Thus is the beauty of the Under Armour All-American Game, featuring some of the best high school talent available -- largely with the 2011 First-Year Player Draft in mind -- held at venerable Wrigley Field on Saturday. The final score was 7-0 in favor of the American roster over the National squad, but the outcome on the scoreboard is far less important than the experience these Major League hopefuls get in a big league setting and on national TV, courtesy of MLB Network.
"I was just trying to have some fun out here," said Brandon Nimmo, an outfielder on the American Team who had two hits -- one a triple -- two RBIs and two runs scored to earn one of the Silver Spikes MVP awards for the game (National Team pitcher Nick Burdi got the other for striking out the side to start the game).
"How can you not have fun on this field? There's so much history on this [field]. We were just sitting where all the greats have sat. It's just amazing. I love it."
Held in the Friendly Confines since 2008, this showcase has grown in its impact over the years, starting back to when it was the Cape Cod Showcase in New England. Back in that inaugural game, 31 of the 35 players who participated were taken in the 2009 Draft. That included a total of six first-rounders, featuring No. 3 overall pick Donavan Tate, No. 6 Zack Wheeler and No. 9 Jacob Turner.
In 2009, it was more of the same. Thirty-six of the best prep players assembled here and 29 were drafted, led by No. 2 pick Jameson Taillon, one of the Silver Spikes MVP winners at that game, No. 9 Karsten Whitson, No. 22 Kellin Deglan and No. 30 Chevez Clarke. The future meets the past to create the present on an annual basis here.
This year's crop likely promises to have the same, well, promise, though the 2010 game did have to compete for players with the AFLAC All-American Game, which was also scheduled this weekend. But there was still indisputable talent on display on all sides of the ball.
If the Saturday afternoon event was turned into a screenplay, it might be called "Finding Nimmo." The lefty-swinging outfielder hails from Cheyenne, Wyo., not exactly a hotbed for baseball talent. Whether it's because of the weather -- there's plenty of ice and snow to be found in April -- or a lack of funds, there is no official high school baseball in the state of Wyoming. Nimmo has played legion ball and was a bit of a known quantity among scouts in the region, but his summer play has put him firmly on the map.
"This summer has been great," Nimmo said. "Thank God for giving me this ability and for giving me these opportunities. Being from Wyoming, we don't get many opportunities. I'm just glad I can open a little door for other people from Wyoming who want to play ball."
It was his legion coach, Tagg Lain, whom Nimmo says deserves most of the credit. Lain was coaching at the Tournament of Stars -- the event USA Baseball uses to select its national team -- and Lain told the people there they should take a look at Nimmo. The organizers of the Under Armour All-American Game noticed his play there, and the rest, as they say, is history.
"I give all my thanks to [Lain] for getting me into that because then that's where the Under Armour guys saw me and that's where I got to come here and have this opportunity. You get a lot of attention and you learn how to deal with that a little bit. I can't say enough about this thing. It's amazing."
Attention can be hard to come by, and given his background, Nimmo was understandably a bit apprehensive when he first arrived in Cary, N.C., for the Tournament of Stars. Those nerves dissipated when he realized he could hang with the talent he saw on the field.
"In your mind, being from Wyoming, you have a vision, 'I'm here,'" said Nimmo, putting his hand at waist level, "'and all those pitchers are up here.' Then, you go there and you face them. Yeah, they're good, but they're not out of my league. That's how it happened at the Tournament of Stars. Then I got invited to this.
"You have to be on your toes and be quick. I love it. I'm loving the competition. The ultimate goal is to get to MLB. Facing this competition, this kind of pitching, is what I want to do. I'm just happy I was able to perform a little bit."
It didn't go unnoticed. Nimmo didn't just have a couple of hits on the day -- that's not the kind of thing the scouts in attendance are necessarily watching. They did give the 6-foot-3, 180-pounder plaudits for how he handled himself overall at the plate.
"He looks good," one scout said. "I liked his approach, and he uses the whole field with a good idea at the plate."
That kind of feedback, coupled with the overall experiences he's had this summer, has Nimmo thinking a little bit bigger looking ahead. A certain leap in self-confidence can be made after putting yourself out there against the top competition and finding some success. Far from cocky, Nimmo knows the bar is a bit higher for him now. He put it there himself.
"There's no settling," Nimmo said, gripping his Silver Spikes award tightly. "I'm a hard-working guy. This just lights even more of a fire to work harder, get stronger, faster -- work on every little thing I can do.
"I want to be playing with these guys in the Majors and that's the goal, to be the very best you can and come out and play these guys all the time. Yeah, it raises the expectations a bit."
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less