SoCal preps showcase skills for MLB scouts
Flores Memorial All-Star Game features top high schoolers
WALNUT, Calif. -- Some of Southern California's top high school talent was on display Sunday, as the fourth annual Jesse Flores Memorial All-Star Game was held at Mt. San Antonio College.
The event, named after former big leaguer and longtime scout Jesse Flores, the first Mexican-born player to pitch in the Major Leagues, gave local players a platform to showcase their talents in front of scores of baseball scouts.
"It's really become one of the premier showcase games in the country," said Indians scout Jason Smith, who helps run the event. "It's great because it's not a money event. It's strictly professional scouts and professional evaluators."
It featured 50 high school players, including a few famous names such as Trevor Gretzky, the son of hockey legend Wayne Gretzky; Ryan Garvey, the son of Dodgers great Steve Garvey; and Shane Zeile, the nephew of former Major Leaguer Todd Zeile.
"Any time you come out and play with the best kids in the area it's a fun time," said Trevor Gretzky, who plays at Oaks Christian High School and is committed to play at San Diego State under Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. "As of right now, baseball is No. 1 for me. I just love baseball. It's my dad's favorite sport -- other than hockey, of course -- and I grew up in New York going to Yankees games, so I just love it."
The all-star event began with players getting a chance to take batting practice before switching to fielding drills to showcase their defense. And then it was on to the game, which allowed scouts to see players in real-life game situations.
"It's really a great venue for scouts to come out and see some of the best high school kids in the same environment and see how they compete together," said Dodgers scout Gib Bodet. "They've had this event for a few years and these guys have done a good job of organizing it."
So while the stands were packed with plenty of scouts and scouting directors from all over the country, the players just did their best to simply focus on playing baseball and nothing more.
"You can't look at that," Edison High School's Christian Lopes said about looking up at the scouts in attendance. "It's still baseball whether you like it or not. My dad has always told me that you play the game to win and the showcasing will take care of itself."
But it wasn't just the scouts who packed the stands at Mazmanian Field, as nervous parents watched their sons try to impress big league evaluators. Even Steve Garvey, a 10-time All-Star and former MVP Award winner during his 19-year Major League career, wasn't immune to being nervous watching his son Ryan play from the bleachers.
"It's a little nerve-racking for a parent because you want him to do well," Garvey said. "But you also want him to enjoy it. It's an opportunity to seize the moment. I always tell him to have fun, stay focused and take deep breaths and do what you're trained to do."
One thing that helped many of these players, however, was their familiarity with each other from playing on the same scout teams during high school baseball's offseason. It certainly helped cool the nerves of Zeile, who is a pitcher-infielder at Valencia High School.
"It's pretty intimidating at first," Zeile said. "But after playing with all these guys and getting to know them pretty well, it's easier to play and it makes it fun. We have a lot of good talent here so there are a lot of guys who will be playing at the next level."
Other players were just excited to have the opportunity to play with such elite teammates, as Southern California has long been a hotbed of young baseball talent and this year isn't any different.
"It's exciting playing with the best of the best," said Brandon Martin of Santiago High School. "It's awesome getting everyone together and being able to show off your skills and what you have."
It was also special for the players considering they were selected to play in the game by a panel of professional scouts, giving plenty of credibility to the event.
"It's really cool," said Jacob Anderson of Chino High School. "For me, it's just an honor to be out here and be selected to play. I'm just out here looking to play hard and have fun with my teammates."
It was simply hailed as a success by all involved and proved to be a great showcase for players and evaluators alike.
"It's just amazing," said Dante Flores of St. John Bosco High School. "Being a baseball fan and a baseball player, it's cool to be out here playing with the best showing what you can do with the music playing and everyone smiling. It's a cool environment to be in, so it's fun."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.