WALESKA, Ga. – Flashback to 2004 when the Houston Kyle Chapman team came to Atlanta for the 17u WWBA National Championship. On the squad was Arizona Diamondbacks all-star Paul Goldschmidt. Back then, though, he was not the star of the team, but he did play a part in the team winning the title that year.
Now flash forward to this past weekend. The Diamondbacks were playing the Atlanta Braves in a three-game series in Atlanta. On Saturday after his day game, he met up with the present Houston Kyle Chapman team, who is here for this year’s 17u WWBA National Championship, for dinner.
Goldschmidt’s former coach Mike Rutledge, who is the coach of the present team, told the story of how Goldschmidt asked the team if anyone had put a bunt down during a game yet. One of the players on the team responded by saying, “I had to bunt first strike, second strike, and third strike.” Goldschmidt laughed and told the team they were keeping up the legacy of Kyle Chapman baseball.
This year’s squad is not only keeping up the legacy of the organization, but they are also keeping up with the tradition of having top talent.
Christifer Andritsos is a very talented player who has a lot of upside. His 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame allows him to be a force on the mound and at the plate. In the team’s opening game of the tournament, he went five strong innings and allowed just an earned run and five hits, while striking out nine. His control was dominant in that he threw 75 percent of his pitches for strikes and walked nobody. Even more impressive was the fact that his fastball sat between 90 and 92 mph (miles per hour) all day, while touching 94 mph.
He also added two hits at the plate to lead his team to a 4-2 victory over the Tennessee Baseball Club. His pitching performance was reminiscent of the one he put in at the National Showcase earlier this summer in Fort Myers, Florida where he allowed just two hits in his two-inning outing. His fastball, like Friday, crept up to 94 mph, and he was effective with his location.
“Fort Myers was fun,” Andritsos said. “It was a great time down there. I threw the ball well down there. So, I just came out here and tried to build on that.”
Andritsos is a product of The Woodlands High School in The Woodlands, Texas, an area outside of Houston. Like Houston Kyle Chapman, Andritsos’ high school is known for their baseball talent. Names like Jameson Taillon, a first round draft pick of the Pirates in 2010, major leaguer Kyle Drabek, and even Paul Goldschmidt wore the coveted Highlander jersey.
Following in the footsteps of these players, especially Goldschmidt with the Houston Kyle Chapman connection as well, is something that Andritsos is excited to do. He also enjoys playing for a school that is nationally recognized.
“The Woodlands being known as a powerhouse for everyone that has come through there; Goldschmidt, Drabek, Jameson Taillon, it’s kind of a big pressure role,” Andritsos said. “But, I enjoy it a lot, and we see everyone’s best. It’s not easy baseball down there especially just writing The Woodlands across your chest on the jersey, you get a big target on you.”
Andritsos is a huge supporter of the game of baseball. Coming from Texas, baseball is not the most loved sport in the state. But, in his mind, the level of competition and the atmosphere that baseball brings to the state is something he feels compares favorably to the attention football brings.
“Baseball in Texas, everyone wants to say it’s second to football,” Andritsos said. “But, if you look out there to how many people are playing baseball from Texas I think it rivals football but nobody will admit that. So, it’s a big stage down there.”
The next step for Andritsos after his career at The Woodlands is college, for now. He has committed to play at Oklahoma, a place he is very familiar with. Since he was young he has been going there considering his dad went there and his sister attends the school now. Depending on how next year’s draft pans out will determine whether he follows the Andritsos trend and steps on campus in Norman come the fall of 2015.
His baseball future will be strongly influenced by what his future coaches want him to do. Andritsos is a solid two-way player that can drive the ball out of the ballpark from the right side. Based on whether his future team, whether it is in college or the minor leagues, like him on the mound more or at the plate more will determine if he continues to be a two-way guy after high school.
“I think he’s one of these guys that from what I’ve talked to some of the scouts, some of them like him as pitcher some like him as a hitter,” Rutledge said. “The guys that like him as a hitter would probably let him hit first and then if he didn’t do well they would pitch him.”
Andritsos gets a lot of looks because of all of the events he attends, and that is a testament to his love for the game. But, his busy schedule makes it hard for him, especially as a pitcher, to throw as much as he would like to for his team. Still, he continues to think of his team and his teammates above all and wants to do what he can for his guys.
“He goes to obviously a lot of events that other players don’t, and he’s really good about ‘Mr. Rutledge, I want to play one or two games a weekend,” Rutledge said. “I can’t play all of them because I’m doing this other stuff, but I want to be part of the team. I don’t want to just show up in big tournaments.’”
The importance of team is shown in the way Andritsos bonds with his teammates. According to his coach, he is “not a ra-ra guy,” but his intensity is something that riles up the team. Rutledge also raves about the way he seeks to help the rest of the guys on the team.
“He does not in any way with his tower or whatever put another guy down. He encourages and builds them up,” Rutledge said. “And, he tries to give them a tip of what might help them, but he also knows what works for him may not work for somebody else. So, he’s a great Kyle Chapman player. We recruit good young men first and baseball players second, and that’s what Chris Andritsos is.”
The team took their 3-0 record into their game Monday against the Team Elite Roadrunners at Reinhardt University. With Team Elite also sporting a 3-0 record, this game was one that had major implications in the pool. After trailing 2-0 for most of the game, Houston Kyle Chapman picked up a run in the bottom of the sixth and one in the bottom of the seventh to end the game in a tie.
The tie kept them in strong position to win the pool, and it will be an interesting next couple of days as they have the same record and have allowed the same amount of runs as Team Elite.
Looking to Andritsos for his leadership and impactful play, the Houston Kyle Chapman team is looking to breakthrough to the playoff round of the tournament. Being able to throw Andritsos one more time in the tournament will be important for this team in the near future. Having him rub off on the other guys on the team could spring this team into a chance at a title; one they have been looking for since 2004.