Champs crowned in All-Star week baseball, softball championships

July 19th, 2022

COMPTON, Calif. -- The Compton Youth Academy proved to be a gracious host for this week's baseball and softball tournaments among MLB programs from urban areas.

Perhaps it was too gracious of a host.

Compton's baseball and softball teams each fell in the championship games Monday, with the MLB Develops Program in Puerto Rico winning baseball's All-Star Commissioner's Cup, and the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy winning softball's Jennie Finch Classic. The tournaments were for players at the under-17 level.

The week still was a victory for the Compton Youth Academy, the first of its kind when MLB started its outreach program in 2005. Under the direction of former Major Leaguer Darrell Miller, the facility became the model for how all other MLB youth academies were built.

"It was overwhelming and, honestly, very emotional, because all of these academies have a story and a background, and I'm just honored to be in the space," said Miller, who played for the Angels from 1984-88. "MLB trusted me to get to this level with 10 academies.

"It's all about baseball and softball, the game that builds character, and also is the game that mirrors everyday living with how to handle failure and success."

Compton's baseball team had an early 1-0 lead on Puerto Rico in Monday's championship game, but it fell 2-1 despite giving up just two hits. Puerto Rico won it in walk-off fashion in the seventh inning on two walks, a sacrifice fly to get a runner in scoring position and a game-winning ground ball to shortstop from Jose Guzman.

It was perfect situational baseball from Puerto Rico, much to the delight of head coach Hector Stewart.

"This means a lot back home, because we came up with the win to take the tournament," Stewart said. "But the level of competition that is going on is just going to another level. We have been seeing this since we've been coming up here. That's what we prepared the guys for."

Like the baseball tournament, the softball tournament came down to the wire. Compton scored a run in the seventh and final inning, then put the tying run on base before falling, 5-3. Washington pitcher Kristin White recorded a strikeout to end it and capture the championship.

White hopes the title will inspire the next generation of softball players in the D.C. area.

"Little girls that don't play softball and think they don't fit into the package of a softball player, they can go far because I have been underestimated because of my height, because of my race, because of my gender" said the 5-foot-2-1/2-inch 17-year-old White, who is Black. "I think that today, I broke a lot of barriers. It doesn't matter the package, it just matters what you do and what you put forth."

For Finch, the namesake of the softball tournament, getting the event back to All-Star week for the first time since 2019 was an accomplishment in itself.

"It wasn't just showing up this week, it was these high-intensity, talented ladies that have goals and dreams and they are on a mission," Finch said shortly after Washington won its title. "They're not just here to play, they're here to dominate.

"That's just a testament to all the work being done by Major League Baseball at a grass-roots level, with seeds being planted. Now we're starting to see the fruit of that labor, so it's really exciting."