Future professional baseball players as well as players whose futures won't include any more baseball will take the field at Chukchansi Park tonight for the City/County All-Star Game.
It's the kickoff to the heaviest stretch of a swan song of all-star events for recently graduated high school seniors. Eight games in six sports will be played over the next 12 days from Chowchilla to Visalia.
"A lot of the kids feel it's an opportunity to represent their school one last time," said Liberty-Madera Ranchos football coach Chris Imperatrice, who will coach the South in the North/South Rotary game. "I'm fired up about the opportunity to coach that type of talent.
"And the biggest reason I'm excited about it is it's an opportunity to showcase our program and what our coaches do and what Liberty has to offer as a program."
In addition to today's 6 p.m. City/County baseball game, other all-star events include:
Football: The City/County game will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Central's Koligian Stadium; the Tulare/Kings game will be at 7 p.m. Saturday at Visalia's Mineral King Bowl; and the North/South Rotary game will be at 7:45 p.m. June 26 in Chowchilla.
Boys volleyball: City/County game will be at 6:30 p.m. June 23 at the South Gym at Fresno State.
Softball: City/County game will be at 6:30 p.m. June 23 at Clovis North.
Girls basketball: City/County game will be at 5:30 p.m. June 25 at Clovis North.
Boys basketball: City/County game will be at 7:30 p.m. June 25 at Clovis North.
"It's an honor as a coach and as a player to be picked for these things," said Lemoore's T.J. Wilkins, who will coach the county in the City/County boys basketball game.
"You get a chance to work with the best players in the Valley.
For various reasons -- be it work, vacations, commitments to colleges or indifference -- these all-star games don't always draw all of the area's top talent. But coaches say that doesn't take away from the experience for the players who do commit and get to compete one last time as high school athletes.
"You always lose a few kids who are going to school, but the kids who show up enjoy it," said El Diamante's Mark Rogers.