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A glimpse into MLB thousands of miles from home

High school-aged amateur players from 10 countries participate in Major League Baseball College Showcase
@JesseSanchezMLB
October 4, 2019

PHOENIX -- Finn Bergmann stepped on the field Friday afternoon at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for batting practice with his brand new teammates, a group composed of players from all around the world, and saw an opportunity. If he doesn’t go pro one day, he could play at a small college

PHOENIX -- Finn Bergmann stepped on the field Friday afternoon at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for batting practice with his brand new teammates, a group composed of players from all around the world, and saw an opportunity.

If he doesn’t go pro one day, he could play at a small college or big university, he thought. Maybe attending school will be Bergmann’s top priority. And if it is, maybe he’ll play ball at a place like Arizona State University, that night’s opponent.

The utility player from Germany understands that baseball offers him options, and that’s a big reason why he is in Arizona -- 5,500 miles away from home.

“For us, this is really special to come to the States and see all of the colleges and how it all works,” Bergmann said. “It’s always important to have a good education, and it’s important to find a spot where you can play baseball and get a good education at the same time.”

Bergmann is one of more than 30 high school-aged amateur players from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America participating in the fourth annual Major League Baseball College Showcase this week in the Phoenix area. The latest version of the showcase pits players from 10 different countries in games against Arizona State University, Arizona Western College and Central Arizona College. The program also features a “Pro-Style Showcase” workout on Monday night designed for the players to demonstrate their skills in front of college recruiters and pro scouts.

Overall, the 2019 MLB College Showcase roster features players from Australia, Brazil, China, Curaçao, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Uganda.

“First, these games are a great measuring stick to see where they can end up, because a lot of these guys have the talent to play at [a] high-level Division I school or professionally. But it’s also a great internal measuring stick for them to see how far and how hard they have to work to get where they want to go,” said Max Thomas, senior coordinator of baseball and softball for MLB. “The academic piece is also important to know, and they’ll realize that, ‘Hey, baseball can take me to a school like ASU and I can get a four-year education and then go play professional or go back home or coach.’ They understand there are options.”

The event, which began Thursday against Arizona Western College in Yuma, Ariz., concludes Oct. 12 with a game against MLB’s Youth Academy at the Peoria Sports Complex, the Spring Training home of the Padres and Mariners. Games are also being played at Surprise Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Royals and Rangers, and Salt River Fields, home to the D-backs and Rockies.

In addition to Friday’s game against Arizona State University, a tour of ASU’s campus is scheduled for Monday morning.

“It’s an awesome experience and a great opportunity for kids from all over the world that don’t get to be seen as much as the kids here in America,” said Jaylin Rae, an outfielder from Australia who has committed to play at Central Arizona College. “This opens up so many avenues for everyone around the world. This is what it is all about, coming here and showing what you got.”

Rae is further proof that MLB’s international baseball programs are working. So far, the MLB College Showcase has produced a near 74 percent success rate since its inception four years ago. In all, 54 players that have participated in the MLB College Showcase have signed contracts with MLB clubs or advanced to play collegiately in the U.S.

More could be on the way.

“Throughout this trip, they will have plenty of opportunity to showcase their abilities in front of hundreds of colleges coaches, pro scouts, domestic and international scouts playing against top teams,” Thomas said. “It’s great for them to go to these schools and see different players at different talent levels, who are just a few years older, and compete.”

MLB’s College Showcase is part of the league’s effort to spread the game across the world. MLB operates developmental programs in Australia, Brazil, China, Curaçao, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, England, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Panama, Poland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Spain, Uganda and Venezuela.

“This demonstrates that MLB is not just in the U.S. or Latin America or Canada. It’s global,” Thomas said. “This our fourth year and it’s our largest group. This is something we look forward to every year, and it’s a great experience for everyone involved.”

Jesse Sanchez, who has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2001, is a national reporter based in Phoenix. Follow him on Twitter @JesseSanchezMLB and Facebook.