SEBRING - The best high school senior baseball players in the Sunshine State will converge in Sebring this afternoon for the 35th annual Florida Athletic Coaches Association All-Star Baseball Classic.
The three-day event at Firemen's Field features 80 of the top players in Florida split up into North, South, East and West teams.
The Heartland will be represented by Lake Placid's Rick Miller, who is on the East squad. Local fans will be familiar with several of his teammates, including Luke Borders from Winter Haven and Taylor Cockrell from Lake Wales.
Daytona Beach Seabreeze coach Anthony Campanella is the head coach of the East squad.
"This event has the best senior baseball players in the state competing against each other," said Sebring baseball coach Buck Rapp. "Florida, California and Texas have the best high school baseball in the country and this year's crop of FACA All-Stars has a lot of talent.
"Rick is a fine young man who had a great season and I'm sure he'll represent our county very well."
With the state high school baseball playoffs wrapped up and the Major League Baseball amateur draft approaching in June, this is the last chance for these high school seniors to impress the coaches and scouts to either earn a college scholarship or enhance their draft positions.
A strong showing this week could move several players up a few rounds, which may be the difference between turning pro or electing to go to college.
"These young men have worked very hard on their craft and to be selected to play in this game is quite an honor," Rapp said. "Most of these players have already signed college scholarships, but if they have a good showing this weekend could improve their draft position."
Players competing this weekend follow in the footsteps of past participants such as Alex Rodriguez, Prince Fielder, Chipper Jones, Tom "Flash" Gordon, Dwight Gooden and Zack Greinke.
"I played in this event in 1996 and it's a special memory I'll never forget," Rapp said. "My brother Travis played in 1993 when Alex Rogriguez was here."
All four squads will have infield and batting practice beginning at 1:45 p.m. today at Firemen's Field. The teams will rotate between the field and the batting cages, so the practices will conclude at 5:45 p.m.
The players have their choice of wood or aluminum bats during batting practice and will also be timed in the 60-yard dash during the final 10 minutes of fielding practice.
"This is a great event and we're proud to be hosting it again," Rapp said. "The players from this event who have gone on to play Major League Baseball have made more than $1 billion in their careers."
Tickets are $10 per person and are for the entire day.
"We invite the community to come out and support this event and watch some quality baseball," Rapp said.
Action on the diamond gets under way Saturday when the North takes on the South at 11 a.m., while the East plays the West at 2:30 p.m. The classic concludes on Sunday with the loser's from Saturday's games playing at 11 a.m. and the championship game beginning a half hour after the conclusion of the first game.
Highlands Today sports staff