George Arias remembers mostly having his will to succeed to rely on, not the status of being on a traveling club team, as he was progressing toward the end of his career at Pueblo High School 30 years ago.
“Everybody wants to play club ball, and there’s a lot of club ball teams out there, but I don’t think a lot of them have visions of what it really takes,” Arias told me today. “They’re just out there to play, go play tournaments and see how many rings they can get.
“For me, it’s not about that. It’s about developing the kids to the next level.”
That development as director and coach of the Tucson Champs Baseball Academy over the last 10 years continues to show impressive results with eight of his Class of 2022 players invited to represent Arizona in the Prep Baseball Report (PBR) Future Games event starting next weekend near Atlanta.
The invitation-only showcase will include a pro-style workout (measuring speed on the bases, batting practice, outfield throwing, etc.) on Aug. 1 and three games Aug. 2-3 against teams from California, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest. Due to COVID-19, college coaches will not attend the event. All the games will be available via live streams, which will be accessed by approximately 300 college coaches across the country.
“In this case, it’s not only developing the kids to get to the next level, it’s also about getting them to these big events where they are invite-only,” Arias said. “When I was going to Pueblo, we did not have all of this. What I do apply with my players is the work ethic and what it takes. The big question is the ‘Why.’ Why do we play this game?
“It’s really about helping these kids reach their goals and obviously a lot of it is this time commitment, the sweat, that grind. … The ones who stick it out are the ones who get to the next level. You see a lot of people who quit and want to leave and go play on a team because they want more playing time. That’s not how life works.”
Arias, a third baseman, had to work his way up from Pueblo to Pima College to Arizona before finally getting noticed by pro scouts. After breaking Arizona’s home run record in 1993 with 23, the California Angels drafted him in the seventh round that year.
His son George Jr. went through the Tucson Champs Academy and is now a sophomore right-handed pitcher with Arizona. Another son, Nick, a shortstop with Tucson High, will be of one of the eight Class of 2022 players from Tucson in the showcase event next week at Atlanta.
“It goes to show what we’re doing with our academy,” Arias said of the large number of invited players. “We’re spending a lot of time training these players, getting them to understand the intricacies of the game. What’s not only remarkable about their talent on the field is what they do in the classroom. They all have 3.6 and higher GPAs. I’m truly getting them to understand what a student-athlete truly is.
“I’m proud of these kids. I’m proud of what we do. It’s a lot of work. At the end of the day, it’s getting these kids to believe in your system, getting parents to believe in your philosophy and to trust the process. I was fortunate to be blessed to have a player like (former Cienega infielder) Nick Gonzales (a seventh overall pick this year by Pittsburgh) come to my organization. I’ve trained him since he was 12 years old. I have other great guys who went on and played Division I college baseball, so I take a lot of pride in what we do.”
The Tucson-area Class of 2022 players who will represent Arizona in the Future Games on Aug. 1-3 at Atlanta:
- SS Nick Arias, Tucson
- LHP/1B Mario Bejarano, Tucson
- OF/LHP Alejandro Castro, Pusch Ridge
- 3B Ruben Castro, Tucson
- C Caleb Herd, Cienega
- OF Isaiah Jackson, Cienega
- RHP Lucas Cardy, Canyon del Oro
- RHP Marcus Delgado, Canyon del Oro
Three Class of 2024 players from Tucson will participate in the Junior Futures Games on Wednesday at Atlanta.
- 3B Andres Castro, Pusch Ridge
- 2B Jaden Leon, Tucson
- 2B Oscar Rocha, Salpointe
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.