East Coast Pro Baseball announced at a press conference today that it will host the first of three baseball scouting events Aug. 1-4, 2018, at the Met, the former home of the minor league Birmingham Barons.
The top 150 to 155 East Coast high school baseball players will be selected by Major League Baseball scouts for this event. Those players will have a chance to play in front of all MLB scouts, coaches, agents, family and friends. East Coast Pro Baseball is not open to the public, but discussions are underway to perhaps open the gates for the public to attend the final game of each day.
“The decision to move our event to Hoover was a no-brainer after we saw the major-league-style facility,” said John Castleberry, Northeast supervisor of the San Francisco Giants and a representative of East Coast Pro Baseball. “We are looking forward to having the top players from the Eastern Seaboard come to be evaluated and perform (and) enjoy the Southern hospitality of Hoover this summer.”
Castleberry had come to Hoover for the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament. He recalled an older venue that lacked some of the extras – like sufficient practice fields – that they needed.
Then Castleberry learned of the then-planned Finley Center at the Met and his interest was piqued.
“OK,” he recalled saying, “now we can talk.”
The center is a 154,000-square foot facility that has 89,000 square feet of uninterrupted space for sports, banquets, tradeshows, exhibits and social events. The next phase includes five NCAA regulation baseball/softball fields.
The proximity of those fields allows for easy transition from practice to the playing surface inside the stadium.
The agreement calls for East Coast Pro to be in Hoover in 2018, 2019 and 2020. That agreement could be extended, depending on how the initial ventures go.
The Arizona Diamondbacks, Milwaukee Brewers, Miami Marlins, Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals are the six sponsoring teams that will select players from six regions to attend the 2018 event.
Players attending the event will receive an evaluation of their baseball play. They, and their parents, will also get an education in the process that is the Major League Baseball draft.
Castleberry said 90 percent of players taking part in East Coast Pro will go on to play baseball professionally or in college. Three former East Coast Pro participants were taken in the top 10, and nine in the top 30, of the 2017 MLB draft.
East Coast Pro is the next step in Hoover’s push to become a major event location.
“We think what we’ve done is set the stage for (Hoover) being a regional – not only local and state – destination for tournaments for youth sports, sports tourism, travel ball but also collegiate events,” said City Administrator Allan Rice. “We continue to be proud to host the SEC Baseball Tournament while being in conversations with other major college sporting events (and) get them to take a look here.”
East Coast Pro becomes another feather in Hoover’s cap, putting the city “much higher on their radar screen,” Rice said. “It just makes our marketing that much easier to be able to say we’re also the host of that event.”