  • Marucci CAT 7 (Very new at the time of this writing.)
  • Marucci Black (BBCOR only bat. Great bat, but this choice makes no sense to us in a home run derby at this age group. Take the 1.15 BPF when you can!)
  • Easton MAKO XL (Used by two different players. Great choice.)
  • Rawlings VELO (If this were a base hitting competition, then great choice.)
  • 2014 Easton S1. (We’ve seen worse choices, but not by much.)
  • 917 Prime (Very new bat at the time of this writing. Didn’t sound worked in to to us.)
  • CF8 Drop 8. (Surprised we didn’t see more of these.)
  • CF7 Drop 5. (Our recommended stick! The kid swinging this missed out on the finals by one.)
  • MAKO TORQ with a taped handle. (Wonder if he got this idea from our Making your Own Mako article?)

Actual Game Use Perfect Game Bats

Perfect Game Bats

We also watched 17 players participate in batting practice. These consisted of the non-home run hitters of the bunch as well. Hitters used several great bats. But, the DeMarini CF8 was the undeniable winner in terms of usage. If our counting was right, 9 of the 17 hitters used the CF8. Many were in the drop 8, but most were the drop 10. In other words, if the numbers hold, elite 11 and 12 year old players swing the DeMarini CF8 52% of the time. That is both remarkable and not surprising. We have loved the CF8 from day one and it consistently gets top marks nearly every way we slice the data.

The tally looked like this. (We’ve hit every one of these bats extensively, and you can read our review here)

  • Marucci Hex Alloy – 1
  • Prime 916 – 2
  • DeMarini Zen – 1
  • Adidas EQT X1 – 1
  • CF8 – 7
  • CF8 BBCOR – 1 (We’re not sure why swing a BBCOR when you can swing BPF 1.15)
  • Custom CF8 – 1
  • Combat Maxum – 1
  • Easton MAKO – 2

Are these Perfect Game Bats Perfect?

Perfect Game Review

As we mention above, we’ve tried to slice the ‘best bat’ a number of ways as to give players the best chance to succeed. We submit, at least on this page, the success of elite players could give no better evidence of what bat is best.

The home run derby bats were so diverse it’s difficult to make any overall suggestion. If it proves anything its that the long ball hitting is, at best, supplemented by a good bat—not created by it. Yet we are confident we could have improved a few results by a better choice. (Maybe start on our best bats page?)

The general bat bags of elite 11 year and 12 year old players clearly favor DeMarini’s CF8. We were rather surprised by the lack of the Combat MAXUM in the lineup—but such deficiency may be do to our location in the south east—where the Canadian Combat company doesn’t have as big a presence for whatever reason. Or, although many would disagree, the monstrosity of a barrel on the MAXUM doesn’t have the right performance for the ‘elite’.

But, in the end, the CF8’s dominance is absolutely clear. You can disagree it’s the best bat on the market in terms of performance, but you can’t disagree a near majority of elite 11 year old players and their parents, are convinced it is.

You might like our Pitch Smart Rules—which the perfect game implements.

Perfect Game Day 2 Observations | Pitch Smart Rules

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Our second day at the Perfect Game Series Classic brought on some highlights and lowlights. We learned that umpires are late no matter how expensive the tournament, Pitch Smart Rules are stringent and well thought out, and elite 11U pitchers throw about 62+ mph. We also observed that kids from California to Omaha to Connecticut play baseball in just the same manner. (You can see our first day travelouge and insight here).

(See Day 1, Day 2 (Pitch Smart)Day 3 & 4, And Day 5 Recommendations)

Pitch Smart Rules

AGE

DAILY MAX (PITCHES IN GAME)

REQUIRED REST (PITCHES)

0 Days 1 Days 2 Days 3 Days 4 Days
7-8 50 1-20 21-35 36-50 N/A N/A
9-10 75 1-20 21-35 36-50 51-65 66+
11-12 85 1-20 21-35 36-50 51-65 66+
13-14 95 1-20 21-35 36-50 51-65 66+
15-16 95 1-30 31-45 46-60 61-75 76+
17-18 105 1-30 31-45 46-60 61-75 76+
19-22 120 1-30 31-45 46-60 61-75 76+

Day 2 Highlights and Lowlights

Pitch Smart Rules

The highlights of our second day consisted of two very competitive games (8-8 tie and a 6-5 win). Despite the fears we had of our Southwest squad being out matched by teams with less self-selected geography bias, we held our own. We took a bunch of middle infielders and a catcher and put together a decent performance (although a bit error ridden). It was a good day for baseball and we played well despite the time change and hotel stay for everyone on the team.

We are also super impressed with our Coach who clearly knows his stuff. He’s a collegiate pitcher for a Florida team and seems to both want to win badly, and enjoy giving the kids good instruction.

The lowlights were the lack of umpires. They were actually quite good when they finally showed. But our games, 4 of which were scheduled to start at 8am, didn’t have any umpires. This left about 500 people from all over the country waiting for the Perfect Game’s coordinator to scramble. I am sure there were more than a few interesting phone calls discussing why, after all the effort to get this coordinated, no one remembered they also needed umpires.

In the end it wasn’t that big of a deal. We pushed the games back an hour while umpires arrived. Only in Fort Myers, Florida—home of a few Spring Training facilities—can you find eight professional umpires within an hour’s drive, doing nothing on a Monday morning at 9am.

Other Non-Pitch-Smart Rules

Rules we aren’t as accustomed too—aside from the Pitch Smart Rules—are:

  • Entire Rosters can/will bat
  • Games are 6 innings long with no time limits
  • There are some mercy rules (15 after 2, 12 after 3, 8 after 4)
  • Courtesy runners for pitchers and catchers allowed
  • Consolation and Championship brackets determined by pool play
  • MLB Balk Rules enforced

Day 2 Rules & Regs: Pitch Smart Rules

Pitch Smart Rules

There were a few interesting rules we were unfamiliar with. Foremost are the Pitch Smart Rules. These rules, advised by the MLB, govern the use of pitchers. There are several common sense rules about not re-entering the game and proper warm ups. The one that gets the most attention is the actual number of pitchers allowed by pitcher per age group (not innings).

A simple google search will find you a number of articles discussing the reasons, so we will save you that here. But suffice it to say, they are a serious change from rules with which those accustomed to inning counting are familiar. We had a number of instances where innings were stopped mid batter to replace a pitcher who had reached his 35 or 50 pitch count, and the coach wanted to use the player the following day.

Day 2 Observation: Coaching

Pitch Smart Rules

We cannot speak for the other teams in the tournament, but we are very happy with our coach. He’s involved with the kids, wants to win and knows his stuff. He’s not yet fed up with the kid antics of 11 year old boys—mind you it is day 2 of 7.

We are big believers that a coach can make all the difference in an experience at a tournament like this. The Perfect Game appears to understand this, and hired coaches who will be good baseball influences on the players. Few things would prompt us to give higher marks on our overall evaluation than a good coach—and thus far we are on the right track.

Day 2 General Atmosphere

Pitch Smart Rules

We’ve also had some good time to discuss with parents their experience in their local travel leagues. Some, familiar with things like Pitch Smart Rules and Perfect Game tournaments, seem right at home. Others new to this game appear to be fitting right in.

These are parents with good kids looking to be great at baseball. Further, sitting in the stands with parents from Texas, Connecticut, Wisconsin, California, Nebraska and Colorado, rooting for the same group of kids, builds an immediate cohesiveness we’re not sure we’ve experienced quite anywhere else. It’s nearly worth the price of admission all on its own.

So far, so good.

Perfect Game Series Classic Review | Day 1 Observations

Perfect Game Review

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JBR is excited to report on our inside look at the Perfect Game Series Classic in Fort Myers, Florida. Our week during summer 2016 was spent participating in this invite only tournament, the goal of which is to gather the absolute best talent in the country at a given age group and showcase their skills against one another. Our age group was 11U, and consisted of 9 teams split geographically. This series has become, arguably, a mecca for scouts (both professional and collegiate) to observe the best pre-collegiate talent in the country.

(See Day 1, Day 2 (Pitch Smart)Day 3 & 4, And Day 5 Recommendations)

Perfect Game Series Classic Review

Perfect Game Classic Set Up: The Travel Begins

We thought it might be helpful, at least for some considering the experience, to document our day to day experience. Helpful in part because, coming from the West Coast, we could find very little information—even on the perfectgame.org site—as it relates to what to expect.

We knew there we would be some baseball games, sure, but we had several questions: How legit is the competition? How competitive are the games? How much free time should we expect during the week? Can we compete on the team at the positions we wanted? How are the officiating, facilities, and gear? How much focus is on player development? And many others.

All these questions we had virtually no answer for when we boarded our plane in San Francisco on a red eye to the Sunshine State. But answers would come, and over the next several days’ posts, you will find them here. (Day 2)

Perfect Game Classic Set Up: The Set Up

We landed in Orlando, because flights were considerably cheaper, and drove the 3 hours to Fort Myers. We stayed in a local hotel about 10 minutes from the game fields. The set up for baseball in the area, thanks to the massive Spring Training facilities, is remarkable. Our opening ceremonies—including the Home Run Derby and speed contests—were held in the Boston Red Sox Spring Training facility (JetBlue Field). The pool play is set to be played in the Minnesota Twins complex (Century Link) and all of these facilities are within minutes of each other.

Day 1 consists of:

  • a check-in where you get your gear
  • several skill tests where the Perfect Game gets your metrics in the system
  • a Home Run Derby
  • a Speed test
  • meeting your team and coach
  • a dinner
  • a fireworks show

We discuss them in more detail below.

Day 1 Morning Expectations: Gear Checks & Highlights

Perfect Game Series Classic Review

The highlights of the first day were getting our gear, meeting our week-long teammates on the Southwest team and watching the Home Run Derby. (We cover the Home Run Derby in this post). The gear, specifically, consisted of:

  • Home and away jersey sets (shirt, pants)
  • Belt
  • Game socks
  • Perfect Game helmet (no need to bring your own as we did)
  • Rawlings gear bag (that could hold bats)
  • Rawlings batting gloves
  • Two “Series” sport shirts (Black and White)
  • Work out shorts
  • PG game hat

The lowlights were standing around for what felt like too long a time watching other players get evaluated. Those evaluations are necessary to document the players, for sure. But that didn’t make it fun shagging balls with another 70 or so players who are also waiting for their 10 swings. Humidity, we might add, is foreign to those of us from the mountains—at least in these quantities.

No bats, at least at this age group, were provided. We brought our favorites (CF8, Easton Beast and Sam Wood Bat).

Day 1 Evening Expectations: Derby & Fireworks

After the check in and evaluation portions of the first day, we were given a few hours to get our stuff together, grab lunch off site and check in to our hotel. Then, about 6pm, we were back at the JetBlue park for the opening ceremonies. They consisted of a Home Run Derby, Speed Test, dinner and fireworks show.

Home Run Derby: Performance at the morning BP session determined the Home Run Derby participants. That evening, at the opening ceremonies, they competed against each other in a 10 swing contest for the most bombs. There were literally fireworks when the players hit balls over the fence. This was far and away the pinnacle of the first day (although the gear bags were pretty cool). There is a severe disparity in size between some 11 year olds and others, so this was an event for the bigger players.

Running Contest: During that morning skill test session, everyone is timed in a 30 yard dash. The times were recorded. Then, at the opening ceremonies, they called the top 30 or so times and had them race off individually for another time. Winners were announced on the spot. Less fun to watch than the Derby, and if your son isn’t running in the event, there is even less to watch.

Fireworks: A legit 10 minute show worth the wait, at least we thought, at the JetBlue Stadium after the provided dinner on the first night.

 
Observation 1: Player Distribution & Invites

Perfect Game Series Classic Review

Players are chosen for this event through a number of avenues. Many are selected through regional showcases (you can see some options here). At those events, stats are recorded and top performers receive an invite for the following year.

For others, a connection to the program through a coach or sponsor appears to be helpful in terms of access for consideration. Each region has their own director for the perfect game and, we are assuming here, consideration for an invitation comes through them.

Either way, around February candidates get an email with a link to register. They have about 30 days to complete that registration process (and pay their fee) or their invite will move to the next set of players on the list that, somehow or another, rank out below them.

Observation 2: Are these players the “best”?

Perfect Game Series Classic Review

How well does the Perfect Game do in getting the absolute best of the best at these tournaments? Well, for starters, we’d suggest our sample size is small. And our sampling of the 11U is not very fair for the Perfect Game. The 11U is likely the most difficult for them to determine. Players at this age are the most unknown and unwilling to travel across country. Yet, even considering the poor sample, we’d guess the same problems exist, at least to some extent, for every age group when it comes to determining the best.

Geography Problems

For starters, geography creates a bias that keeps some of the best out. The further away you live, the bigger these problems becomes. As an example, the 11U showcase we attended didn’t have a single player from Las Vegas or Phoenix—two serious hot beds of high level baseball in the West. Yet players from Georgia and Florida, a drive’s distance to Fort Myers, consist of more than 50% of the players. Clearly a geographical bias, and despite what some Mom tries to describe to you over dinner, baseball in Georgia just isn’t that much better than everywhere else.

Money Problems

Further, access to these tournaments are anything but inexpensive. Yet, it’s not only rich parents who have kids that are good at baseball. We can be sure the $600 registration fee and a week’s travel expenses are serious barriers to entry for more than just a few. Throw in plane tickets and a week off of work and you see why they didn’t have any takers from Vegas or Pheonix (or Southern California) to attend this year’s 11U Classic.

Don’t get us wrong, this doesn’t mean the players participating aren’t some of the best in the country. Our day one eyeball test shows there are some serious ballers here. Could they be among the very best? We’d guess some of them are. Others, not so much. But the restrictions of budget and distance create too big a bias to really think these are the ‘best’. For no other reason then we like to throw out numbers, we’d guess, from the near 200 11U’s here at the tournament, only 1 out of 5 would make a 9 team roster of the actual very best in the country.