TEMPE, Ariz. -- A group of young players from across the globe is getting a taste of the college life and learning that the terms “student” and “athlete” are not mutually exclusive.
This week, more than 30 high school-aged amateur players from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and South America are in Arizona as part of the fourth annual MLB College Showcase. On Monday, the players took a guided tour of Arizona State University.
“This has been a great experience for everyone and one of the most unique experiences you can have as a player,” said Solomon Maguire, 16, an outfielder from Australia. “This program is great because it has allowed young players -- especially from Australia and other countries where there isn’t as much opportunity -- a chance to see where we can take our game. I think all of us would do anything to pursue our dream of playing baseball, go to college or right to professional baseball.”
The MLB College Showcase is a breeding ground for success. So far, the program 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.
“The MLB College Showcase has opened up a lot of eyes and opportunities for players that come from places like Australia, South America and China,” said Max Thomas, senior coordinator of baseball and softball for MLB. “They are understanding that the game doesn’t have to end at 17 or 18 and there are other opportunities within the game. They can also go to college to continue their education and play.”
The prospects, who represent 10 countries, began the 10-day event with games against Arizona State University and Arizona Western College last week. There’s also a “Pro-Style Showcase” workout Monday night designed to allow the players to demonstrate their skills in front of college recruiters and pro scouts at Salt River Fields, the Spring Training home of the D-backs and Rockies.
“This is not the first pro workout for many of these players, and we just want them to be themselves,” Thomas said. “We tried to instill in them that they are here for a reason and to do what they do best and not be something they are not. We saw enough in them and the scouts saw enough of them to recommend us, so we know they are talented, and they’ll be good in that setting.”
Later this week, the international team will play Central Arizona College, Arizona Western College and participate in the Arizona Fall Classic. The team will wrap up play Sunday against MLB’s Youth Academy at the Peoria Sports Complex, the Spring Training home of the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners.
“I am going to take with me a lot of good memories from this beautiful experience,” said Alessandro Ercolani, 15, a right-handed pitcher from Italy. “It’s been fun, and I have learned a lot. I have made new friends and learned different languages.”
Overall, the 2019 MLB College Showcase roster features players from Australia, Brazil, China, Curaçao, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Uganda.
“These guys have really come together and are having a memorable experience,” Thomas said. “You will see players from six countries hanging out together and more countries joining in because they’ve all become buddies. They’ve all bonded pretty quickly, and that’s something we really instilled for them to do on this trip.”