It has become just as much a part of Sarasota’s baseball fabric as spring training and legendary luminaries such as John McGraw and Ted Williams.
The Sarasota Baseball Classic has been one stop in the destinations of numerous future MLB first-round draft choices and college all-stars since its inception in 1986. This year’s installment of the tournament will get underway on Monday at Venice High, Ronald K. Drews Field, ’s home field at Twin Lakes Park and the Baltimore Orioles’ Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex at Twin Lakes Park.
Tournament organizers celebrated the 25th Sarasota Baseball Classic last year by expanding from 16 teams to 32 teams. The tournament will once again feature two separate 16-team divisions, which will incorporate a single-elimination chase to their respective championship games and guarantee each team four games over four days.
is one of three city high schools and one of five county high schools competing in the tournament. The Cougars will face Pembroke Pines in a first-round Premier Division game at Ronald K. Drews Field at 2:30 p.m.
First-year head coach Chuck Antczak, a former Sarasota standout and Philadelphia Phillies prospect who piloted Cardinal Mooney to its only Sarasota Baseball Classic championship 11 years ago, is looking to lead the Rams to the program’s second tournament championship and first since 1999. Riverview will play an Elite Division first-round game against Wellington on its home field at 7pm.
Sarasota won Flight A of the first tournament 25 years ago, 11 tournament championships when the tournament utilized a 16-team format from 1987-2009, and the Elite Division championship last year. The Sailors will begin their quest toward defending last year’s title with a 7pm home game against 2010 Premier Division champion Miami Palmetto.
The teams from Sarasota County and Manatee County joining Cardinal Mooney in the Premier Division are North Port, Manatee, Braden River and Palmetto. North Port begins tournament play at 2:30pm against Miami Sunset at Venice High. The three Manatee County schools will play their first-round games at the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex.
Sarasota and Riverview’s fellow competitors in the Elite Division include Bradenton’s Pendleton Academy, Lakewood Ranch and Venice. Pendleton will play its first-round game at 1pm on Riverview’s field against Coral Gables, Lakewood Ranch will play West Boca at 5pm at the Buck O’Neil Baseball Complex, and Venice will look to defend its home field against Palm Beach Central at 7:30pm.
There are prospective loser’s brackets for each division, but tournament organizers have been known to adjust those matchups in order to avoid games between teams that are district or county rivals. Sites for the games to be played Tuesday-Thursday, including each division’s championship game, have yet to be determined.