August 31, 2012
The Importance of the Area Code Games
Nearly 600 of baseball's top amateur talent evaluators converged on historic Blair Field in Long Beach, California earlier this month for the 26th Annual Area Code Games. For the 240 high school players who gathered from all over the nation, it was the toughest job interview they had ever experienced.
"A player cannot attend the Area Code Games and hide," said UCLA Head Coach John Savage.
Several factors make the Area Code Games are my favorite amateur event of the summer. Economics don't play a role, because there is no participation fee, just travel expenses. Blair Field is a cavern, a great field whose dimensions (348'/387'/400'/387'/348'), combined with the usual marine layer, make it exceptionally pitcher-friendly. Only one MLB stadium has longer foul lines.
In addition, what makes the Area Code Games unique is that the participants play real seven- or nine-inning games without pitch counts or quirky rules. Evaluators love it because they see every player in the same environment. The action takes place in one game on one field at a time, unlike most other amateur events, where the players are spread out over a complex or an area.
"I have been coming to this for more than 20 years, and wouldn't miss it," an American League scouting director said during a break. "It is a critical stage for me, since it is near the end of the season, and I can see how they all compare. It is really the final time we get the whole draft class together before the next June draft. You get to see the best against the best, and it is on one field with all your scouts seeing the same game."
Bob Williams came up with the original idea for the Area Code Games, and he collaborated with Northern California scouts on a concept to bring together the top high school players to play against each other, using wood bats exclusively. Williams and the scouts knew this invitation and selection process would be special because it would separate the Area Code Games from anything that had been available to premier high school players to that point.