This is an excerpt from “A Tournament Like No Other”, written by Teddy Cahill of Baseball America. Used by permission of Baseball America. All rights reserved.
Even in the world of travel baseball, the Perfect Game World Wood Bat Association World Championship is unlike anything else. The event brings 88 of the best travel-ball teams in the country and more than 1,500 of the best players in the draft class to the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., where over the course of five days and 13 fields, they play one of the biggest tournaments on the baseball calendar.
The tournament this October celebrated its 20th anniversary. In that time, it has grown into the biggest annual fall event in amateur baseball and a must-see for scouts and college recruiters. The tournament has all but shed its official name and has become synonymous with Jupiter, the city that has hosted the tournament from its inception. In Jupiter, the games start at 8 a.m. and often don’t end until 10 p.m. There is so much baseball and so many highly regarded prospects to see that the scouts and college coaches need golf carts to keep up with the schedule. They race from one field at the spring training complex to the next, from the Marlins side all the way to the Cardinals side, a third of a mile away, attempting to get as many looks as they can at as many players as they can. For the biggest games, when a likely first-round pick takes the mound under the lights, the carts stack up three or four deep behind home plate and line up along the foul lines all the way to the fence.
With so many scouts around, Jupiter can make or break a player’s draft stock. But it’s about more than that. Late in the weekend, when the competition moves from pool play to the playoffs, the stakes rise and so do the tensions. The players and coaches are there to win, giving Jupiter an atmosphere that the summer showcases can’t provide.
Off the field, you never know who you will see in the crowds. Former big leaguers watching their sons, general managers sweating it out with their scouts, minor leaguers back seeing their old travel-ball teams, agents, special assignment scouts, national championship-winning college coaches. It’s a cross section of the whole baseball world, all roaming the minor league back fields of the shared spring training complex of the Cardinals and Marlins.
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