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Scouts hold California showcase

Annual event allows high school players to display their talent
COMPTON, Calif. -- It rained all weekend, and for a time it looked as though it may not happen, but in the end, some of the best high school talent in California converged on Sunday on the MLB Urban Youth Academy for the third annual Southern California Invitational showcase put on by the MLB Scouting Bureau.

"We can't control the things we can't control," said Rick Oliver, the assistant director of the MLB Scouting Bureau, who delayed the showcase for three hours to allow Urban Youth Academy Director Darrell Miller and his staff to fix up the two fields they were using. "We had to make some adjustments to it. A lot of people are here to see this, and to participate, so we are trying to accommodate them."

Finally, there was a break in the weather, and the sun finally burst through as 77 players were put through the paces by the scouting bureau. They were given eye exams, and the hitters were videotaped during a two-hour batting practice. The players and the more than 150 scouts, scouting directors, cross-checkers and player representatives who serve as advisors to the young talent moved to the main field for the showcase game.

"This is a good time for us to videotape the kids, especially when you have over 40 of them here," said Oliver, who, along with bureau director Frank Marcos, came up with the idea in 2007 to use the academy as a gathering place to show off some of the best young baseball talent in the country. "We get the video out to the clubs as soon as possible. It's another bit of information that the clubs have in hand."

Baseball people in attendance think the invitational is a great way to start the year.

"This is a great event," said Tim Hallgren, director of amateur scouting for the Los Angeles Dodgers. "It's great exposure for the kids at a very nice complex that Major League Baseball put together. If they're going to have an event like this, you definitely want to attend it."

"It's a great experience for these kids to be seen by all 30 teams," said Dan Evans, president and CEO of West Coast Sports Management, who had two future clients, Aaron Hicks and Anthony Gose, featured in last year's showcase. The two were later drafted by the Minnesota Twins and Philadelphia Phillies, respectively, last June.

"It's a great opportunity for a kid and his parents to go through this experience early in the season, before they play any games, focus on what they need to do better and then work on that throughout the year. Then the scouts can come back and pick some things out," added Evans.

Along with Hicks and Gose, Kyle Skipworth was featured at last year's showcase, and Matthew Dominguez and Josh Vitters were featured at the first invitational, in 2007. This year such names as Matt Davidson of Yucaipa High School, Jacob Marisnick of Riverside Poly, David Nick of Cypress High and Jonathan Singleton of Millikan High were just some of the players that the scouts will have their eyes on from now until June's First-Year Player Draft.

"It's an honor just to be out here with some of the top players in Southern California," said Nick after hitting batting practice. "It's a really good chance to show off your skills in front of the scouts.

"Josh Vitters graduated from my school, and he was the third overall pick two years ago, so it's nice to see how the whole process works at events like this," he added. "I played with a lot of these guys in showcases throughout the summer."

"Everybody out here has the same goal in mind," said Davidson, the highly touted third baseman, who didn't mind the hour-and-a-half drive in bad weather to attend the showcase. "They either want to get drafted or go to college. It's nice when you come out here with all the guys you play with -- we travel around the country over the summer with each other, and it's just nice. It's fun, it's competition, and you get to go up against everybody and show off your stuff."

In the end, Mother Nature let up long enough for these young players and old scouts to go home happy.

Ben Platt is a national correspondent for