Area Code Roundup with a Cal-Hi twist

Alex Jackson is just a junior, but the catcher from San Diego created quite a buzz at this year's Area Code Games. Mark Tennis/ESPNHS

California underclass players shine in annual baseball showcase event held last week at Blair Field in Long Beach.

Of the 234 players on the combined rosters of the eight Major League teams represented at the 26th Area Code Baseball Games played in Long Beach (Calif.) from August 5-10, there were 22 who have yet to play as high school juniors.

None, however, made bigger impressions on the 500 assembled scouts and college coaches than three underclass California boys.

The Milwaukee Brewers’ Alex Jackson, a 6-foot-2, 215-pound catcher from Rancho Bernardo of San Diego, got things going early after hitting a solo home run on the first day of actual games. The round-tripper basically broke the back of the Chicago White Sox in a 2-0 Brew crew victory.

It’s not the fact the Cal-Hi Sports 2011 State Freshman of the Year and this year’s State Sophomore of the Year hit a home run, something the right-handed power hitter did 17 times last season to lead the state. It was the way he hit it, with one hand not fully connected to the bat.

“I was a little out in front of it,” chuckled Jackson.

In a victory against the Washington Nationals, Jackson also blasted a triple off the centerfield wall that according to the measuring equipment of Trackman came off the bat at an Area Code-high 107 miles per hour and traveled 405 feet at a 19-degree angle.

“It was definitely one of the hardest balls I’ve ever hit with a wood bat. I really squared it up,” Jackson told Cal-Hi Sports.

Jackson was a runaway choice as the week’s top hitter after going 6-for-9 with a home run, two doubles, a triple, three RBIs and six runs scored.

Of all the home runs hit at Blair Field this year, another of the most impressive came off the bat of Clovis High’s Jacob Gatewood.

According to Trackman, the 6-foot-5, 185-pound shortstop from Clovis, who played a pretty decent centerfield for the Oakland Athletics, launched a high majestic fly to left that came off the bat at 103 miles per hour and at a 31-degree angle. It nearly hit some parked cars before landing on the street 405 feet away, and then bouncing into the Long Beach Municipal Golf Course.

“It was a high inside fastball and it felt really good coming off the bat,” said Gatewood, an early commit to Southern California.

“I committed early to USC because it’s been my dream school since I was six years old and I would wear Reggie Bush jerseys.”

Another member of the Brewers from the Class of 2014 that was very impressive was pitcher Brady Aiken of last season’s Cal-Hi Sports No. 2 ranked Cathedral Catholic of San Diego.

Although he doesn’t throw a blazing 90s fastball, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-hander has a smooth and easy delivery, great command and control, good movement on a high 80s fastball, and a wicked curve.

Aiken’s more celebrated Cathedral Catholic teammate, left-handed pitcher Stephen Gonsalves, who some rank as the top lefty prospect for the 2013 MLB Draft, also had a strong week for the Brewers while another San Diego player who earned a New Balance Player of the Day honor was pitcher Ian Clarkin of Madison.

Ryan Kirby from Granada of Livermore was chosen as a Zinger Bat Offensive Player of the Year while catcher Dominic Miroglio from Bishop O’Dowd of Oakland earned a Schutt Impact Player of the Day selection.

This year’s Area Code Games overall were dominated by the boys from California.

The Milwaukee Brewers, with players from Southern California, were deep in pitching and hitting and finished 5-0. The Oakland Athletics, with boys from Northern and Central California, finished 3-1-1 with solid overall hitting and pitching.

The Chicago White Sox had the highest team batting average but losses to the Brewers and A’s left them at 3-2. Texas also finished 3-2 after losing to the Brewers and White Sox.

For more coverage of the Area Code Games go to the ESPNHS Baseball Area Code Games page at: http://espn.com/high-school/baseball/events/area-code-baseball/2012/