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'It's great for the city': How OKC landed the Perfect Game All-American Classic

Fans line the rail in the outfield shade at the All-State games at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in July. The ballpark will host the Perfect Game All-American Classic on Friday. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]
Fans line the rail in the outfield shade at the All-State games at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in July. The ballpark will host the Perfect Game All-American Classic on Friday. [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman]

Sue Hollenbeck was more than happy to help a friend.

Angel Natal called this summer asking for a favor. Hollenbeck — the director of sports business for the Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau — had already helped Natal and Perfect Game coordinate four showcase baseball tournaments in the metro.

Now, Natal had a bigger request.

Could Oklahoma City host Perfect Game’s annual All-American Classic?

There wasn’t hesitation. Hollenbeck knew the status of the game as one of the nation’s best.

She made it work.

“Things like this land in your lap when you have really good relationships with other people,” Hollenbeck said. “I think it’s great for the city. It’s not 3,000-room nights or anything like that, but it’s a great piece of business for that one hotel, it’s a great relationship and piece of business for the Dodgers.

“It’s really a great piece of business for our community.”

Perfect Game’s greatest showcase game has at least a one-time home Friday afternoon inside Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Fifty-five of the nation’s top high school seniors will play in a game that begins at 3:30 p.m. MLB scouts from every team will be in attendance.

It’s normally played in San Diego’s Petco Park, the home of the Padres. COVID-19 restrictions did not allow fans for the event.

Instead, this year it’s a huge boost for OKC during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s going to probably be our closest thing to what we would call a Dodgers game all summer,” said Mitch Stubenhofer, the Dodgers’ director of operations.

Likely first-round draft selections will play. Even two Heritage Hall High School stars will compete — pitchers Jackson Jobe and Gray Thomas.

There will be a different feel, though.

Due to the coronavirus, only 3,000 fans will be allowed into the stadium for free on a first-come, first-serve basis. All fans must wear a mask, unless at their seat. If fans cannot attend, the game is streamed on PerfectGame.tv.

There is much more to the weekend than just the marquee game, too.

A 14-and-under select game and 13-and-under select game will be played on Saturday and Sunday.

And all senior players will be fundraising for OK Kids Corral, a home for children battling cancer. They would normally visit the children, but due to COVID-19 cannot.

Also, each player will visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

“We’re creating this amazing week of baseball for families here in Oklahoma,” said Jennifer Ford, the executive director for Perfect Game Cares and PG Partnerships. “We’ve been super embraced by the state of Oklahoma, by the city, by the residents, so we couldn’t have been more happy to find this home for the event.”

There is also a strong chance the partnership with OKC and Perfect Game continues past this weekend.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the All-American Classic remains in OKC. It’s likely bound for an MLB stadium.

But showcase tournaments and games, softball games and other big events are likely to follow.

It could help fill a void for The Brick. It won’t host the Big 12 Tournament starting in 2022. That’s a tough revenue loss.

“Looking for some of these marquee events to come into OKlahoma City, not only for us as a venue but just as a community,” Stubenhofer said. “Looking to stay connected in that baseball tradition and some of these marquee events is something we’re going to have to definitely dive into for a couple years with the Big 12 down in Arlington.

“We’ll have to see how it goes.”

It’s impressive what can come from a friendship.

“So much of it is about relationships you have with people and who you can trust,” Hollenbeck said. “We were open and available to have an event when other places weren’t. When you’re in a bind, you call your friends and people you trust.”

***

If you go

What: Perfect Game All-Star Classic featuring some of the top high school baseball players in the country

When: 3 p.m. Friday

Where: Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark

Etc.: Tickets will be limited to 3,000 people per game, and will be given away on a first come, first serve basis at the stadium's will-call booth. There will be a 14-and-under game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday and a 13-and-under game at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Jacob Unruh

Jacob Unruh is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He was born in Cherokee and raised near Vera where he attended Caney Valley High School.During his tenure at NSU, Unruh wrote for The Northeastern (NSU's student newspaper), the... Read more ›

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