By Randy Whitehouse

Staff Writer

He wore the Yankee pinstripes in the new Yankee Stadium, walked through Monument Park and played in the same infield patrolled by Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. But Matt Verrier is just beginning to follow in the footsteps of hundreds of Major Leaguers.

Verrier was in New York City earlier this week preparing to play in the Area Code Games, one of the most respected showcases for the top
high school baseball talent in the country. The event takes place Aug.
5-10 in Long Beach, Calif.

The Oxford Hills star participated in the first workout of the New York Yankees Area Code team Tuesday at the new Yankee Stadium, joining 27 teammates from the Northeast and Ohio.
The one-day session included batting and fielding
practice, an intrasquad game, instruction from scouts and a talk from Yankees general manager
Brian Cashman.

Verrier didn’t get a hit in the intrasquad game. Facing a number of highly-touted pitchers with fastballs topping out in the low-to-mid-90s was tough enough, but even when he got good wood on the ball, Verrier found getting it past his athletic teammates in the field a difficult task.

“Matt’s first reaction was ‘Jeez, this is different than facing kids from Dixfield, Maine,'” said David Verrier, Matt’s father

“They were the best pitchers in the Northeast,” Matt Verrier said. “It was a pretty big jump for one day.”

A Sun Journal all-region and all-KVAC selection as a junior this
spring, Verrier batted .380 with a .557 on-base percentage, slugged
.720, scored 20 runs, hit two home runs and drove in 11 for Oxford
Hills. In late 2008, he verbally committed to attend the University of
Maine on a baseball scholarship starting in the fall of 2010.

Players must be invited to try out for the Area Code Games, and Verrier
received an invitation to the tryout at Bentley College based on the
recommendation of University of Maine coach Steve Trimper. There were 67 players at the tryout, which was one of four held for the Yankees team.

“Just to make it on the team is a great honor,” he said. “I’m the only kid from Maine to make it this time and that’s pretty special. I’m going to try to represent the state well.”

Verrier played catcher and third base, positions he has played regularly for Oxford Hills and Bessey Motors, but also saw considerable time at second base. He expects to see more time at second and third since his team is stocked with outstanding catchers.

“I played second in Babe Ruth a couple of times and I think (Oxford Hills and Bessey) Coach (Shane) Slicer had me play the back end of a doubleheader at second base once,” said Verrier, who got his feet wet Tuesday by making a diving catch on a soft line drive to second.

August will mark the Area Code Games’ 23rd year. It began as a small
regional event in Lodi, Calif., that teamed up the best high school
underclassmen from geographical areas based on their telephone area
codes and had them compete against each other using wood bats. Today,
ESPN owns the event and works in conjunction with seven Major League
teams — the Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee
Brewers, Oakland Athletics, Texas Rangers, and Washington Nationals.

Over 300 future Major Leaguers played in the Area Code Games,
including Boston Red Sox Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin
Pedroia, Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals, Prince Fielder of
the Milwaukee Brewers and the Toronto Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay. 

Verrier’s team is managed by Matt Hyde, the Yankees’ New England regional scout. The Games will be crawling with Major League scouts and Verrier is hoping to make the most of the exposure he will receive and the competition he will face.

“I’ll get to see what’s out there and show what I can do to a lot of scouts,” he said.


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