NYBC to host inaugural All-Star Game on Monday
Former Major Leaguers McLemore, Nitkowski serving as coaches
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Here come the ringers.
The National Youth Baseball Championships will host its first All-Star Game on Monday, pitting a team of 12-and-under tourney stars against select players from all over the country.
The MLB.com US All-Stars, managed by former big leaguer Mark McLemore, will feature players from 10 states as far apart as Nevada and New Jersey. McLemore got a look at his team on Sunday and can't wait to see how they shape up for the game.
"I'm absolutely looking forward to it," said McLemore, who played in the Majors from 1986 to 2002. "It's going to be a lot of fun for the kids. It's going to be fun for me, but to be able to see the kids go out there, enjoy themselves and have a blast playing the game they love, that's really exciting."
McLemore's bunch will be pitted against a team of tourney stars managed by former big league pitcher C.J. Nitkowski, who has spent the week calling the games for CBS Sports Network and MLB.com. That may give him a leg up on McLemore, but Nitkowski said it's the kids who will decide the final score.
"They've done a good job, and they deserve to be on the All-Star team," said Nitkowski of his diverse squad. "They've got 24 kids that have come in from around the country, and they're some of the best 12-year-old kids that were not in this tournament. But I think it will be fun for our guys.
"My guys have really been working hard and competing in this tournament, so they're going to be a little bit tired. But this is a great opportunity for them to have another chance to be on television. We are going to have fun with it, but we're going to be competitive and try to win it as well."
Both teams will have a chance to practice on Monday morning before taking the field for the game, which can be seen live on MLB.com at 3 p.m. ET.
Dinn Mann, executive vice president of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, said that MLB.com is proud to sponsor the All-Stars.
"These kids are among the best in a highly competitive, promising age group," said Mann of the talent in the NYBC All-Star Game. "We can't say enough what an honor it is to offer our support and audience for their dedication and accomplishments. We know technology plays an important role in the future of this great game. No role is greater, though, than the performances of all the people on the field and behind the scenes, our always-evolving generations of exciting newsmakers."
Surprisingly, there are no Californians on the MLB.com US All-Star squad, but there are players from such typical sources as Texas, Florida and North Carolina. The team will even feature someone with a big league bloodline: Mateo Gil from Keller, Texas, son of former Angels and Rangers catcher Benji Gil.
But here's the problem: Most of these players don't know one another and haven't played together, and they're going in cold against kids who have been playing all week. McLemore said that shouldn't matter much, and he wants the kids to just have fun and play to the best of their ability.
"I love the talent," he said. "I love the fact that these kids have come from all over the place. I've seen some really good kids out there, and I think the biggest thing is that they're all having fun. They're enjoying it, and that's what this is all about. They're 12 years old, and they've got the chance to play on television. How many 12-year-olds get to be on TV? It's a great experience."
Nitkowski and McLemore spent much of Sunday teasing each other about who will get the come out on top on Monday, but they both know that it's just for fun. Nitkowski has spent the week watching closely and taking notes, and he's been blown away by the talent on display.
"I coach some youth baseball back home in Atlanta, but not to this level," said Nitkowski of coaching the All-Stars. "I've had some good players in the short time that I've coached, but these are some of the best there are at this age level. It's going to be a blast. We're going to have so much talent to work with, and they always make you look good. It's pretty easy when you've got good players."
Nitkowski, who pitched for eight teams in the Majors, will do his best to get everyone some playing time on Monday, and he wants all of his players to enjoy the experience.
When asked if he's in position to predict a victory, Nitkowski got off a telling quip that contained more than a kernel of truth.
"I'm going to predict it regardless of whether I'm in position or not," he said. "But I haven't seen Mark's team, and I've only seen my team as individuals. I don't know who's hurting, who's tired or whether my pitchers have anything left, but that's the way it works. As a professional athlete, you anticipate winning everything. We absolutely expect to win this game. Listen, all the kids that are there are kids that did not make it to the finals of this tournament. For them, I want to win it."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.