Column: Boras Classic could provide sneak peak at future MLB greats

Gerrit Cole poses for a photo at Yankee Stadium in 2019.
Former Orange Lutheran pitcher Gerrit Cole poses for a photo at Yankee Stadium in 2019. He’s part of the history of playing high school baseball in Southern California and becoming a pro.
(Mike Stobe / Getty Images)

As morning clouds gave way to a pristine blue sky and warm sunshine, the perfect weather on a weekday morning provided another clue for what many have come to understand from living in Southern California: Baseball is the sport that has no peer when it comes to producing pro players and even future Hall of Famers.

The experiences this past week at Dodger Stadium were just the latest indicator of how communities appreciate the historic accomplishments of their youth. There was Hunter Greene from Sherman Oaks Notre Dame throwing 39 fastballs of 100 mph or higher as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. There was Max Fried from Studio City Harvard-Westlake throwing seven shutout innings as an Atlanta Brave. There was Freddie Freeman from Orange El Modena inspiring chants of “Fred-die, Fred-die, Fred-die” as a Dodger.

You go through the list of players inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame and get nostalgic and inspired knowing they are California natives. Tony Gwynn from Long Beach Poly, an eight-time batting champion. Ted Williams from San Diego Hoover, a six-time batting champion. Don Drysdale from Van Nuys, Robin Yount from Taft, Eddie Murray and Ozzie Smith from Locke, all graduates of the Los Angeles Unified School District.


So understand that when you visit a playing field, a park or witness kids throwing balls against a garage door anywhere in Southern California, you have a much better chance of seeing a future college or pro player than probably anywhere else.

In this past week’s 16-team, four-day Boras Classic held at San Juan Capistrano JSerra and Santa Ana Mater Dei, Scorebook Live put together a list of more than 85 players committed to colleges. Villa Park went 4-0 to win the title in a week that produced drama, surprises and glimpses of future stars.

Every season is different. Classes of talent can be extraordinary or average, but the level of consistency in discovering the next player to put up a highlight moment worthy of recognition cannot be challenged.

It makes going to a high school game matching top teams and top players so enjoyable, because you can count on that memory returning in five, six, seven years when you see that person in a major league stadium and can say, “I saw him as a teenager.”

There’s no guarantee players who are good in high school will be successful in college or the pros. There’s a long list of hard throwers and good hitters whose careers quickly ended whether because of injury, lost interest or failure to overcome the many challenges associated with trying to reach the highest level of baseball.

But there are so many others who have made it and brought along their families, friends and communities to enjoy the ride of a lifetime.

It’s why at birth moms and dads are wondering if their son is left-handed. It’s why at T-ball games parents and grandparents start dreaming. It’s why at high school games every scout with a radar gun draws interest.

Cleveland High’s Bret Saberhagen came close to throwing a perfect game in a 13-0 win over Palisades for the 1982 City championship at Dodger Stadium.

Through more than 45 years of writing about high school baseball, seeing great pitchers before they became household names has been a thrill. There was Cy Young Award winner Jack McDowell (Notre Dame) staring down umpires while throwing fastballs past overmatched hitters.

There was Jeff Suppan (Encino Crespi), a future National League Championship Series most valuable player, being sarcastic when people questioned whether he was throwing hard enough in high school while getting one batter after another out. There was two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen (Reseda Cleveland) throwing the only no-hitter in City Section championship history at Dodger Stadium, then being the World Series MVP three years later.

The list can go on and on with more recent players, such as Giancarlo Stanton (Notre Dame), Mike Moustakas (Chatsworth), Jack Flaherty (Harvard-Westlake) and Gerrit Cole (Orange Lutheran).

Playoffs begin in another week in the Southern Section. The City Section championship game concludes at Dodger Stadium on May 28, so enjoy the games. You really don’t have to visit a major league park to see a major league player. There’s probably one or two playing in a front yard near you. Just be patient. And enjoy the ride.