Freedom’s Joe Navilhon, Heritage’s Paul Blackburn and Deer Valley’s Ricky Delgado all played for the Athletics – a team comprising the best diamond stars of Northern California. The Athletics competed with seven other teams, named after Major League squads, each representing the talent base of a certain area of the nation.
The pitchers – all right-handed, all seniors – earned praise from high sources. “All three did a nice job on the field and carried themselves in a professional manner,” Oakland Athletics Coordinator of Scouting Sam Rainey wrote in an e-mail. “All three are high quality kids.”
Navilhon, Blackburn and Delgado were nominated to attend tryouts for the Area Code Games in July and earned spots on the team. Rainey noted that the Area Code Games are a way to spotlight athletes who have a bright future playing college and possibly even professional baseball.
Major Leaguers Roy Halladay, Prince Fielder and C.C. Sabathia, as well as Antioch native Aaron Miles, all competed in the Area Code Games when they were in high school.
“It’s an honor to be on this team with this amount of talent,” Navilhon said. “It gives you an idea of what college is going to be like and, Lord willing, what pro baseball is going to be like.”
All three got into a game on Tuesday, one that was broadcast live on ESPN3.com. The Athletics faced the Royals, made of prep talent from the Northwest. Navilhon, who posted a team-low 1.80 earned run average for Freedom last season, breezed through two innings of relief work without allowing a baserunner. He ended his work Tuesday with a swinging strikeout to end the fourth inning.
Announcers and A’s scout Jermaine Clark, who managed the Area Codes team, were impressed with the Falcon’s poise. Navilhon is still deciding which college he’ll attend – Cal State Fullerton or the University of California.
“Joe’s a competitor,” Clark told ESPN3.com. “He’s been nothing but first class.”
Blackburn followed Navilhon, pitching the fifth and sixth innings. After putting up a scoreless fifth frame, Blackburn started the sixth with a strikeout. Announcers noted that his fastball touched 90 miles per hour. His one blemish was a two-out solo home run to Dylan LaVelle, one of the top players from Washington.
“It feels good being here, playing in front of a bunch of people that can really make your life good,” said Blackburn, who has committed to Arizona State. “It’s definitely going to prepare me for (college).”
Delgado, who led the Wolverines in strikeouts last season with 58, was the last local pitcher to toe the rubber on Tuesday. His results, however, weren’t as optimal. The Deer Valley senior inherited a bases-loaded mess in the A’s half of the seventh inning, his team up 5-2, but was unable to cool the hot bats of the Royals, who rallied for a 7-5 victory.