Approaching its 7th year, the Lone Star Classic continues to be a big success for Triple Crown Baseball, drawing 160 teams to compete at the Dallas Metroplex this coming weekend.
For over 20 years, Texas has been a baseball staple for TCS events. Texas Baseball event directors Gino Grasso and Adam Kline are excited to see an increase in teams year after year.
“This event always offers good competition. We have a few of the best 14u teams in the country playing this weekend,” said Kline. "The area's league schedules have kicked in, making it more of a challenge to secure fields, but we could tell the market was excited about getting into the Lone Star. We expect that interest to stay high for our other events to come."
More than 450 Texas teams and others around the Southwest kicked off their season at the Texas Season Opener in early March. In case of any inclement weather at the Season Opener, the Lone Star Classic has always served as a great insurance opportunity for teams to get back on the field and stay sharp, but that was not a concern this year.
We look forward to seeing a variety of 8u to 14u teams hit the diamond at the Lone Star Classic on April 6th-8th.
Full schedules have been posted: http://bit.ly/2GxC45n
Texas State Championships: May 25-28, 2018 (https://bit.ly/2Eh4uKD)
Texas World Series Warm-Up: June 15-17, 2018 (https://bit.ly/2EfBa7x)
SportsEngine, a division of NBC Sports Group, today announced a partnership agreement between its tournament management solution, Tourney Machine, and Fort Collins, Colorado-based, Triple Crown Sports (TCS), a longtime leader in producing impactful youth events from coast to coast.
Part of the SportsEngine platform of services, Tourney Machine facilitates team registration, schedule management and results tracking all in one place for fans, coaches and teams. TCS is a leading tournament operations company throughout the US with over 200 events and more than 18,000 teams per year. TCS will utilize Tourney Machine’s scheduling, scoring, and tournament management technology to operate all of their youth baseball, softball, lacrosse and basketball tournaments making Tourney Machine the official tournament technology partner of TCS.
Additionally, Tourney Machine will enable its external API services to allow TCS to consume data from its own tournaments and track team and player participation. The use of advanced features such as real-time alerts, schedule updates and live scoring through the Tourney Machine mobile app, will assist TCS in operating their events more efficiently.
“We’re very proud to become the official technology partner of Triple Crown Sports,” said Justin Kaufenberg, CEO of SportsEngine. “With our shared commitment to youth sports combined with TCS’s solid reputation as the leader in providing premium youth sports experiences and events, we’re excited to empower TCS with with the technology solutions that will help fuel its growth and further their mission.”
“We are excited to form this partnership with Tourney Machine to strengthen the technology, tools and resources we offer to our teams and their families,” said Keri King, CEO of Triple Crown Sports. “Moving away from our own proprietary scheduling software will allow TCS to focus on our purpose statement — to bring athletes and families together in competition and create experiences that embed lasting lifetime memories. Tourney Machine is robust software with the mobile user in mind; it will enhance the TCS experience.”
“We are all really excited for the impact and the value our customers will quickly appreciate with our newest tech partner,” said Elliott Finkelstein, TCS director of fastpitch. “Tourney Machine will help give our users a much improved experience.”
When the temperature and tension rises in competition, one of the best traits a team or athlete can display is predictability. Coaches can cook up fresh strategies and improvise responses when their roster is stable, reliable and not prone to panic.
However, we all love a good surprise in sports – an upset finish, an unexpected rally or the emergence of a mystery newcomer helps us appreciate the importance of not giving up.
While the Mid-Atlantic region recently has gone through difficult and at times traumatic stress in homes and at work, the ability of committed people to rebound, respond and return with optimism can emerge, front and center. And in a place where you might not expect – West Virginia – it’s proving possible to take an unlikely idea and build something with unusual staying power.
The West Virginia Gamers baseball organization, brought to life by hitting coach Craig Brumfield and fortified by the early inclusion of pitching coach Chad Baumgardner, has become a center of influence in region’s youth baseball scene. In four short years, the outfit has blossomed to eight teams, from 9u into the high-school ranks, as Gamers teams start to populate the list of tournament winners and show regular muscle in events both near and far from home.
“We made it about the baseball and not about the money; we’ve been able to recruit the talent I wanted, and it just gets better every year,” said Brumfield, a lifelong resident of the area who played at Marshall University, about 15 minutes from the current base for the Gamers. “We have kids driving three hours just to play with us, past Cincinnati and Lexington, to play in little ol’ Huntington, West Virginia.
“We’re not in a very big area. To have real travel teams and make it work was an exercise, but I knew that we would be able to get the talent because of my connections, the people and kids I knew – we were able to secure a really good 9, 12 and 14-year-old team that first year. The programs around us didn’t start travel baseball until 13 years old, so we started getting kids before others could. And if they are in our program, they’re not interested in going somewhere else.”
Before the Gamers heated up, it all started on slow-boil as parents reached out to Brumfield and asked for hitting lessons for their kids. In that era, Brumfield coached a mix of youth teams and carefully considered if it made sense to leave his 20-year career in the general work force to try and make a living at the baseball academy business.
When he decided to make the plunge, Brumfield secured a modest 35’x70’ space that held one mound and one batting cage and brought in Baumgardner, who played collegiately and had 12 years of pitching-coach time in with Little League ball. Something about the tone and temperament of those two Huntington natives just resonated with parents and athletes who loved the game but struggled to find the right training ground.
“It’s a lot of hard work. If I’ve got a team playing and I’m not (coaching) another one, I’m at that game. I’m present; parents see me, and things are run the way I want even if I can’t coach every team,” Brumfield said. “As a travel organization, we want great players and great kids, and we will teach baseball and also life lessons. I want to get to the fundamentals of life, not just fundamentals of baseball. You can get the best players and talent in the area, but if he’s not willing to buy into being a good teammate and role model, then we don’t need you. That’s how we’ve created a great atmosphere around our kids; when we travel, we’re not the team you have to worry about throwing coaches or parents out.”
“You’ve got the Huntington Hounds on the other end of town – there was a lot of need and interest on our end of town,” Baumgardner said. “We’re sitting two miles from Kentucky and three miles from Ohio, so we are attracting kids from all over the Tri-State area. Our whole goal was to try and get travel ball like when (Brumfield) and I used to play, where you didn’t have to pay $2,000 every time you suited up.”
That’s not just idle reminiscing about the good old days – the 16u team that the Gamers founders played on had 12 on the roster, nine of whom played in college with six moving on to play professionally. There’s a clear picture of what player development should look like, and how to assemble a program that wins games without falling into the trap of hypercompetitive, reckless behaviors.
“We have really blossomed the last few years, and that’s directly reflective of our people. When we start traveling in these major division tournaments, unlike teams around here looking to get a trophy, we’re starting to compete with teams like Beaver Valley Red and beating teams like Cincinnati Flames, Cincinnati Midlands, Ohio Elite – all of the sudden we’re not that team from West Virginia that just shows up,” Brumfield said. “We’re somebody that everybody knows is pretty darn good. Two years ago, that started to take shape, where my 14, 15 and 10-year-old team last year competed and won some extremely big tournaments. It’s carried over, and when people see you winning the right way, they want to come play for you.”
“We have Gamers teams that will travel to the East Coast, and I don’t mean to be cocky, but we win the majority of the tournaments. We won in Myrtle Beach, won in Tennessee, we’ve been getting noticed over the years,” said Cody Davis, who is entering his junior year of high school and has played for the Gamers since the start, and who has an DI scholarship on the table from Miami of Ohio. “It’s exciting; I never expected to be getting offers as I’m going into my junior year. They’ve helped the whole way, and they treat me like their son, so it’s more than just baseball. People just seem to overlook West Virginia; we have some really good baseball players and coaches, and a great organization. We just shock people at tournaments; they’re like, is that team really from West Virginia? It’s amazing, and I love playing for the Gamers.”
It’s an interesting time for the organization as it confronts several important questions – how much, and how fast, should the Gamers grow, exactly? Demand by potential customers is going up, but what pressure does that put on staff, especially when funding the Gamers properly is really more of an art than a science?
The management agrees that it doesn’t do any good to overreach and underprepare for growth that brings more kids to baseball, if the whole thing becomes subject to collapse, and then nobody gets any benefit at all.
“Four years ago, I never would have imagined it being as big as we are now. Who knows? We’re moving in the right direction, a lot of positive feedback, and that’s always good to hear,” Baumgardner said. “Craig’s put great people in place within the organization with good baseball background and experience, and he has a lot of help. It’s very fun here on Wednesday nights, and pretty packed – four cages, three pitching lanes. It’s great; you hear that ball cracking, and it’s awesome.”
“With travel baseball, our goal is to make it about the baseball. Everywhere you turn there are organizations charging astronomical rates; we never understood that, although now that we are in it, you see the unforeseen costs associated with what we do,” said 11u coach and Gamers treasurer Curtis Collins. “We keep it affordable and don’t make a dime. Some of it is, we’re not in it to make money, it’s run as a non-profit, and there are a lot of sacrifices made by our leadership. That’s important to know about what makes it work. The families trust us with what we are taking in; with my team, it’s $850 and they know that money will go to their kid.
“There is room to grow, and there are a lot more kids and families out there we can pull in to maintain what we have and would be good fits for the culture, and we wouldn’t be compromised. You go from the underdog to the team to be reckoned with, and we can do more (branding) there. Craig carries the vision for what the organization can become, and I see myself as they guy to take charge, execute the vision and protect it.”
Brumfield doesn’t have to strain to remember how delicate the balance can be.
“After that first year of travel ball, which I hadn’t done that before, in terms of the financial responsibility … I did not a great job (of charging) people correctly,” he recalled. “I was trying to do it as cheap as possible, just totally have it be about kids and baseball and help kids out, and in doing that the first year I cost myself a fortune. I was trying to do everything I planned and didn’t charge enough. I definitely had to ratchet it down; it was a little overwhelming to see how much was spent.”
Optimistic but measured; competitive yet respectful; confident but humble – living right and understanding those boundaries is what makes the Gamers special. As a prize-winning poker player in the early- to mid-2000s, Brumfield understands how playing the odds, seeing the math, and injecting a little personality into the mix, can lead to success.
He doesn’t really have time for cards these days, but today’s tasks do feature those crossover challenges that require a calm review of options, and some living by one’s wits.
“Getting these kids to college, the scholarship offers we have for some of our kids on the table, kids that are there … to have kids heading to a campus right now is very rewarding,” he said. “Helping kids and their families attain a goal that’s been there for their entire life … we’re not in the wealthiest area, so to being able to help them financially and get an education is extremely rewarding.
“I was a hard worker, but to be perfectly honest I was a gifted guy. I’m 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, ran a 6.8 60, a guy who had some tools. I let them go by the wayside, so to speak … I can’t say I’m the guy who took full advantage of what I had to offer, and that motivates me today. Our kids know that I was successful, and they trust the process. When they see what they are working on is making them better, that makes them want to work harder.”
With two successful years in the rearview mirror and nothing but excitement about the road ahead, Triple Crown Sports and YouTube sensation Domingo Ayala have announced their partnership will continue with the release of the 2018 TCS Tour schedule.
Ayala’s “Theory of Beisbol” series and other videos on YouTube have racked up more than 28 million views. He has performed in a variety of settings, from indoor sports facilities, sports complexes, youth baseball fundraisers, corporate events and even in MLB locker rooms. Ayala’s unconventional journey to excellence as a profoundly skilled athlete provides a great deal of comedic material that sports fans continue to embrace; until that day he signs an MLB contract that properly rewards a player of his profound skill set, Triple Crown Sports is thrilled to have him on location.
“The players, coaches and families who play with us simply get a light in their eyes when Domingo Ayala shows up at the ballpark,” said Joe Santilli, director of baseball for Triple Crown Sports. “We are all about competition and skill-building with TCS baseball and softball, but it’s important to remember how much a good laugh makes it easier to stay in love with the game.”
Triple Crown Sports, which produces a variety of competitive, premier destination tournaments drawing thousands of athletes and their families, welcomes Domingo Ayala to the following events:
Arizona Spring Championships, Session 2 – March 17 (Phoenix, AZ)
Bend Elks Memorial Day Tournament – May 27-28 (Bend, OR)
Omaha SlumpBuster, Session 1 – June 14-15 (Omaha, NE)
Omaha SlumpBuster, Session 3 – June 23-24 (Omaha, NE)
Colorado Sparkler/Fireworks Fastpitch – June 27-28 (Denver, CO)
TC Baseball World Series – July 16 (Park City, UT)
U.S. Club Nationals – July 24 (Atlanta, GA)
TC Baseball World Series – July 31 (Steamboat Springs, CO)
Details on Domingo Ayala’s appearances will appear on the Triple Crown website (www.triplecrownsports.com) and TCS social media outlets; Ayala will also share details on his website (www.domingobeisbol.com) and Twitter feed (@DomingoBeisbol)
About Domingo Ayala:
Domingo Ayala was born and raised in Puerto Plata, DR sometime between 1978 and 1988 (records have not been verified). At a young age, with the influence of his cousin and longtime baseball coach, Vladimir Ayala, Domingo began to excel at the game of baseball. In the Dominican Republic, Domingo has been a 7-time Infielder of the Year and 6-time Outfielder of the Year award winner (two years overlapping when he played both SS and LF in order to hit twice in the lineup).
Triple Crown Sports, a Fort Collins business fixture since the mid-1980s and producer of youth and collegiate athletic events that stretch around the nation and into Mexico, announced this week the official shift of CEO duties from founder David King to his son, Keri King.
The formal transition ends David King’s 36-year stint as CEO, with Triple Crown Sports evolving from its slow-pitch softball roots to becoming the engine behind hundreds of annual championships in the youth sports of baseball, fastpitch softball, girls volleyball and girls basketball. Over time, TCS used King’s relationships within college sports to reinvigorate the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events as well as create the men’s and women’s Cancun Challenge basketball tournaments and WNIT-concept postseason championships in Division-I softball and women’s volleyball.
Keri King, 37, has worked within the offices of Triple Crown Sports since childhood; he was the longtime event director for the 500-team Omaha SlumpBuster and was website/tech coordinator from 2012-14. In preparation for David King’s move out of the CEO office, Keri took over as COO in 2014 and operated as head of the Management Team, with all sports divisions reporting to him. Keri King was also added to the TCS Board of Directors in October 2017; the King family has been earnestly preparing for the changes at the top since 2011, using resources and instruction through the Harvard Business School and the Family Firm Institute.
“I’m very excited to be able to serve the needs of our full-time associates and customers. I’m thankful for the 36 years of service that Mom and Dad provided,” Keri King said. “They have built a company based on a strong culture of family first, respect of all and continuous learning. These values make up the special sauce called Triple Crown Sports. We will continue to focus on creating experiences that embed lasting, lifetime memories for serious athletes. Our sports events will continue to have that founders’ 1982 spirit of ‘doing things right.’”
David King, 61, began Triple Crown Sports with his wife, Annette, in 1982. With its home office located at 3930 Automation Way in Fort Collins, the company currently has 54 full-time employees and franchise operations in California, Arizona, Missouri and Georgia.
“Family continuance of Triple Crown Sports as a national company based in Fort Collins was key to our staff and our family,” said David King. “Keri will add a new energy to our business along with a strong knowledge of our core business in sports. I could not be prouder as a father.”
Working in the Midwest, but far from the middle of the road, the Midland Redskins baseball organization has been producing major league talent for decades and shows no signs of stopping.
Midland takes an old-school approach to the roaring industry of youth travel athletics. In a “parking lot team” world where players and coaches first meet in the rows of cars at their playing destinations, the Redskins have never adhered to this modern way of team building. As it has always been done outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, the majority of Midland’s roster arrives in early June, move in with host families and cement themselves as part of the community.
Jeremiah Larbes was part of that tradition, not as a player but as a host to up-and-coming young stars.
“It is a large part of our community,” said Larbes. “We were always part of the Midland Family when we housed kids, and now I can make an even larger impact in my position.”
Larbes began his tenure with Midland as an assistant with the 16u team. As the years progressed and his network grew, Larbes’ road led him to earning a shot as general manager of the historic ball club.
“It was the longest interview in the history of sports,” explained Larbes. “I came on as the coach of the 18u team with the goal of winning the Connie Mack World Series. After claiming the title this summer, six month after applying for the job, I finally got the job I wanted all along.”
Speak the name Midland around any baseball fan, and the response is unanimously positive. With alumnae like Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin, Matt Carpenter, Matt Harvey and Andrew Benintendi, it’s impossible to argue with the success of the program. Larbes’ new task is keeping that proud tradition of excellence moving forward with a new generation of athletes.
“It was always Joe Hayden’s, or Papa Joe as we like to call him, idea that we keep our mission the same,” said Larbes. “It has been and will always continue to be about the instruction, about the teaching and about the camaraderie.
“He would take care of you and he would take care of this organization. The relationships that he built were phenomenal and they are the foundation of what this club is built on. His passion of respecting the game is something that I hope I can continue here at Midland. On the back of our shirts to this day it still reads, ‘Respect the game.’”
With the pressures of maintaining and building upon what others have done before, the load of such an endeavor would seem insurmountable to most. However, the former policeman, fireman, professional bull rider, current business owner and high school football coach certainly has the resume to deal with the ins and outs of running a successful organization.
“I’ve done a lot of things,” said Larbes. “More than that, I’ve been lucky to have done so much. There is no question that my background has prepared me for what I do now and what I want to do the future.”
Larbes’ latest gig as the assistant general manager of the Cincinnati Thunder, a local minor league hockey team in the NA3HL, may not have involved the same demographic as his current post, but many of the same day-to-day duties remain the same.
“Ultimately, a lot of the work is the same,” said Larbes. “While we do a heavy amount of work for younger teams, our end goal is to have a Connie Mack World Series Champion 18u team. All of the prep work and day-to-day activities look like any kind of team trying to win a championship on any level.
“The biggest difference is in the scheduling. Organizing all these teams to play in tournaments and orchestrating teams that come here can be a little tiring at times but all worth it in the end.”
Larbes and Midland already have one piece of their 2018 schedule inked. As a team who doesn’t travel outside of the friendly confines of Ohio very often, Midland, as well as teams like the East Cobb Astros, Ohio Warhawks and Dallas Patriots, will headline the Pathway Games Upperclass Invitational, slated for June 26-29 in Omaha, Nebraska.
“We only travel outside of our place about three times a year,” Larbes said. “For us, it’s about competition. If we were going to get out on the road, there had to be good competition to face.
“Joe (Santilli, Triple Crown Sports baseball director) has done a fantastic job getting a great lineup for us to face. The better competition we face early in the summer, the better our teams become going forward. We’re not there to necessarily win every tournament we play in; we just want our kids to show their best against the best.”
Triple Crown’s Pathway Games extend much further than Omaha in 2018. Events in Virginia, Michigan, Georgia and two in Colorado are certain to exude some of the best talent across the nation. Pathway’s depth of teams coupled with Santilli’s national connections made it an easy choice for schedule makers.
“I’ve worked with Joe for a long time now,” Larbes explained. “I started working field maintenance for his Great Lakes region tournaments. He’s a guy that appreciates hard workers, and that’s me, too. I think that’s why we’ve developed this partnership over the years.
“He and Triple Crown have done a great job in developing the baseball division over the years, and I fully expect that to continue going forward.”
With more than 30 tournaments used to properly assess each team’s performance, the Triple Crown Sports 14u team rankings have been released. This exercise combined on-field results and assessments from the leading figures in 14u baseball around the nation.
Congratulations to the Academy Select Sun Devils, based in Dallas, Texas!
1. Academy Select Sun Devils (TX)
2. Banditos Scout (TX)
3. Sandlot (LA)
4. Louisiana Tigers (LA)
5. Memphis Tigers-McCommon (TN)
6. Tri-State Arsenal (NJ)
7. East Cobb Astros (GA)
8. Dallas Tigers-Polk (TX)
9. Dulin Dodgers (TN)
10. Dirtbags Black (NC)
11. Team Elite Nation (GA)
12. Team Elite Prospects (GA)
13. Texas Stix-Kennedy (TX)
14. Dallas Tigers-Godwin (TX)
15. Beaver Valley Red (PA)
16. Rijo Athletics (WA)
17. Arlington Heat (TX)
18. Showtime Baseball (WA)
19. Elite Squad Prime (FL)
20. Georgia Bombers-Hill (GA)
21. Tennessee Nationals (TN)
22. Tidewater Drillers (VA)
23. Team Halo (GA)
24. Richmond Braves North (VA)
25. Swingman Baseball (SC)
While the fall months tend to emphasize football in Texas, the youth baseball scene still has a heartbeat, with teams making sure all the hard work of summertime doesn’t fade from view.
Armed again with great teams and superior facilities, Triple Crown has a terrific tournament option with the Toys For Tots Fall Championships, set for the Dallas Metroplex on Oct. 6-8, 2017.
Compete in your 2018 age group and get an early look at how your roster shapes up. Teams have used this event to “try out” players who are interested in joining the lineup – with a three-game guarantee there will be plenty of innings to move players around and explore options.
This is also a great chance to reach out and share your good fortune with others who are less fortunate – encourage your families to bring an unwrapped toy to the ballpark, and we’ll get it in the hands of the DFW Toys For Tots chapter.
We also take game-time requests! The sooner you register and tell us your preference, the better your chance is of making this fit your busy schedule. Get your team in the mix HERE; contact Adam Kline at (970) 672-0580 or firstname.lastname@example.org
In the numerous decades where baseball instructors have tried to do two things – unlock the skills of potential players and promote the right mental approach for success – a zillion different recipes have been put into motion.
Ultimately, the game always seems to reward those who devote time to master the basics, and those who seize opportunities when they arrive. That’s the essence of a growing baseball club in the Dallas Metroplex, the Dallas Raiders.
Helmed by the husband-and-wife team of Aaron and Amanda Anzua, the Raiders are making a strong case to families based on core instruction (which is fortifying that skill set) and a unique arrangement with a local parks and recreation department that is the definition of a special opportunity.
Aaron was a successful catcher in his time, earning a spot on the always-talented roster at Seminole College (OK), until a broken hand derailed his hopes for a taste of the professional game. The eye for the details, the appreciation of the little picture that a good catcher finds fascinating – he had this and more, and it was only a matter of time until he left his job in the medical supply industry to hit coaching full-time, full force.
“It wasn’t so much about what affected me as a player growing up – one reason we (established) the Raiders was the lack of coaching in the sense of teaching fundamentals. I understood the intricate parts of the game, the small things in order to be successful … not only that, the need to be consistent,” said Anzua, who also coaches at Faith Christian High School in Grapevine, a vibrantly growing city on the western half of the Metroplex. “There’s a lack of consistency in the teaching of youth sports because everybody wants the biggest, strongest kid who you just don’t have to teach. A lot of that has to do with a lack of knowledge within the coaching circle – it’s not everywhere, but it’s out there. Philosophically for our coaches, it was about really jumping on the fundamentals.
“Individual work, footwork, lateral movement, ground balls at a slower pace – these kids have so much that bogs them down this day and age, their brains are going 100 mph. Slowing the game down and helping them understand … we wanted to make sure and establish those values.”
By 2011, the Raiders had a few teams – today, there are 20 teams in the fold from 8u-18u, and the program also offers the NTX Coliseum indoor facility to augment instruction. From 8u to 14u, the design is to guide players to a place where they can play well at the high school level.
There’s a balancing act in those years, as parents who are investing in the athletic development of the kids tend to like winning, while coaches tend to like signs of progress, regardless of if it comes in a blowout win or a nail-biting loss.
“We set goals as a coaching staff, and in general with the kids. At our organizational workout where there are 250-plus kids, out there for 4-5 hours, a huge workout for all ages broken up … that’s when I can interact with parents and kids, and talk about the importance of the small things,” Aaron said. “Everybody wants to win — I’m as competitive as it comes. I know what it means to have and not to have, to win and to lose – but from Day I repeat, you’ve got to invest in the small things and the rewards will be there. If you just want to win and not work for it, there’s a good chance you’re not getting better as a player. We strive to get new families to buy into the philosophy. Quite honestly, I try to brainwash them. You need to do things a lot of kids aren’t willing to do, paying the price, get extra cuts, set something up with our paid coaches, get to the extra practices we have.”
As Aaron evolved his vision for Select baseball in the Metroplex, Amanda found herself fostering growth by getting a command of the administrative issues that dog so many best intentions in this world. While keeping parents in the right loops, and the coaches free to do what they love, the Raiders grew in popularity.
Then came the bolt out of the blue – Grapevine asked the Raiders if they’d like to be the primary Select organization of the city. That meant the Raiders would have primary access to fields, including the Oak Grove Complex, one of the most attractive and useful field sites in Texas.
“You need that open communication with the parents, and to be a liason who can organize schedules and payments, things coaches aren’t interested in doing. We worry about everything else, the logistics,” Amanda said. “Those two forces combined have made us as successful as we are. The city likes the fact we are organized.
“We get some jealousy; fields are hard to come by. This is a place where you get three practices a week; we have indoor (opportunities), organizational workouts there from 5-9 p.m. The comments and (bitter) emails come with the territory, because the more you grow, the more you’ll hear different things. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback – players are happy, parents are happy, kids can move from Rec level to Select level and not move from the city of Grapevine. The positives outweigh the smaller voices.”
Indeed, the Raiders’ willingness to work in the rec-player space is a huge reason Grapevine is such a supporter. A serious approach to player development, and not just chasing after the uniquely talented athletes in town, has been key to the relationship.
On top of that, the Raiders do what they can to show their appreciation for Grapevine’s support. That includes volunteer work days on the fields, and outreach clinics/camps for players just getting into the sport.
“Our intentions are to give back to the people who have paid the way for these opportunities. The partnership with city of Grapevine and being in Oak Grove – when we were growing up, we didn’t have the things most of these kids have,” Aaron said. “In order to get (opportunities), you have to work hard. We are involved with rec levels; we give them an opportunity and a chance to work hard.
“These (Raiders) kids are fortunate and privileged for an opportunity a lot of local organizations don’t have. As coaches and leaders, we can impact a new generation. We’re here not to just build baseball players but to build leaders, for any profession that needs leaders. People in platforms like we have in youth sports, we can touch a lot of lives. That’s what we are striving to do.”
James McDowell, 15, who just completed his freshman year at Faith Christian, has been with the Raiders for a couple of years, after trying his hand in other clubs. He’s appreciated the progress he’s been able to make, and is looking forward to more of what the Raiders can offer.
“The biggest attraction for me is the coaches. They are all really good, very experienced and know what they are talking about. They can tell you the reasons why you are doing something, and they can say, ‘fix this’ and actually explain it.
“I’ve gotten to know all my teammates, and we can talk about things outside of baseball. Once you got on the field, you feel you know them as a teammate and a person. It’s really nice compared to other organizations. We always get fields and a good place to go if it rains; you never feel like you are second-hand. You are at the top of the list and a big priority.”
With the fundamentals in place for a long run as a meaningful youth baseball setting, the Raiders are excited about the future and like the idea of spreading their brand.
“I see us growing and become one of the larger organizations in the Metroplex, branching out to other cities, broadening horizons,” Amanda said. “Tapping into Fort Worth and other cities within 30-40 miles. We have three high school teams for summer, and the goal is to start moving younger ones through the program. We have some great high school coaches who are in private schools or former coaches, so they already have that background.
“We want to keep our kids as they get older; the boys that connect with each other and families, it’s tough for them to leave. They want to stay and keep playing together. Our rosters stay together, and I’d say we have 90 percent return year-to-year – you don’t see that with other Select baseball organizations.”
“These are the moral victories we have,” Aaron added. “Where people tell me, ‘my kid is more attentive at school, he’s more driven and passionate, he sees the passion of the coaching staff that you share every Thursday when there’s a workout with 20 teams … he sees that.’
“You can’t put a dollar figure on that. We’ve got trophies to show, but that stuff collects dust. It’s about the relationships and the things you built on the field that will take you further on.”
The 12u Triple Crown Rankings began in early March and concluded at the end of July. It was a five-month process of following teams from coast to coast, as well as collecting results from over 40 events from the USSSA Arizona Super NIT to the South Haven Super NIT in Mississippi, and extending through the TBS National Championships in Georgia and everything in between.
These events were assigned their own value based on top teams in attendance. This ranking is not built on “the more you play, the more points you get,” but on the presence of quality competition.
One thing is clear — the 12u GBG Renegades faced the top teams in the country and consistently came out on top. Congratulations to the 12u GBG Renegades!
1. GBG Renegades – Fullerton, CA
2. D-Bat Elite North – Dallas, TX
3. Team Xtreme Adiktiv – Pace, FL
4. Wilson MVP Elite – Norwalk, CA
5. MGBA Bulldogs – Stockbridge, GA
6. Yalobusha Giants – Oxford, MS
7. Memphis Tigers-Lyons – Memphis, TN
8. M3 Elite – Antioch, TN
9. Easton Elite ’22 – Whittier, CA
10. East Cobb Tigers – Marietta, GA