Sunday, August 2, 2009

Strong Arms, Big Bats Comprise Talented Group of Aflac's National Baseball Player of the Year Nominees

/PRNewswire/ -- Five of the nation's most dominant prep players -- three power pitchers, one catcher and one two-way talent -- have been nominated for the sixth annual Aflac National High School Player of the Year Award, given to the country's top high school baseball player.

The Player of the Year recipient will be presented with the Jackie Robinson Award, a trophy named in honor of the late Hall of Famer. Robinson's granddaughter, Sonya Pankey, will present the award at the Aflac All-American Awards Dinner held at the Hilton Bayfront on Aug. 15 in San Diego, Calif. Also on hand for the ceremony will be Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, who returns as honorary chairman for the 2009 Aflac All-American Baseball Classic.

The Jackie Robinson award, named after the first player to break the Major League Baseball color barrier, recognizes the nation's top player who demonstrates outstanding character, exhibits leadership and embodies the values of being a student athlete.

"The Jackie Robinson Award nominees are the very best our nation's high schools have to offer, and we honor them for their contributions both on the field and in their communities," said Jeff Charney, Aflac senior vice president and chief marketing officer. "We salute them for their achievements and commend them for representing Jackie Robinson's amazing legacy."

The 2009 Aflac National High School Player of the Year nominees are:

-- Andrew Cole, RHP, Oviedo High School - Winter Springs, Fla.
-- Bryce Harper, C, Las Vegas High School - Las Vegas, Nev.
-- Justin O'Conner, RHP/INF, Cowan Junior/Senior High School - Muncie,
-- DeAndre Smelter, RHP, Tattnall Square Academy - Macon, Ga.
-- Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands High School - The Woodlands, Texas

The inaugural Jackie Robinson Award, presented in 2004, went to Aflac All-American alumnus Justin Upton, a shortstop from Great Bridge High School (Chesapeake, Va.). The Arizona Diamondbacks made Upton the No. 1 overall pick of the 2005 Major League Baseball June draft, and he was selected to the MLB All-Star roster in 2009.

Other previous winners include Cody Johnson, a first baseman/outfielder from Mosley High School (Panama City, Fla.) in 2005, Michael Burgess, an outfielder/pitcher from Hillsborough High School (Tampa, Fla.) in 2006 and Tim Melville, a pitcher/outfielder from Wentzville High School (Wentzville, Mo.) in 2007. Last year, Mychal Givens, a pitcher/infielder from Plant High School (Tampa, Fla.) won the award. Player of the Year nominees are determined by official Aflac All-American Baseball Classic selection partner Perfect Game and media partner Baseball America.

The seventh annual Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic will be played Sunday, Aug. 16, at PETCO Park in San Diego, the second consecutive year the game has been played in a major league stadium. The event is the nation's elite high school baseball showcase, featuring the top 40 baseball players in an East vs. West matchup. The game will be televised live nationally on FOX Sports Net at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

The Aflac Baseball Classic is more than just a game. It is part of Aflac's ongoing commitment to the fight against childhood cancer, with proceeds benefiting Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego. Since 2003, the Classic has generated $685,000 for charity.

To learn more about the Aflac National High School Player of the Year nominees and the Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic, visit

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