4 WPIAL baseball players selected for elite showcase
While pitchers and catchers won't be reporting to Major League Baseball training camps for more than month, some of the sport's future stars will begin competition in January at the 2013 Under Armour All-America Preseason Tournament.
The roster is composed of the top high school talent across the country, and four WPIAL players will be among them. The event is sponsored by Baseball Factory, a scouting group that hosts such showcases nationwide.
Selected for the tournament, to be held Friday through Sunday in Tucson, Ariz, are South Park senior Randy Dobnak (P/3B), Belle Vernon senior Dominick Francia (P/C), Franklin Regional junior Brandon Nania (3B/C) and Mars sophomore Ty Reginelli (2B).
“It's an honor,” Francia said. “It just goes to show how much time and effort I've put into everything, and I'm really excited.”
Francia, who led his Belle Vernon team to a 19-6 record and a trip to the WPIAL Class AAA championship game last season after bouncing back from a gruesome ankle injury, is looking forward to competing at a high level against some of the premiere high school talent in the nation in the wooden-bat tournament.
“I'm the type of player that's a very competitive athlete,” he said. “So if I go out there and see these kids giving 110 percent, that's just going to push me to give 120 percent.”
Dobnak, who has committed to Alderson-Broaddus College and is a three-year letter winner for South Park, has a fastball that reaches the upper 80s and is working on refining his changeup and knuckleball as well as his hitting approach.
“It will be nice to get some actual work in besides hitting off tees,” Dobnak said.
Reginelli's athletic ability is noted by his being selected for the tournament as a sophomore. His Mars team finished 15-5 last season but fell to Belle Vernon in the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinals.
Nania will not join his WPIAL peers in Arizona because the game conflicts with a recruiting visit he's scheduled to take at the University at Buffalo, he said.
He is a United States Specialty Sports Association All-American.
The tournament field is based on performance and recommendation from professional scouts. Teams will be assigned by region, and numerous MLB scouts are expected to be in attendance.
“I hope to show them I have what it takes to maybe get drafted, and that I have the determination to work harder and be the best I can be,” Dobnak said.
The tournament will be held at the Kino Sports Complex, the former spring training home of the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox.
Baseball Factory has been hosting the tournament since 1999. Former Baseball Factory High-School All-Americans include MLB players David Wright (N.Y. Mets), B.J. Upton (Atlanta Braves) and Delmon Young (Detroit Tigers).
While the WPIAL is known around the country more for football than baseball, the local players are hoping to show everyone what Western Pennsylvania baseball has to offer.
“I hope when the scouts see the quality of player that comes out there from Southwest Pennsylvania and the WPIAL, it will kind of put us on the map,” Francia said.
“I'm going for the experience, and at the same time I'm going there to show some of these coaches that have overlooked our area what there is to offer.”
Alex Oltmanns is a freelance writer.