SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When watching college baseball, fans have the opportunity to see the potential future stars of MLB before they make it to the big leagues.During this weekend's inaugural MLB4 collegiate baseball tournament, the league's goal has been to expose the college level to a wider audience in an
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When watching college baseball, fans have the opportunity to see the potential future stars of MLB before they make it to the big leagues.
During this weekend's inaugural MLB4 collegiate baseball tournament, the league's goal has been to expose the college level to a wider audience in an effort to continue to grow the sport. And Tony Reagins, MLB's executive vice president of baseball and softball development, has been pleased with the event.
"It's awesome to be able to have the universities that we have representing," said Reagins, who was at Salt River Fields on Friday for the first two games of the tournament. "It's awesome."
The action continued at the MLB4 tournament Saturday with a day matchup between Vanderbilt and Cal State Fullerton (Vanderbilt won, 14-9), followed by a night contest between TCU and Virginia (TCU won, 9-4).
Several players participating in this weekend's tournament could be joining an MLB organization as soon as this summer. TCU starter Nick Lodolo (MLB Pipeline's No. 16 2019 Draft prospect) and Vanderbilt outfielder JJ Bleday (No. 24) are among the top players in the tournament.
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"It's important to make the connection that college baseball is the pathway to professional baseball," Reagins said. "With the Draft, 70 percent of the players being selected, almost on an annual basis, are from the college ranks, so to be able to reinforce that connectivity and then show young people around the country that college baseball is an important part of what we do at the higher levels is extremely important."
The four teams in the MLB4 tournament are a strong example of some of the country's best programs. Vanderbilt is No. 1 in the D1Baseball Top 25 rankings, while TCU (No. 19) and Cal State Fullerton (No. 25) are also ranked. Since 2014, all four programs have made multiple College World Series appearances.
"That was part of the intrigue with being able to put this together with quality programs that have performed well over time, consistently over time," Reagins said. "To be able to bring them together here in Arizona, great facility, it's been outstanding."
Reagins is particularly familiar with one of the programs -- Cal State Fullerton. He graduated from the university in 1991 before going on to work for the Angels from 1992-2011, including stints as director of player development (2002-07) and general manager (2008-11).
In 2015, Reagins joined the Commissioner's Office as senior vice president of youth programs. Then he was promoted to his current role in '18.
"That's always good to be able to see Coach [Rick] Vanderhook and what he's done over time with the program, and the history of baseball at Cal State Fullerton is rich," Reagins said. "We're excited to have them as a part of this initiative."
And the participating teams have been appreciative of this opportunity to open their seasons in special fashion.
"This is amazing," Vanderhook said, "what they did for all of us to allow us to put this thing together, putting us at this facility, which is super nice, and just the whole environment of the weekend."
Jake Rill is a reporter/producer for MLB.com based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JakeDRill.