Fifty of the region's top senior players from both sides of the river will be featured in the PNC Bank High School Baseball Showcase. The fourth annual event is set for June 14 and again will be played at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, home of the Cardinals.
"I believe in the value of youth sports," said Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, a big proponent of the event and one of its founders. "Seeing these talented kids come out and play for the love of the game is something that inspires me every year."
In the first three years of the showcase, 12 participants have either been drafted or are currently playing in the minor leagues.
That list includes Granite City High graduate Jake DePew, a catcher with the Tampa Bay Rays organization, and former Waterloo outfielder Garrett Schlecht, now in the Chicago Cubs' system.
O'Fallon High coach Jason Portz has been involved since the beginning and feels it gives area players a big-league experience.
"It is a first-class event," Portz said. "I've had a chance to be involved in a lot of all-star games and showcase and there's nothing better than this event for our high school kids. The kids really get treated like they're first-class citizens."
Players are nominated by area coaches and chosen by a selection committee of sportswriters in Illinois and Missouri. They also will compete in a home run derby, speed challenge and throwing accuracy competition on the day of the game.
Tickets are free to the all-star showcase; for more information visit www.highschoolbaseballshowcase.com.
The teams will be announced at 6 p.m. May 9 on the High School Baseball Showcase Selection Show on KTRS-AM 550. Former Cardinals pitcher and current Cardinals scout Alan Benes will manage the Illinois team, while the Missouri manager is former Cardinals outfielder and 101 ESPN radio personality Chris Duncan.
"This event is a great opportunity for families, especially those with kids who dream about playing professional ball, to spend a free evening at Busch Stadium watching some great young players," said PNC Bank executive Rick Sems. "Playing under the lights at Busch Stadium is an experience these kids will never forget."
Portz said his players chosen for the event in the past have talked about that as being one of the biggest draws.
"I don't care what you say or how old you are, as a coach or a player, when you get a chance to go down on the field at Busch Stadium it's always a great experience," Portz said.
Players chosen for the showcase also will have an opportunity to volunteer their services at a clinic for children with disabilities at the High School Baseball Showcase Clinic at 1:30 p.m. June 9 at Mike Matheny's Catch 22 special access baseball field in Chesterfield, Mo.
"Last year's clinic was such a great event that we knew we had to bring it back," Sems said. "It gives our players the chance to get involved in the community and gives the kids the opportunity to learn something that they might not otherwise try."
The clinic is free and open to the first 50 participants that sign up at www.highschoolbaseballshowcase.com.