Area Code Games put HS baseball players on display

Hundreds of professional and college scouts dotted the bleachers during the six-day Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., getting a good look at a handful of Arizona high school baseball players who helped take their team to a second-place finish this year at the prestigious event.

Drew Stankiewicz from Gilbert High School drove in two of the nine runs his team, the Cincinnati Reds, needed to wrap up their final win of the event yesterday and help their team to a 3-1-1 record and second place.

Stankiewicz, a senior infielder, finished the Area Code Games competition ranked seventh overall in RBIs, bringing across four of the squad’s 21 total runs during the five-game run.

The Reds are made up of players from the four-corner states, plus Hawaii and Nevada.  First place this year went to the Chicago White Sox, which pulled athletes from 13 states throughout the Midwest and finished with a 4-1 record.

A dozen Arizona players were invited to participate this year, earning their roster spots via tryouts held in the Valley in June.

There are approximately 3,000 invitations to tryouts sent out to the top high school baseball players around the country, and about 200 players are selected to participate in the Games, considered one of the top high school talent tournaments in the country.

All tryouts are by invitation only and, in most cases, players have to be nominated by a major league scout to be considered for an invitation.

In addition to Stankiewicz and Stephen Tarpley from Gilbert HS, the Arizona players on the Cincinnati Reds’ roster included: Ryne Dean and Cole Gleason from Red Mountain HS; Casey Thomas, Desert Vista HS; Scott Hoffman, Desert Ridge HS; Zach Davies, Mesquite HS; Michael Howard, Prescott HS; Joe Serrano, Salpointe Catholic; Scott Squier, Greenway HS; Nevin Wilson, Chaparral HS; and Junior Zepeda, Mountain Pointe HS.

Every major league team is represented at the event, each composed of players from different parts of the country, organized by telephone area codes (hence the name).  Some pro teams have as many as a dozen scouts from their organizations attending the games, not to mention the college coaches.

The Area Code Games claim to have had more than 300 major league players compete over the years in the games, which began in 1985 and was taken over in 2008 by ESPN.

Mesquite’s Zach Davies was on the mound for part of the final game against the Brewers (Blue squad) and contributed three strike-outs to help the Reds to the 9-3 win.

But it was Game 3 on Saturday night that provided the best showcase for the Arizona talent, as Davies, Hoffman, Zepeda, and Squier all worked the mound and held the Yankees to just three hits and one run in their only tie, a 1-1 decision that went nine innings as both teams combined for 25 total strike-outs.

The next night, Stankiewicz, who has committed to Cal State Fullerton after this year, knocked in both runs for the Reds in a 2-1 victory over the Brewers’ White squad.

The exposure to college coaches and pro scouts was a big benefit to those who made the most of their playing time.

Beyond that, it had to be a kick to wear the Area Code Baseball uniforms – and then top if off with a hat from their respective MLB teams.

Some of those players may have their own major league caps some day.

Actually, the chances of that are pretty good.  Last year’s Reds team saw 21 of its 28 players get drafted.

(Photo: Scott Kurtz)