Earning all-star status is one of the most prestigious honors that can be bestowed on a high school athlete because the team is chosen during a vote of opposing coaches.
That fact renders Saturday's North vs. South All-Star baseball game especially meaningful for Cade Bradley, Kacy Parker, Nick Brunson and Bryan Zumbro.
"It's pretty special to be a part of a game that means you're one of the best around," Zumbro said.
With the selection of the four athletes comes another distinction a school record. Never before has Payson High sent so many baseball players to the all-stars in one season.
The foursome all recent graduates of Payson High School was selected to participate in the celestial clash at the conclusion of the 2000 season by members of the Arizona Baseball Coaches Association.
The game tips off at 7 p.m. June 3 on the campus of Grand Canyon College in Phoenix.
The North team, which includes a number of East Region Class 3A players, will be coached by Show Low's David Nikolaus and Kevin Standefer of Snowflake.
After putting the star team through its paces Monday during a practice at Blue Ridge High School, Nikolaus left the session impressed with Payson's representatives.
"There's some pretty good players there," he said.
But just because the North team boasts quality athletes doesn't mean it will breeze through the star war.
The opposing South team, which includes several veteran athletes who played last season for state champion Safford and runnerup Globe, will be a formidable squad.
Knowing they will be pitted against some of the best players in Arizona, the four Payson athletes said they were looking forward to the all-star challenge.
For the star clash, Nikolaus said he will probably align the athletes in the positions they played in high school to take advantage of their experience. One exception, however, will be Zumbro who was the Horns' ace pitcher during the past two campaigns.
"We'll probably start him as a catcher," Nikolaus said.
Zumbro has limited catching experience, having held down the position a handful of games the past season. He's also played catcher on occasion for his winter league team.
"I don't mind (catching) if that's what the team needs," Zumbro said.
In addition to toiling behind the plate, Zumbro a 6-foot, 3-inch, 195-pound righthander will see relief pitching duty, Nikolaus said.
While Zumbro is either hurling or catching, the North defense will feature Bradley in the infield and Brunson and Parker in the outfield.
All three proved to be able defenders during the Horns 1998 state championship, and last season, when the team advanced to the state tournament but was eliminated by eventual-champ Safford.
In addition to their talents on "D," the four will take to the star game some game-proven offensive skills.
Last year Zumbro led the team in hitting with a .440 average that included eight home runs, two triples, and 38 RBIs.
Not far off his hitting pace were teammates Bradley (.438) and Brunson (.356). Parker finished with a .263 average.
Longhorn coach Ted Pettet praised his four former players. Zumbro had a great career, he said, and Brunson was coachable and a hard worker.
"(Parker is) a great kid, the kind you want in your program," Pettet said, "(and Bradley) was a lot of fun ... (he) had a good attitude."
The foursome's post-season accolades were not limited to the ABCA all-star selection.
Bradley, Brunson and Zumbro were chosen earlier as All-East first-team players by region coaches.
Bradley also owns the unique distinction of being eligible to compete in two all-star games. In mid-June, he will travel to Casa Grande to participate in the annual North vs. South football clash.
Zumbro heads to the all-star game as Payson's lone selection to the Class 3A All-State team.
Later this summer, Brunson and Parker are slated to travel to Australia where they will play on an all-Arizona team that will play several international tournaments.