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States Play offers exposure for elite talent

August 24, 2018

ARLINGTON -- The inaugural States Play tournament began on Friday at Globe Life Park, and Tony Reagins, executive vice president of baseball and softball development, is one of the minds behind the creation of the event.The tournament will showcase some of the top rising seniors from Texas and California in

ARLINGTON -- The inaugural States Play tournament began on Friday at Globe Life Park, and Tony Reagins, executive vice president of baseball and softball development, is one of the minds behind the creation of the event.
The tournament will showcase some of the top rising seniors from Texas and California in a three-game series this weekend. The two states typically produce the most amateur talent, and Reagins wanted to create a way to showcase the top players from these states.
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"It really started with the notion of providing additional player-developing opportunities for the elite-level player," Reagins said. "It began with a conversation that [Deputy Commissioner] Tony Petitti and I had, about how we can continue to showcase players and spread our Play Ball message. We came up with this idea of natural rivalries. We looked at where the talent around the country came from.
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"We wanted to start to provide a big league experience for these players from these states. We reached out to the Rangers in Texas and they were excited about the opportunity to host this event."
All games will be streamed live on MLB.com, and access to the ballpark is free for the public. The schedule is as follows (all times Eastern):
Saturday, Aug. 25, 8 p.m. - Watch »
Sunday, Aug. 26, 10 a.m.
Many of the players in the tournament have also been chosen to participate in other MLB/USA Baseball development-focused events, such as the Tournament of the Stars, the Breakthrough Series, the Elite Development Invitational, the DREAM Series and the Prospect Development Pipeline (PDP).
Among the group is Bobby Witt Jr., a middle infielder who is considered by many scouts as the top player in the 2019 Draft class. Witt is on the Texas roster and is already committed to Oklahoma. Rosters also include three commits apiece to UCLA, LSU and Texas A&M and five to Texas.
"The idea behind the selection process was to identify rising seniors who were the best in their respective states and we came up with this group," Reagins said. "We think it's a competitive group and it includes guys who haven't had the opportunity to be seen in a setting like this."
Witt made an early impact in the series opener. He launched a two-run home run in the first inning and finished 3-for-5 with a triple in Team Texas' 9-6 win over Team California.

Witt's home run had an exit velocity of 99.5 mph. On his triple, he ran from home to third in 11.48 seconds and had a 29.1 feet-per-second sprint speed. The Major League average on a triple is 27 feet per second.
Outfielder Garrett Frechette was a standout player for California. He went 3-for-5, including an RBI single in the seventh. Frechette started in left field, but he also plays first base. Scouts have raved about his plus raw power.
First baseman Joseph Naranjo blasted a two-run home run in the top of the first inning for California, but that was the only lead the team held. Texas right-hander Will Swope shined in relief of starter Trey Faltine III, striking out eight in four scoreless innings.

Throughout the weekend, each of the participating teams will also have the chance to take part in morning training sessions from 9 a.m. to noon each day at the Rangers MLB Youth Academy in West Dallas, which opened last December and is widely considered one of the top youth baseball facilities in the country.
The coaches for the weekend include Jerry Manuel, Homer Bush, Royce Clayton, Ken Hill, Gerald Laird, Darren Oliver and Andy Stankiewicz, all of whom have big league ties and have lived in the two states.
"Not only will this event give the players the chance to play against each other, but also to receive instruction at our Youth Academy in Texas, gain some more insight on the game from those big leaguers," Reagins said. "That was really the mindset, to integrate coaches with that experience who have played or lived in California or Texas."
Reagins said the goal for the States Play tournament in the coming years will be to identify states that are natural rivals. As of now, the plan for next year is to feature Georgia and Florida.
"That's really our next level, to go to Florida and Georgia and create the same type of program and event next year," Reagins said. "Year after year, we'll identify two states who are natural rivals we can engage."

** Wesley Dotson ** is a reporter for MLB.com based in Arlington.