A select team of metro-east senior baseball all-stars will try to end a three-year Missouri winning streak Friday at the PNC Bank High School Baseball Showcase at Busch Stadium.
The Missouri squad tacked on a 14-1 victory over Illinois last year to their 8-3 win in 2011 and 2-0 win at the inaugural showcase in 2010.
This year's Missouri team is just as scary with 19 of its 25 players already signed to Division I scholarships. Of that group, Hazelwood West pitcher Devin Williams was drafted in the second round (54th overall) by the Milwaukee Brewers, Parkway South pitcher Jake Brentz went to Toronto in the 11th round (325th overall and Francis Howell pitcher Calvin Munson was drafted by the Cardinals in Round 31 (935th overall).
Williams is expected to miss the game while negotiating a contract with the Brewers. He and Brentz are both University of Missouri recruits while Munson signed with San Diego State to play football.
"I'm up against it with an 0-3 start," joked former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Alan Benes, who will manage the Illinois squad. "There's a lot of showcase events now and these kids get a tremendous amount of more exposure than in the past, but this is another really great event that these guys have the honor of being a part of.
"To get to play at Busch Stadium under the lights, what a great thing for these kids to be able to do."
The showcase, also sponsored by Rawlings and Prairie Farms, includes an 11 a.m. congratulatory lunch at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse for the players Friday morning.
From there they head to Busch Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. skills competition, followed by the All-Star Showcase game at 7:15 p.m. The game and skills competition are free and open to the public.
The Illinois club has six players who either signed with Division I teams or have Division I offers. The list includes St. Louis University recruit Drew Curtis (Edwardsville), Missouri State recruit Aaron Meyer (Belleville West), Indiana recruit Brent Gibbs (Alton), Southern Illinois University Edwardsville recruit Keaton Wright (Triad), Eastern Illinois recruit Jake Haberer (Highland) and Western Illinois recruit Jordan Heckler (Western Illinois).
"It's a real honor to be voted in and it's been a great experience from what I've heard from other players that have played in it in the past," Belleville West pitcher Cory Renois said.
Renois is looking forward to pitching off the same mound as Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright and Cards rookie sensation Shelby Miller. West played Belleville East at Busch Stadium earlier this year, but Renois didn't get to pitch that day.
"I'm looking forward to pitching on a major league mound," Renois said. "It's really cool. Playing at Busch was great, it was everything I expected out of a major league ballpark."
Renois knows a lot of the metro-east all-stars and has been a summer teammate of Collinsville's Chris Mathes and Paul Suess on the Rawlings Titans.
"There's a bunch of Illinois talent in this game," said Renois, one of numerous Illinois squad players who also helped out at a youth baseball clinic last Sunday at Cardinals manager Mike Matheny's Catch 22 Miracle Field in Chesterfield, Mo.
"It was a lot of fun helping out the kids," Renois said. "When you saw the giant smiles on their faces it makes it great."
Benes will manage the Illinois squad and former Cardinals outfielder Bernard Gilkey is the Missouri manager. The Illinois assistant coaches are Gibault High coach Andy Skaer and Triad coach Jesse Bugger.
Skaer's Gibault squad recently won the Class 1A state championship while Bugger's Triad Knights advanced to the sectional championship before losing to Mount Vernon.
"I know Mike Matheny was instrumental in getting me on board and I'm thankful for the opportunity to be around these kids and get a chance to see them in action," Benes said. "I don't remember having any opportunities like this. I played high school and American Legion ball and that was it. This is an opportunity to play in a major-league park and be involved in something that most people never have the opportunity to do."