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Too Many Showcases?

Reprinted From:
Baseball America Online

Is it possible to attend to many high school baseball talent showcases? The name of the game is Exposure -- Is it possible to get too much? Here is an article reprinted from Baseball America that takes a look at that question.

Familiar Faces Attend Showcases
By Allan Simpson
August 11, 2000

LONG BEACH, Calif.--Baseball showcase events have become so commonplace that they've almost become a way of life for some of the nation's top rising high school seniors as they criss-cross back and forth across the country.

At this week's Area Code Games, a player like third baseman David Wright of Hickory High in Chesapeake, Va., is attending his fifth showcase of the summer. And he's seeing a lot of familiar faces at every stop.

"Tyler . . . that guy with the funny last name," said Wright, referring to righthander Tyler Adamczyk from Westlake High in Westlake Village, Calif. "I've seen him at almost every place I've gone to so far. I recognize him right away now. Being from California, he's always been on a different team, but after awhile you get to see a lot of the same faces."

Wright was at the Area Code Games regional tryout in Somerset, N.J., the Team One National Showcase in Tempe, Ariz., and the Top Guns Showcase in Las Vegas in June alone. And he attended the East Coast Professional Baseball Showcase in Wilmington, N.C., just before hopping on a cross-country flight for the week-long Area Code Games.

Needless to say, there are few scouts and major college recruiters who don't know Wright by now and haven't built an extensive scouting profile on him.

"With all the national exposure he's gotten this summer, he's done nothing but helped himself," said Louisiana State recruiting coordinator Turtle Thomas, who has seen Wright and numerous other top players on multiple occasions this summer.

"The best part about attending all these events is the exposure," says Ryan Dixon, a promising righthander from Seminole (Fla.) High who is attending his third major showcase this summer. "They (the scouts and college recruiters) are all here."

Dixon is at the Area Code Games with two of his high school teammates, righthander T.J. Large and catcher Bobby Wilson. A fourth Seminole High player, first baseman Casey Kotchman--Baseball America's top-ranked junior entering the 2000 season--also would have been here had he not still been on the mend from an injury that cost him most of his high school season. An additional six Seminole High players have attended showcase events of some form or another this summer.

Adamczyk, a righthander/first baseman, and Westlake High teammate Mike Nickeas, a catcher, have been to three major events this year, with Nickeas even finding time to squeeze in an appearance at Team USA's junior national team trials in Joplin, Mo., for 10 days in July.

Many other elite high school players, both in the Classes of 2001 and 2002, are attending the Area Code Games this week as hardened veterans of showcase events.

The Area Code Games, appropriately, started baseball's revolution towards communal scouting in 1987 when it identified all the top high school players in California and brought them to one setting, promising them scouts and recruiters would be there to see them. The players were broken into teams according to the state's area codes. Since then, the Area Code Games has gone national, with regional tryouts, and has spawned numerous other showcase events like The Team One Showcases, the East Coast Professional Baseball Showcase and the Perfect Game Showcase.

Numerous lower-profile showcases also exist that are staged almost every weekend throughout the summer, and even the fall and winter in select locations.

"They've changed scouting," Diamondbacks scouting director Mike Rizzo says. "It used to be that you would get to see some of the top players in the spring before the draft--and that was the only look you got. With so many showcases now, you've got an opportunity to get multiple looks at the top players the summer before they're drafted. You've got a lot more history on kids long before you draft them."

With a volume of top prospects in one location, it has also made scouting easy for major league teams and colleges alike.

"By this point, I've already got an excellent idea of the top 100 or so players in the country," Thomas says, "because I've seen them so often."

Few buy into the theory that too much of a good thing can sometimes be bad for a player, that he can be overexposed by attending too many showcases.

"I don't think there is a chance of being overexposed," says Indians scouting director John Mirabelli. "Showcases can do nothing but help a kid. From a development standpoint, you can never play too much baseball. Here the kids get a chance to use wood bats and be evaluated using them. The environment is great and the competition is excellent. It's comparing apples to apples, because kids get a chance to play with kids of equal ability."

"If players are really talented," Thomas adds, "one or two events is usually enough. But if a kid's not that talented, the more showcases he goes to the better. There's always one school he'll run into that will like him. "Generally, when I see a player early in the summer, he either lights me up immediately or I NP (no-prospect) him. But with so many showcases, I can now see the same player in the middle of the summer and end of the summer. In some cases I've ended up giving a big scholarship to a kid I NP'd earlier. Some kids make adjustments over the course of a summer. A simple thing like changing a player's arm angle can often change the way you look at him. And some players are just more relaxed by the end of the summer after being at several showcases."

"I'm a lot more relaxed here than I was at Team One," Dixon says. "I was really nervous there, seeing all the guns pointed at me behind the plate. I'm a little more used to that now. "It's also beneficial as a pitcher, because if you have one bad outing you have a chance to make up for it later on."

For Wright, it's been his chance to play this summer. "I don't play (American) Legion in the summer because Legion ball in the Virginia Beach area isn't that good," said Wright, who also attended two major showcase events as a rising junior. "This is my opportunity to play. It's also very advantageous to be at a number of events, because it gives you a greater chance to be exposed."

But Mirabelli issues a word of caution about reading too much into how a player performs at showcase events. "I think it's important not to put too much emphasis on these events because a kid can change so much by the next spring," he said. "But it gives you a good basis to see which areas kids have improved from one season to the next."

"It's very beneficial for a kid to play in this kind of a setting," adds Marc Cuseta, who uses showcase events to recruit players for his Bayside (N.Y.) Yankees, one of the nation's top travel-team programs. "But in evaluating them, you've got to be careful because some kids are showcase players and not game players. That especially applies to pitchers. They'll just blow it out for the scouts for two innings because they don't need to save it. In a normal game, over seven innings, they'll pace themselves. That's the difference between throwing and pitching, and you need to be able to recognize the difference.

"Wright's a very good player. He's also a very good showcase player because he's so composed. He does well in this kind of environment. It's beneficial for him to be here."

So which showcase event is the best, for both evaluators and players? "In terms of a track record and getting the best kids, the Area Code is the best," Mirabelli says. "The East Coast Showcase is also very good, but it doesn't have the history yet.

"The thing I like about those two is the format is structured best for the purposes of evaluating a player for professional baseball. Both get a lot of input from scouts, and that's what makes them the best because they are truly based on talent and not on a kid's ability to pay." The well-traveled Wright concurs: "Area Code is the best," he said, "because the competition is the best."

Adds Dave Snow, on whose Long Beach State home field the event is staged: "Except for those kids playing on a national team in a tournament, most of the top prospects are here." But with more and more showcases springing up all the time in more areas of the country, there's a question if more may be too much of a good thing.

"More is better for certain kids," Mirabelli says, "but we've almost reached a saturation point with these showcases. It's almost like everyone who has a bat and a ball is on a showcase team. "From a scouting standpoint, you need to be able to separate the events that are truly beneficial for your club."

Judging by the appearance of more than 400 scouts, recruiters and agents in attendance here this week, along with Wright and 250 of the nation's elite high school players, there is little doubt that the showcase rage will not end any time soon.

Reprinted from:
Baseball America Online

Photos from Baseball Factory Web Site

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