-- Although it's not easy to distinguish yourself when you're surrounded by 39 of the best prep baseball players in the country, Justin Upton still managed to grab the attention of one of the game's all-time greats.
With scouts from every major league team and former Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken looking on, Upton, the younger brother of Tampa Bay Devil Rays rookie B.J. Upton, showed flashes of why many scouts have him pegged as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 draft.
In Friday's AFLAC All-American High School Baseball Classic at Ripken Stadium, the shortstop from Great Bridge High in Chesapeake, Va., wowed the announced crowd of 4,006 with his speed on the base paths. In the fourth inning, Upton reached on a softly hit ball to third base for an infield single. He finished 1 for 3 with a pair of walks, but he wasn't able to prevent his East squad from falling, 4-2. On Thursday, Upton was named the AFLAC national high school player of the year.
"I've paid special attention to Justin Upton," said Ripken, when asked if anyone had impressed him. "He's a physical specimen. He's got power, speed and I like his actions in the field. I like how deep he plays. He's certainly got the potential to be special."
Upton said, "It's flattering to hear that [Ripken] said that about me."
Ike Davis of Chaparral High in Scottsdale, Ariz., gave the West a 2-1 lead with a windswept home run to right field in the second inning and earned game MVP honors. The West stretched its edge to 4-1 in the eighth, and then Ryan DeLaughter of Billy Ryan High of Corinth, Tex., wriggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the ninth to secure the win, with Upton standing on second base as the tying run.
"It got a little tense there at the end," said Upton, who dropped a fly ball as he retreated into left field to make a difficult play in the eighth. "But unfortunately we couldn't get it done."
The game included a few names Washington area fans may know: Upton, Justin Bristow of Mills Godwin (Richmond) and Steve Johnson of St. Paul's School (Kingsville, Md.) each has played against local schools in recent seasons. Also, the East team was coached by Arundel's Bernie Walter, DeMatha's Charlie Sullivan and Riverdale Baptist's Terry Terrill.