2011 Under Armour All-America Game, powered by Baseball Factory: Event Recap
2011 Under Armour All-America Game, powered by Baseball Factory – Event Recap If the Under Armour All-Americans anticipated an experience comparable of the big leagues last week, they did not leave disappointed. From the moment they arrived in Chicago for the Under Armour All-America Game they were treated like professionals. Now in its fourth year of existence, the game has built a reputation for professionalism alongside a tradition of excellence. Over the past two years alone, 61 of the 72 players from the Under Armour All-America Game were selected in the MLB Amateur Draft, including 12 first round picks. The 36 high school players selected by Baseball Factory for this year’s game promised to bring just as much talent and excitement. Over the course of the four days, the players proved why they were selected to participate in this prestigious event, culminating in the 2011 Under Armour All-America Game.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
At the W Lakeshore Hotel in Chicago, IL, event headquarters for the week, Under Armour put together an unbelievable hospitality suite. The suite served as the player’s welcome to the event, where upon arrival each player took a lap around the suite to gear up head-to-toe in the latest Under Armour apparel and accessories. Throughout the duration of the event, the suite also served as a central location for fun and relaxation during down time. Equipped with video games and two ping-pong tables, intense matches broke out frequently in the spirit of friendly competition. A new experience added to this year’s player welcome was a Topps cards photo shoot. The legendary card company was on hand to photograph players for limited edition player trading cards.
Later that evening players and families made their way to historic Wrigley Field for opening ceremonies, which took place prior to the Chicago Cubs v. Washington Nationals game. Steve Bernhardt, Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations at Baseball Factory, welcomed the group and introduced the roster of talented young players. For the first time in the history of the event, the Cubs were playing in a home series. This provided a unique opportunity for this year’s class, as they were introduced on field as part of the pre-game ceremonies. Following the introduction the All-Americans and their families enjoyed the Cubs v. Nationals matchup.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Who better to mentor the young All-Americans than former Major League stars? Cal Ripken, Jr. and Billy Ripken returned as coaches and mentors for the third straight year. They were joined by Larry Bowa, former MLB player, coach & manager and Neal Cotts, former MLB pitcher. Billy Ripken and Larry Bowa were also named Managers for the American and National team respectively. As it has the past two years, the workout took place on Les Miller Field at the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC). Each player worked out at their position, including defensive work in the infield with Billy Ripken and Larry Bowa providing instruction. With Billy and Larry named as the managers, a friendly banter sparked between the two as both team’s infielders displayed exceptional defensive skills. Outfielders and catchers also had a chance to get some work in with the former MLB players on staff and Neal Cotts worked with this year’s young arms. In addition, each player took a turn working on their swing in the cages with Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr. The workout was a great way to start the day and an opportunity the players won’t soon forget.
Following the MLB Player Workout, players jumped on a bus for Ho Chunk Sports Complex to serve as camp counselors for the afternoon at the Ripken Baseball Youth Camp. It was the second straight year the All-American’s took part in the Ripken Baseball Camp and players were excited to have the opportunity to give back to the community. The afternoon kicked off with a Q&A and autograph session, imparting even more of that big league feeling on the All-American’s. Following autographs, players guided the Ripken Baseball campers through various hitting work, sharing their experience with the eager young ball players. The Ripken Baseball campers were also invited to shag the Home Run Derby Finals at Wrigley Field on Saturday. Thursday was capped off with an evening of food and fun at Dave & Buster’s.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Friday’s schedule necessitated a higher level of intensity from the players, starting early with Under Armour group meetings and one-on-one interviews with MLB Network. Similar to 2010, MLB Network conducted interviews and Q & A sessions with each player to use in next year’s amateur draft coverage. To top off the big league treatment, in-between sessions the All-Americans signed 250 of their brand new Topps player cards. The moment resonated with many of the players, as they relished in signing their first official baseball card. Friday morning’s media activity and autograph session in time for players to grab lunch before heading back to UIC for the professional scout workout.
Over 120 professional scouts and college coaches invaded the complex at UIC, on hand to evaluate the heavily touted players in a professional style workout. The All-American’s lived up to their reputation; one throw from the outfield even drew o’s and ah’s from the crowd. In continuing the trend of impressing the crowd, the workout ended with players taking part in the preliminary round of the Home Run Derby. After strong performances and quite a few long home runs, coaches determined who would advance to the finals at Wrigley Field on Saturday. For the National Team, Byron Buxton (OF, RHP), Franmil Reyes (OF), David Thompson (3B) and Clint Coulter (C) advanced to the finals. Carson Kelly (3B, RHP), Mikey White (SS), Lewis Brinson (OF) and Stryker Trahan (C) all secured spots for the American Team.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Over the first three days of the event, the weather could not have been better. Unfortunately for players & coaches, the forecast for game day was ominous. However, this group of players didn’t let the impending weather effect their energy and they arrived Saturday morning to historic Wrigley Field eager to play in the fourth annual Under Armour All-America Game. The All-Americans were again welcomed in professional style, with each player’s jersey hanging in a locker adorned with their name. Prior to on field activities, the All-Americans took team photos in center field in their freshly pressed Under Armour uniforms. ML Strength trainer Korey Goodwin led the group through an active warm up and stretch session. Batting practice followed and the Home Run Derby contestants used the opportunity to fine tune their swings before the finals. After the first round was complete, Lewis Brinson and Byron Buxton had secured spots in the final, having launched two home runs each well into the left field seats. Eventually Brinson (Tamarac, FL) would prevail over Buxton (Baxley, GA), hitting two more home runs while Buxton finished empty-handed.
Most of the 120+ scouts in attendance had already filtered into Wrigley to witness the Home Run Derby. The turnout of professional scouts and college coaches for this year’s Under Armour All-America Game was impressive to say the least. On hand for the game was one Owner, three Organization Vice Presidents, five Scouting Directors and four Assistant Scouting Directors, just to name a few. All 30 Major League teams were represented along with numerous colleges and universities.
In attendance to throw out the Ceremonial First Pitch was Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks. It was a great moment for players and fans to see Ernie take part in the game. Player & coach introductions followed and the weather appeared ready to surrender. With the first pitch from right-handed pitcher Teddy Stankiewicz (Keller, TX) the 2011 Under Armour All-America Game was underway at 1:08 pm, live on the MLB Network. The adrenaline was flowing, as Stankiewicz hit 95mph on the stadium radar gun for the first pitch of the game. He would go on to sit at 88-92mph and escape the inning unscathed after giving up two hits to the American squad. Right-handed pitcher Ty Hensley countered in the bottom of the first inning, touching 93mph on the radar gun and escaping a scoring threat from the National team with a key double-play ball. With clouds beginning to roll over Wrigley the American team scored first. The game continued on before the Cubs grounds crew took over in the middle of the third inning, rolling out the tarp after learning of impending bad weather. Just as the tarp covered the infield, the sky opened up and rain poured onto Wrigley Field. The game was delayed an hour and half, during which the Under Armour All-Americans kept young fans happy by hanging around the dugout to sign autographs during lighter periods of rain fall. One player even exclaimed, “this is great, it feels awesome to be able to sign autographs right now. I would stand here all day and do this!”
Thanks to efficient work by the grounds crew, the game resumed play with hard throwing Nick Travieso (Pembroke Pines, FL) on the mound for the American team. National was able to put together a few hits, plating two runs in the bottom of the third. The score went back and forth until the National team secured a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the eighth on a two-run single from Yairo Munoz (Cabrera, Nagua, DR). With more weather on the way, a steady rain falling and already soaked field conditions, the game was called after the eighth inning. Despite the early finish, every player got a chance to play in the game.
There were many strong performances made by the Under Armour All-Americans this year, making the decision for MVP no easy task. Gavin Cecchini (Lake Charles, LA) earned the award for the American team after going 1-4 with a double, stolen base, run scored and a sacrifice fly. For the National squad, Jesmuel Valentin (Manati, PR) showed he could play with the best, going 2-2 while reaching base in all four at-bats. Valentin finished the day with a single, double, RBI and a walk. Carson Kelly (Portland, OR) earned this year’s Kelly Kulina Award, presented to the player who demonstrates the most heart and enthusiasm during the event. Congratulations Gavin, Jesmuel and Carson for an outstanding effort!
Despite the Under Armour All-America Game ending after the eighth inning, this year’s event was a huge success. Players took full advantage of the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of the 120+ college coaches and scouts in attendance over the four-day event. The 2011 Under Armour All-Americans not only demonstrated what it means to compete at the top level, but they also showed professionalism, a positive attitude and respect for the game. It was a great week that undoubtedly created lifelong memories in baseball for the young stars. As the players enter their junior and senior years, we’ll keep a close eye on them as they continue their success and progression towards the next level, be it collegiate or professional. Congratulations again to all the Under Armour All-Americans and we wish you the best in all your future endeavors.