All-American Game set for LA

All-American Game set for LA

LOS ANGELES -- Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith's announced at a press conference on Wednesday that the 2008 Aflac All-American High School Baseball Game will be played at Dodger Stadium, the first time the game has ever been played in a Major League stadium.

The sixth annual All-American Game showcasing the country's top 38 players will take place on Aug. 9. It will be televised on FSN.

"I think you know this is an opportunity of a lifetime," Smith, the honorary chairman, told the group of eight Los Angeles-area players in attendance.

Smith, who grew up in Los Angeles, said he would have loved to play in such a contest when he was an aspiring high school athlete. As it is, Smith used to catch the bus and head down to Dodger Stadium, imagining what it would be like to play on the field.

Smith eventually fulfilled his dreams as a rookie in 1978, but these high school stars get the chance to do so much earlier.

"Having the opportunity as they have to be able to play on this stage and be one of the top high school players in the country, it doesn't get any better than that," Smith said. "This program almost assures the guys that once they make this team that there's a chance to play professionally. This is pretty neat."

Smith said he sees the premier game evolving into what the McDonald's All-American Game is to high school basketball. According to Al Johnson, Aflac's vice president of advertising, 52 players who have taken part in this game eventually became first-round Draft picks, including 10 this past year.

"When you watch these kids play you're watching the future of baseball," Johnson said.

Smith said he hopes his presence has a positive influence on the players, demonstrating that they have a responsibility to give back to the community one day.

Giving back has become a major aspect of baseball. Before Wednesday's game Johnson presented a $10,000 check to ThinkCure, the official charity of the Dodgers that supports critical cancer research. The Dodgers have raised nearly $525,000 for charity since 2005, and all proceeds from this year's event will benefit ThinkCure.

The game offers a unique opportunity for high school players to be recognized as one of the best in the nation as well as help fight cancer.

"It's the greatest," Smith said. "It doesn't get any better than this for them because they're a part of 38 of the best from across the country. So they're going to get an opportunity to play before coaches, scouts. They'll get a chance to be on television, so the exposure and stuff is certainly there for them."

Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.