MARIETTA, Ga. – The Midland organization has a long-standing tradition of producing outstanding talent. Current major leaguers like Zack Greinke, Eric Hosmer, Matt Harvey, and Nate McLouth as well as former major leaguers Ken Griffey, Jr, Mark Mulder, Mike Matheny, and hall of famer Barry Larkin all played travel baseball for Midland before their professional careers started. For many years they have been one of the top youth baseball programs in the entire country.
Midland Tribe 15u manager Brian Conley strongly believes that this organization as a whole is second to none when it comes to having great teams and great players.
“I was a former player in the organization almost 18 years ago or something like that,” Conley explained.“ I grew up playing in the organization. Mr. [Joe] Hayden, who started everything and is still behind everything, is an unbelievable person.”
“He has built, without question, the best organization for amateur baseball in the country, and he has done it for almost 50 years now. There is no doubt in my mind that there’s not a better organization in the country for these kids to be playing for.”
The Midland Tribe is no exception when it comes to talent. This Tribe team began their WWBA 15u National Championship tournament out exactly how any team would have liked to start it. They have picked up four consecutive wins, including a very impressive 5-1 victory over a good East Coast Clippers team this afternoon at Sprayberry High School. The win was in part due to a solid start by starter Nick Long. Long threw a complete game six-hitter, with his only blemish coming when a leadoff double in the third inning turned into a run for the Clippers. His 65 total pitches may be the most impressive stat of his showing that he effectively filled the zone throughout the game. He controlled the game with a business-like manner, never getting too high or too low. His stuff was not electric, but he stayed within himself, and he trusted his defense.
“I had a good curveball today,” Long said. “I threw a lot of strikes. I pitched to contact. I have a good defense. No one has a better defense I believe, so I just let them work.”
Conley was extremely pleased with the way his pitcher threw today. Long went out and attacked hitters, and that was what his Midland coaches wanted him to do.
Offensively, the team picked up big hits when they needed to. Cal Conley was huge for the team going 2-4 with two RBI. Jordan Adell also collected two hits of his own, while scoring a run in the process.
Adell, a 2017 grad committed to Louisville, is one of the key players for this Tribe team. His big 6’2 frame makes him stand out, and his 84-86 mph fastball on the mound makes him very projectable to scouts. Coming down to play in this tournament from Ohio, Adell is not only trying to showcase himself, but he is eager to show that his team can come to the South and play with some of the best competition in the nation.
“It’s a big deal,” Adell said of coming to play in this tournament. “We come from Ohio and most teams are around Florida and Georgia and the areas around here. So, it’s important for us to come down and make noise and show that we can come from Ohio and still win.”
The team from Midland has done more than just make noise. They are off to a 4-0 start and show no signs of slowing down. In those four games, they have outscored their opponents 30-8 proving they are solid in all facets of the game. With their hot start, the team is sitting pretty in their pool, and they are confident heading into their next game and the rest of pool play.
“We’re really confident,” Adell said. “We have a lot pitching saved, and we were able to pick up a pitcher in Brooks [Larson]. It will help us to go far in the tournament and save arms. I think that we’re going to do really well.”
For an organization in which success has come in bundles, the start for the Tribe is not overly surprising. The goal for the team is to take home the championship trophy, especially since they have traveled such a long way. But, at fifteen years old, there are more important things than just winning. Conley understands this, and he knows what it takes to play at a higher level. He spent ten years in professional baseball and three of those years were spent coaching in the minor leagues. His approach to coaching this team is all about development, and that means preparing them for the future.
“Development is not about right now,” stressed Conley. “It’s about down the road, and I think our kids are catching on to what that means. And, they’re able to understand the adjustments that we might make with them or why we don’t pitch them as much as they see a lot of these other teams pitch kids.”
“It’s all about getting these guys in a position to be really good when it matters. It doesn’t matter right now. It’s going to matter to them in another year or two or three.”
Another major aspect in the development of players is playing against great competition. Playing teams from California, Texas, and the Southeast really allow teams to find out exactly how good they are. The kids from Ohio came down to Georgia to see exactly how good they are against some of the best competition. So far, they look like one of the top contenders in this national championship.
“It just makes the kids better,” Conley said about playing in tournaments like this one. “We have one of the most talented groups of kids in this tournament. There’s no question. I think a lot of people would agree with that. It makes them better playing against better competition. It makes them play a little bit more under pressure, and it makes them realize how good they really are.”
With three pool games left, the Tribe will be tested. They are set to face two solid teams in the Indiana D1 Hoosiers and the MyScoutDay-Best, along with their biggest game coming against the South Texas Sliders on Thursday who are also undefeated at 4-0. They have passed every test so far. And, with a ton of pitching left and an offense that gets the job done, Midland seems primed to continue their successful tradition and make a huge mark in this tournament.