Getting selected to the AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Classic is not a guarantee of future success.
An honor? A step in the right direction? Good company?
Barstow High School pitcher Aaron Sanchez was among the 40 players in the country selected for the game, which takes place at 5 p.m. Sunday at Petco Park in San Diego. The 17-year-old right-hander will play for the West squad as they face the best players from the East.
"It's exciting," said Sanchez, who's watched the game on TV for years. "You look at the list and see how much success they have with AFLAC kids. Of course you want to be that person or that first-round pick, but you've still got to work to get there. Nothing is handed to you."
Now in its seventh year, the alumni list from the AFLAC game is becoming more and more recognizable each year. Several players who played in previous games are now contributing at the major league level. Justin Upton, who played in the 2004 game and was selected No. 1 overall in the Major League Baseball draft in 2005 by the Diamondbacks, was a member of the National League All-Star team this year. Pittsburgh Pirates' outfielder Andrew McCutchen played in the 2004 game, was called up to the big leagues in June and recently hit three home runs in one game. Angel's pitcher Nick Adenhart, who died in a car accident in April, played in the 2003 game. According to AFLAC, 65 of the 230 former AFLAC players have been drafted by MLB teams in the first round and three players have been selected No. 1 overall in the draft.
Sanchez will be on the same team as Bryce Harper, the highly touted sophomore catcher out of Las Vegas who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in June. Harper is forgoing his final two years of high school, obtaining his GED, playing for the College of Southern Nevada and will eligible for the 2010 draft.
The two previously met when Sanchez struckout Harper at the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars in Cary, N.C., in June. Sanchez said he won't remind Harper of the at bat.
"I'm not going to bring it up because if I was on the other end I wouldn't want that brought up to me," Sanchez said. "If it comes up, it comes up, and we'll joke about it."
Sanchez said he's honored to be included in the company of players like Harper. Scouts have taken notice of Sanchez's 90-plus-mph fastball and a breaking ball in the 80s. He's been tabbed as one of the top arms in the 2010 draft.
Sanchez learned of his selection for the team, which is organized by Perfect Game USA, in late June. He was in San Diego for the announcement before a Padres game and took part in a press conference with Hall-of-Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith.
"It was cool to hang around a Hall of Famer and to be around that environment," Sanchez said.
While Sunday will be the highlight of the week, players take part in an array of activities leading up to the game. They arrived in San Diego on Wednesday, began practicing Thursday and visited Rady's Children's Hospital and Dave & Busters in San Diego the same day.
Charity is an important part of the event, AFLAC spokesperson Tracy Martin said. Through the game, AFLAC has helped raise $650,000 for pediatric cancer. The hospital visit is a highlight for the high school players, Martin, said.
"It's a life-changing experience for a lot of these guys," Martin said. "The worst thing that could happen to them is they could strikeout. It takes a lot of focus off of self. You can see for a lot of them it effects them deeply."
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