Largest PG baseball tournament of year in full swing

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The numbers are hard to fathom. The math makes your head hurt. The baseball makes it all worth it.

Perfect Game is currently smack in the middle of its largest tournament of the season. Most PG tournaments take place almost exclusively at LakePoint, but this one — the WWBA 2019 grads or 17U National Championship — stretches across several counties.

There's no other way to have 49 pools of eight teams each play a total of 1389 games. It means games at Cartersville Baseball Complex, Cass High, Woodland High and several other high schools and other fields in the north Atlanta metro area.

Greg Sabers, vice president of showcases and scouting for PG, admitted it's not easy to plan such a large tournament. However, Sabers and his colleagues have plenty of experience putting together the event.

“It’s a lot of work to schedule seven games for 392 teams,” Sabers said. “There’s a lot of moving parts. Fortunately, we’ve been doing this a long time, scheduling this tournament in the Atlanta area since 2001. A lot of experience with different things. The biggest issue is you can plan and get a great schedule, but weather can ruin it right away and you have to scramble and figure it out. Fortunately, we have a good team down here that is used to adjusting on the fly to stay up with the changes needed as weather comes — and anything else that comes up with this many teams.”

As difficult as it would be to plan such a massive tournament, it would seem to be tough to keep up with and track everything, especially considering PG's aim is to provide a chance for players to be seen by college coaches and pro scouts.

But Sabers said technology has made things much easier, with iPads at every field, allowing those at LakePoint to know the score of a game at Lassiter High in Marietta and the velocity at which a pitcher is throwing in Villa Rica.

It allows Sabers to focus on his main objectives.

“One of my major goals is, obviously, scouting a lot of the players and making things run smoothly from a baseball standpoint, solving any problems, rule questions that may come up,” he said. “We have a great team that’s really in charge of scheduling. It takes a team to run a tournament this size. No doubt about it.”

As Sabers types on his laptop in a pressbox at LakePoint, a couple of college coaches discuss the catcher behind the plate on Field 12. It's Cartersville High rising senior J.P. Martin, and he's just thrown out a runner at third base to end the inning in a scoreless game.

Martin has played on the turf at LakePoint more than almost anybody in the tournament, allowing him to confidently play behind the dish or in the outfield for the East Cobb Astros. Coming off the PG National Showcase in June, his confidence level is sky-high.

“I’ve been playing really good, very relaxed,” Martin said. “I’ve been seeing the ball really well. … I feel good at the plate right now.”

“I didn’t really catch much in high school, but catching out here feels really good,” he added. "That’s what I am, a catcher. I like being behind the plate.”

Martin's showcased plenty of skills over the first several days of the tournament, including hospitality. When the tournament began on June 29, he had teammates from Florida and California staying with him.

 “My coach just asked me, because he loves my parents,” Martin said. “My parents are great people and I don’t get in trouble a lot, so they just stay with me. That’s just how it works.”

The talent from coast to coast on hand for the event, as exemplified by the Martin residence, is one of Sabers' favorite things about hosting such a gigantic tournament, which runs through Friday.

“We’ve had a great day, a lot of talented players,” Sabers said Monday. “One thing that’s really cool is they’re from coast to coast. I watched a kid from California, then a kid from Texas, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota — all right here — and that’s really the draw of this tournament. It’s one where everyone comes.”

Every team came with a guarantee of seven games, one against each pool-play competitor. The seventh and final pool-play game for each will take place Wednesday. The pool winners advance to Thursday's bracket-play portion of the tourney with the semifinals and championship set for Friday.

It's a long tournament that's essentially a war of attrition. There's a reason that its such a prestigious event, becoming champion over 391 opponents really does say it all.

It's why teams across the country — and those working it — mark it on the calendars year after year.

“This has definitely been our biggest tournament for about 10 to 15 years now,” Sabers said. “It’s been one everyone looks forward to because of the amount of the teams and the talent, just the players you get to see from coast to coast.

“It’s obviously a lot of work. It’s a lot of long days when you’re playing from sunup to well after sundown, but it’s fun just to get to see these players compete. … It’s really fun to see, and the excitement the teams have. This is the big tournament of the summer for all of these organizations. It’s definitely something we look forward to.”