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Preview MLB Desert Invitational

As excitement has begun to filter across the baseball landscape with the sweet sounds of pitchers and catcher reports, Arizona will go into game mode as soon as Friday afternoon when the MLB Desert Invitational kicks off.

The 2023 college baseball season kicks off across the country on Friday, as the greater Phoenix area will host 13 contests over four days. Twelve of these games will be broadcast live on MLB.com, while three contests will also take place live on the MLB Network.

The complete schedule (all times ET) for the tournament is as follows (with dates, times, and participants subject to change):

Feb. 17, 1:00pm: Michigan vs. Fresno State (Sloan Park)*Feb. 17, 15: Grand Canyon vs. UC San Diego (Salt River Fields)**Feb. 17, 18: Michigan vs. Michigan State (Sloan Park)*Feb. 5pm, 8pm: Tennessee vs. Arizona (Salt River Fields)**Feb. 6pm, 3pm: UC San Diego vs. Michigan (Salt River Fields)*Feb. 18, 15: Fresno State vs. Arizona (Sloan Park)*Feb. 18, 20: Tennessee vs. Grand Canyon (Brazell Field)**Feb. 19, 14: UC San Diego vs. Tennessee (Sloan Park)*Feb. 7 p.m., 3:00 p.m.: Michigan State vs. Fresno State (Salt River Fields)*Feb. 19, 19: Grand Canyon vs. Michigan (Sloan Park)*Feb. 19, 20: Arizona vs. Michigan State (Salt River Fields)*Feb. 8 p.m., 1:00 p.m.: Michigan State vs. Grand Canyon (Brazell Field)Feb. 8pm, 3pm: Arizona vs. UC San Diego (Sloan Park)** = MLB.com stream**= live on MLB Network AND MLB.com stream

Formerly known as MLB4, the MLB-led tournament is pushing the competition pedal to the floor out of the gates in its fourth instance. After a school record 56 wins last year, the University of Tennessee is leading a field that is expected to include local stalwarts of Grand Canyon University and the University of Arizona; the University of Michigan and Michigan State University from the Big Ten Conference; and a couple of California clubs at Fresno State University and UC San Diego.

“The opportunity to play in a tournament like this against the programs and coaches that we are able to compete against is exciting for our players,” Fresno State interim head coach Ryan Overland said. “And to do it under an MLB logo tournament, I mean, every kid grows up wanting to play in the major leagues and that’s why they work every day.”

Five of the participating coaches met with the media Wednesday morning via a Zoom call to express their level of excitement about making a unique start to the season.

Beyond the curriculum of the schools included, the crop of individual talent at hand in Arizona is impressive as seven of the top 100 Draft prospects by MLB pipeline are scheduled to participate. These players are listed below:

#2: Chase Dollander, RHP — Tennessee #9: Jacob Wilson, SS — Grand CanyonNo. 22: Maui Ahuna, SS — Tennessee No. 44: Mitch Jebb, SS — Michigan State No. 51: Chase Davis, OF — Arizona No. 69: TJ Nichols, RHP — Arizona No. 88: Homer Bush Jr., OF – Grand Canyon

Over the course of four days, all involved clubs will receive national exposure through the league’s streaming services, as well as exposure at their fingertips via scouts who flock to the desert to set their sights on a collection of experienced players concentrated in one area.

“Our hope is to build the biggest and best Opening Weekend tournament in college baseball,” said Chuck Fox, MLB director of baseball and softball development. “We will play at, I think we are two of the best [venues] across pro baseball at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick and Sloan Park – they are great partners for us.”

“By playing in those ballparks with the new bases, they’ll be able to see what it’s like on the next level,” former big league coach and current University of Arizona head coach Chip Hale said of his players. “It’s a big deal wherever the season starts and I’m glad we can have a tournament. I’m glad it’s sponsored by MLB because this is where everyone we recruit, we feel they should be aiming for.”

Among the seven schools scheduled to participate in this weekend’s MLB Desert Invitational, 21 players were named during the 2022 MLB Draft this past July. Overall, the group has made 36 road trips to Omaha, Neb., and collected seven national championships.

While most games will take place at Salt River Fields at the Talking Stick (Rockies and D-backs spring) or Sloan Park (Cubs spring), Grand Canyon’s Brazell Field at GCU Ballpark will also host a couple of contests , with Saturday night’s matchup against Tennessee streaming live on the MLB Network.

“It’s a huge thing for our school and our program to be able to showcase our facilities on national television,” said Grand Canyon head coach Greg Wallis. “With all the great teams in the tournament, the exposure we’ll get from the pro scout community as Spring Training increases, I think it’s going to be a really fun night.”

“I’m excited about Saturday where I think we will give the baseball community a chance to experience one of the most exciting atmospheres in all of college baseball outside the Grand Canyon,” Fox said. “We’re excited, we can’t wait: baseball is in the air.”

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