Years before wearing a Padres uniform, Yasmani Grandal was chosen to play in the Aflac All-American Classic in Tony Gwynn Stadium. Hayne Palmour IV
What: 12th annual Perfect Game All-American Classic
When: Sunday; home run challenge 4:15 p.m.; game 5:15 p.m.
Where: Petco Park
Format: East vs. West featuring 50 of the best senior-to-be high school players in the nation
TV: MLB Network
Charity: Rady Children’s Hospital
He didn’t know it then, but being named to the Aflac All-American Classic in 2006 was the chance of a lifetime for Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal.
“Honestly, no one back then knew how big this game was,” Grandal said. “I sure didn’t.
“I wasn’t a showcase-circuit guy. I didn’t make the rounds like kids do today.
“I was invited to a tryout, made the team and got a trip across country.”
Known today as the Perfect Game All-American Classic, the event was played in San Diego for the first time in 2006 — at San Diego State’s Tony Gwynn Stadium — after a year in Florida and two years at Ripken Stadium in Maryland.
“Look at the guys who were in that game,” said Grandal. “That tells you a little bit about how good those teams were.”
Including Grandal, the 2006 game produced 12 major leaguers, including Atlanta Braves teammates Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman.
Grandal was drafted in the 27th round out of Miami Springs High by the Boston Red Sox after his senior year in 2007.
The Cincinnati Reds made him a first-round pick in 2010 after a three-year career at the University of Miami.
“I didn’t do well in that 2006 game,” Grandal said. “I was too amped up ... way too nervous. Plus, I had never hit with wood bats before, so I was kind of lost.
“But it was a great experience. I got to play in San Diego in a ballpark named after the greatest Padres player.
“It was great exposure and I was happy to be there. Honestly, though, the most-exciting thing was being on TV.”
Right-hander Drew Finley and outfielder Kyle Dean, a pair of Rancho Bernardo High players, will represent San Diego in Sunday’s Perfect Game All-American Classic at Petco Park.
“I grew up watching this game, either in person or on TV,” said Finley, whose father Dave is the director of player personnel for the Boston Red Sox.
“My dad makes suggestions, tries to watch me as much as he can, but he never pushed me to play.
“Baseball is my passion as much as it’s his. I love the competition.
“I’m so fortunate I get to play the game I love.
“Being named to play in this game, looking at all the great players who have gone before me, getting a chance to play on TV, is very humbling.”
Like Finley, Dean also said he grew up watching this game.
Ranked as the No. 1 prep outfielder in California, Dean — like Finley — is a product of the summer showcase circuit.
“I’ve played in a lot of great places, but to get the chance to play in this game, get the chance to play in Petco Park and be on TV is exciting,” Dean said.
“I’ve worked so hard, so to have the chance to play in this game is really rewarding.”
Dean has made a commitment to play next season at USD. Finley has committed to USC. Finley’s father was a two-time All-America infielder at UC Riverside.
“I wish I could see these guys play,” said Grandal, who will be flying back with the Padres from Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“I hope all the kids in the game realize what an awesome opportunity this is.
“I wore the hat and shirt from the game for the longest time … until I wore them out.”
CLASS OF 2006
Players to reach the majors who competed in 2006 Aflac All-American Classic:
Yasmani Grandal, C, Padres
Matt Harvey, RHP, Mets
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
D.J. LeMahieu, IF, Rockies
Rick Porcello. RHP, Tigers
Josh Smoker, IF, Cubs
Josh Vitters, IF, Cubs
Nick Noonan, IF, Giants
Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants
Christian Colon, IF, Royals
Blake Beavan, RHP, Mariners