I had a group of friends asking me if I wanted to go to today’s Boston-L.A. game at Dodger Stadium in downtown Los Angeles. You know what I said? “Oh HELL no.”
There is a little something called the Area Code Games going on down in Long Beach.
Yes, welcome to another week of outstanding high school all star players putting their wares out there for the numerous scouts evaluating them to be future pro players. But of course the part I am hoping for is that more and more of these future millionaires are going to go the college route first.
So yes, I am going to have my butt planted at Blair Field all week to check out the action and see where some of these players are committed to play their college ball. In case you are wondering about the quality of player that comes out of the Area Code Games, here is a short list of some ACG alums…
Not bad, right?
As usual, I like to start the Area Code week explaining some of the ground rules for this week. Here’s the skinny…
1- It’s all wood.
Yep, the pro scouts in attendance would not have it any other way. The ACG is an all-wood bat showcase. That also means that when you couple the wood bats with the cavernous dimensions of Blair Field (348-400-348), you’re virtually assured of no home runs, right?… more on that in a minute.
2- Seven innings.
All of the games at the ACG are seven innings or have a two-hour limit. In addition, all seven innings are played, so even if the home team leads after the top half of the 7th, the bottom half is still played.
3- Take these “commitments” with a sizable grain of salt.
Throughout the week, as you catch my write-ups, you’ll read about players and where they are committed to play in college. Most are 100% dead-lock solid. But finding information about where these guys are going is pretty scattershot, having to rely on sources far and wide. So there is an occasional hiccup here and there on college commitments. Don’t burn me at the stake if I report an incorrect commitment.
4- We’ll never see most of these guys in college.
As you know, there are some exceptions to this – like the previously mentioned names like Dustin Pedroia, Ryan Howard, Jacoby Ellsbury and Barry Zito – but for the most part most of these dudes who are playing in Long Beach this week will be drafted too high next summer and will take the pro money and run.
5- Two umpires.
The Area Code Games brass doesn’t do a lot of spending on the overhead here, which is why you’ll see only two umps working each game. It makes the job of judging fair/foul balls lasered down either line nearly an impossibility to judge if the infield umpire is manning 2nd base.
Here is how things shook out on day one of the Area Code Games in Long Beach…
White Sox. 202 022 0 – 8 14 1
Yankees… 001 020 0 – 3 7 3
Gotta admit boys and girls, I had some obligations to take care of this morning, so I didn’t get down to Long Beach until the last inning of this first game. Sorry, them the breaks. Obviously, I didn’t miss any drama as the Midwest-based White Sox jumped on the Northeast-based Yanks for a quadrant of two-run frames, holding a 6-1 advantage after their half of the fifth inning.
But the one thing I did notice was the star-power of Jordan Adell. As if Louisville didn’t have enough talent oozing from it’s door jams, today saw utility man Adell go 2-for-4 at the dish and throw 2.0 innings of scoreless work on the mound while also striking out five of his six outs. Yes, this dude needs to skip riding rickety buses in the minors and be a BMOC on the Louisville campus for the next few years.
Rangers.. 020 000 0 - 2 6 2
Nationals. 103 050 4 – 13 10 0
Ooof. This one was difficult to watch. A 13-2 blowout is one of the last things you want to see when you go to a ball game with no rooting interest. It was bad enough that the score was 9-2 when the game became an official “win” for the Nationals, but then they had to go ahead and play the bottom of the final inning, as is the norm here at the Area Code Games.
Another factor in this game taking an ice age to play, according to my unofficial count there were 17 walks in the game. Yes, that’s 17 in a seven-inning game. It looked to me that a lot of the pitchers were throwing extremely hard – low 90s and all – but were all over the map when it came to accuracy. They were probably feeling the pressure of having the glare of hundreds of pro scouts and college coaches directly on them. It happens here quite often, ya’ know.
Anyway, after trading a few runs and some shoddy pitching, the Southeastern-based Nationals took the game over with Christian Robinson’s three-run circuit clout in the bottom of the third, which ended up giving Washington the lead for good. And by the way, if Robinson’s shot was hit here a year ago, it would’ve been caught at the warning track. So let’s give thanks that the powers-that-be at Long Beach State who decided to pull the cavernous dimensions in a little bit. Still, let’s not take anything away from Robinson’s home run, it was a rocket right off the bat.
Oh, if you’re wondering, Robinson is committed to play his college ball at Florida. So yes, he’d be a perfect power replacement for Peter Alonso, who is moving on from the program.
Two innings later, the Nats turned this one into a bloodletting by plating five runs, including RBI hits from Tanner Morris (Virginia commit), Xavier Edwards (undecided) and Justin Connell (allegedly deciding between Arizona State and Florida State).
In a sea of rather pedestrian mound performances, the most impressive pitching went to the Rangers’ Jack Conlon (Texas A&M), who was the only hurler to pull a three-up, three-down inning by getting the Nats bats to go strikeout, flyout, flyout in the sixth inning.
The Nationals arms corps actually started to settle in a little bit as the game went on and actually had three occasions where they held the Rangers to four-up, three-down.
Athletics. 400 000 0 – 4
Reds….. 000 001 0 – 1
Walks. Walks. Walks.
It’s what give coaches the most anxiety. And usually that presents itself in the form of gray hairs. My gawd do the Reds’ staffers ever have more gray hairs now, or what?
Just like in the second game of the day, game three started out with a number of free passes being issued, which pretty much decided the game. The Northern California-based A’s got leadoff walks from Tyler Bosetti, Jamal O’Guinn and Spencer Torkelson to set the table in the first three at-bats. Then, after a strikeout, Oregon State-bound Troy Claunch ripped a bases-clearing double down the right field line, scoring all three runners and putting this one in the books early on.
Future Anteater Trent Denholm was throwing bee-bees from the bump, clocking in the upper 80s throughout his two-inning stint. Denholm gave up a walk and a single in the first inning, but neither one came back to haunt him. Then, in the second inning, he made short work of a three-up, three-down situation. His changing of speeds was really stellar and this dude looks to be another in a long line of deceptive, Houdini-like UC Irvine pitchers for coach Mike Gillespie to mold. That’s a perfect fit.
The Reds never could get much going, suffering a three-up, three-down at the hands of Florida-bound Darren Nelson in the third inning as well. They added a late run for a little window dressing.
At this time of year, considering the broiling summer that is happening across the country, do you wonder if a baseball player thinks to himself, “Man, what I wouldn’t give to play a game on a sunny day with reasonable temperatures.”?
Well before the three games that were played today, four of the eight teams had batting practice for the scouts and coaches in attendance. The Brewers started their session at 8am and were welcomed by overcast skies and 67-degree temperatures. Yes, not a typo. Sixty-seven. Worry not though, the sun did come out and the high temperature eventually reached into the upper-70s. Still quite comfy to play some baseball in.