Best 9 Sports Academy in Aiken has, for the past year, aimed to get area baseball players ready for their futures in the game. On Saturday, the facility brought the young athletes even closer to that reality.
Around 55 players and 27-28 pro scouts got together at the facility on Saturday for a pro day.
Chris Varnadore, the owner of the Aiken facility, said that the event was intended to help the players with their professional ambitions, but he also cited the facility’s higher purpose.
“The goal is to get kids seen,” Varnadore said. “I built this building (last October), basically to get kids off the street ... give them a place to practice.”
He worked with Robby Wachman, who runs the Best 9 facility in Augusta, to put together the event. Wachman said he has a team of scouts that work throughout the year to determine which area players are right for the event, with this year’s pro day being the fifth he’s put on.
He also said that the organization’s goals aren’t just centered on the baseball side of player preparation. Best 9 also seeks to inform players and their parents about the college recruiting and pro draft process, which can often be unnerving.
“Once they get to high school, that’s what we focus on is a lot of education for them and their parents,” Wachman said.
He added that this is one of the “better groups” Best 9 has hosted for a pro day, including West Florence’s Akeem Bostic and South Aiken’s Taylor Widener. The T-Bred pitcher has already signed with the University of South Carolina and is listed among the top recruits in the state.
His father, Billy Widener, came to the event to watch his son and other area players perform in front of the scouts, an exciting process that he said also made him nervous.
“It’s exciting,” he said. “You get to come up here and throw in front of pro scouts that you don’t get to see in these parts.”
He went on to say that Best 9 is a “first class organization” and that’s he’s been impressed with all the events and programs that Taylor’s been a part of with the group.
“Best 9 does a great job with organizing their tournaments, their pro days, their workouts,” he said.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.