EMERSON, Ga. - The grand opening of Perfect Game Park South at LakePoint had everything. Vendors, scouts, fans, and of course ball players, swarmed the property in Emerson, GA to introduce the newest baseball attraction that could easily be considered a dream park.
The opening of LakePoint also marked the start of the 16u Perfect Game/East Cobb Invitational. With the likes of Fredi Gonzalez, the manager for the Atlanta Braves, and former Atlanta Braves and Falcons standout Brian Jordan on scene, there were plenty of distractions to say the least. But, none of that took away from the real reason everyone was in attendance: to play and watch baseball.
Anyone and everyone that wanted to be a part of this historic day surrounded LakePoint. The only thing LakePoint did not have was fireworks. Thankfully, those were provided by the Team Elite Roadrunners 16u.
Team Elite Roadrunners 16u opened up their tournament with a 12:45 pm start on field 15 at LakePoint. For them, the game featured a combination of lethal hitting and pitchers who threw strikes and located their pitches. This combination resulted in a 13-0 run-rule that lasted only three and a half innings with the highlight of the game being when second baseman Cobie Vance hit a grand slam in the bottom of the first to cap a 10-run inning.
Smiles were all around in the Roadrunners dugout, but at the same time, they were all extremely envious and appreciative to be able to have played at LakePoint on opening day.
“It’s awesome. It’s not every day that you get to come out here and play on fields like this and be as fortunate to play on fields like this because not everyone can,” said shortstop Cam Shepherd (a top 40 high school prospect in the 2016 class) modestly. “So, I mean, it’s really nice to come out here and, with all the atmosphere, it’s awesome.”
Even Head Coach Brad Bouras showed thankfulness and gratitude at the opportunity of having his team here.
“It’s an outstanding situation. We are real happy for Perfect Game having this complex. Obviously, we’re very happy as an organization, with Team Elite, to be able to have our teams come over here and play over here.”
“This Team Elite Roadrunners team that we have, basically to me, the kids are thrilled to play out here on the field and the turf, and be part of the atmosphere day 1, opening weekend. It was a great feeling for everyone.”
“I heard several comments from the kids in the dugout talking about how awesome it was, and how beautiful the complex was.”
Team Elite and Georgia Roadrunners are two of the state’s best travel baseball programs. The name Team Elite Roadrunners 16u may spin a few heads from some people around the state of Georgia because it seems like a combination of the two organizations. In fact, it actually is. A mutual friend of Tom Haire, the founder of the Georgia Roadrunners baseball program, and Bouras got the two connected when Haire was searching for a coach for this 16u team. Bouras felt that the Team Elite organization could provide helpful coaching and services to the team. Thus, they became the Team Elite Roadrunners 16u. Bouras stresses the happiness he feels in the positive nature that this merger has turned out to be.
“I’d say it’s a great partnership as far as we have great players. The kids have been a part of our program. I have coached them every game this whole entire summer, and [I’ve] built a really good relationship with the kids.”
Not only does the coaching staff feel the merger has been a positive experience, but also the players have noticed all of the great things this merger has done for them. The Roadrunners players were quick to thank their new Team Elite coaches for putting them in situations to be seen by college scouts.
Center fielder and leadoff hitter Jahmai Jones, a UNC commit and one of the top five overall high school players for the 2015 class, was extremely straightforward when asked about his coaches.
“Their first thing is getting you noticed. I mean rather that be D-1, D-3, NAIA, anything. They’re going to get you noticed.”
Shepherd also stressed the thankfulness he felt in the support the coaches give and also the level of exposure each player in the program receives.
“We play in all of the right tournaments to get seen. The coaches are always very supportive of you no matter if you go 0-5 or 5-5. It doesn’t really matter. They are always there to help you out.”
Having a coaching staff that is as supportive and knows the game of baseball as well as the Team Elite coaches do is something that, for the last nine years, has made Team Elite one of the premiere programs in the state, if not the country. But, with an influx of players who came from the same Georgia Roadrunners program, this team is about more than just good coaching and great players. Like every great team, they possess a certain chemistry that cannot be taught. It comes natural.
Georgia Tech commit and pitcher Jake Lee feels that him and his fellow pitcher only’s (POs) are the ones who should be credited with the team’s great team chemistry.
“The PO’s really hold everybody together. The PO’s are really the personalities because when everybody is serious about hitting and everything, if they come out and have a bad day, the PO’s are the first one’s to make them laugh. So, I think the pitcher only’s, when they are not pitching and they are not in the mindset of pitching; when they are not so serious, really keep everybody light and not so uptight about the game.”
Jones, one of the vocal leaders of the team, was more poetic in his attitude towards his teammates saying, “these guys out here are family to me; every one of these guys. Whoever puts a jersey on that has Roadrunners is family to me. I mean I love these guys. It’s a blessing to come out here everyday and play with them.”
That family atmosphere is the reason the Team Elite Roadrunners 16u play so well together. Most people may think with a team with as much talent as this one, that some of the players may be all about themselves. That simply is not the case, and that is seen in how these players help each other even in recruiting.
“Everybody helps everybody because everyone is good. If Georgia is here to watch Michael [Curry] play because he is committed, they see people like Trey Cabbage whose uncommitted. And if Georgia Tech is here to watch Christian [Ryder] because they are interested in Christian pitching, they see Cobie Vance going 3-4 with a bomb.”
Having 16-year-olds talk about their teammates in this way provides a great indication that this team will be heard from continuously throughout the summer because of the nature in which they have come together as a unit. Do not be surprised come Monday if the Team Elite Roadrunners 16u are playing for a championship.