Commentary

Aflac Baseball Game notes

Updated: September 3, 2008, 11:33 AM ET
By Matt Remsberg | ESPNRISE.com

LOS ANGELES -- Two vastly different futures stared Donavan Tate in the face Friday as he dug into the right-hand batter’s box at the USC’s Dedeaux Stadium during the final day of practice before Saturday’s Aflac All-American High School Baseball Game.

Naturally, as the senior from Cartersville High (Cartersville, Ga.) looked out toward the pitcher’s mound, he saw a future on the diamond. Rated the nation’s No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2009 by Perfect Game, Tate is on track to be selected in the first round of the 2009 MLB Draft next June. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound outfielder wields a lethal bat at the plate, can tear it up on the basepaths and owns a cannon arm.

But many of the physical tools that make Tate a star on the baseball field have made him a force to be reckoned with on the football field as well. And as he stood in the box and stared straight ahead, just to the left of the dugout on the first base side, the goal posts of USC’s practice football field loomed just a few hundred feet away. A quarterback/safety on the gridiron, Tate was previously an ESPNU 150 prospect (No. 88) and the No. 9-rated athlete with an 82 grade.

But Tate doesn’t necessarily view his future as an either/or proposition. And a number of the nation’s most prestigious athletic institutions agree. USC for one, Florida, Georgia, Miami and Alabama to name a few more, have all offered Tate scholarships to play both baseball and football in college. It’s a challenge Tate is eager to embrace.

“I love both sports, and don’t want to give either up,” he says. “I want to put off choosing one or the other for as long as possible. I really just want to have a normal senior year and enjoy it with my friends. If I can keep going with both through three or four years of college, that would be even better.”

Practices for the Aflac All-Americans were held on USC’s campus on Thursday and Friday, giving Tate a chance to visit with both USC head baseball coach Chad Kreuter and head football coach Pete Carroll. He also got to watch part of the Trojans’ football practice on Thursday.

“I’d only talked to coach Carroll on the phone, so it was cool to sit down and talk to him,” Tate says. “He was really open and honest about what it would be like to play football and baseball here.”

For Tate, Saturday’s Aflac All-American Game will mark a transition from baseball back to football, as practice for Cartersville’s upcoming fall season is already underway. But before he returns to the gridiron, Tate is eyeing a big day at Dodger Stadium during the Aflac Game.

“It’s gonna be cool to be on national TV,” Tate says, referring to FSN broadcasting the game live Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern. “Hopefully the East puts on a show.”

Davidson blasts his way into spotlight

Yucaipa (Yucaipa, Calif.) third baseman Matt Davidson connected for six home runs during the preliminary round of the Home Run Derby on Friday at USC’s Dedeaux Stadium to finish first among the 35 Aflac All-Americans who took part in the competition.

Davidson’s power display was all the more impressive considering he was hitting from the right side of the plate, a disadvantage thanks to a breeze that was knocking down balls to left field and the dimensions of the field that favored left-handed hitters.

But Davidson simply blasted the ball through the wind, and his bombs would have been out of almost any park in the country.

“I think my advantage was that I used a heavier bat than normal,” Davidson says. “That way I could swing easy but still get a lot behind the ball.”

Davidson’s strategy certainly worked, as he clocked twice as many homers as the second-place finisher, outfielder Everett Williams of McCallum (Austin, Teas). Williams total of three long balls left him in second place alone, with first baseman Jonathan Singleton of Millikan (Long Beach, Calif.), third baseman Richie Shaffer of Providence (Charlotte, N.C.) and pitcher Tyler Matzek of Capistrano Valley (Mission Viejo, Calif.) each hitting two round-trippers.

Davidson, Williams, Singleton, Shaffer and surprise-qualifier Matzek will take part in the Home Run Derby finals immediately preceding Saturday’s game.

Though Singleton only hit two taters in the preliminaries, many of the Aflac All-Americans liked his chances to put on a show in the finals. He hit the most prodigious home run of the prelims, a towering blast over the 365-foot marker in right-center field, over the 30-foot tall Dedeaux Field sign and onto the top level of a parking garage behind the field.

Givens takes top honor

Plant (Tampa, Fla.) shortstop/pitcher Mychal Givens was named Jackie Robinson Award winner as the High School Player of the Year. Givens won the prestigious honor over fellow nominees Donavan Tate, Tyler Matzek, Matthew Purke of Klein (Spring, Texas), Jacob Turner of Westminster Christian (St. Louis, Mo.) and Austin Maddox of Eagle’s View (Jacksonville, Fla.).

Givens was a two-way star for Plant in the spring, hitting .421 with 34 runs, 17 RBI and 16 steals while also adding an 8-1 mark as a pitcher with a 1.79 ERA. Scouts may not be able to agree on what position Givens will play at the next level, but they do agree that he is in the running to be the first high school player selected in the 2009 MLB Draft.

It was the second award win of the week for Givens, who also took home Top Fielder honors. Other award winners during the week included: Pitcher of the Year winner Matthew Purke; Top Overall Prospect winner Donavan Tate; Top Power Hitting Prospect winner Jonathan Singleton; Best Hitting Prospect winner David Nick of Cypress (Cypress, Calif.); Best Running Prospect winner LeVon Washington of Buchholz (Gainesville, Fla.); and Sportsmanship Award winner Beau Wright of Los Alamitos (Los Alamitos, Calif.).

Matt Remsberg is a senior editor for ESPNHS.
E-mail him here.