16U Travel Team Rankings
Talk about an auspicious beginning.
Canes Baseball, based in Fredericksburg, Va., with an equal presence in Lakeview, N.C., is relatively new to the national scene, with its founding dating back only to 2005. When Canes Baseball decided to introduce itself to the country in the summer of 2005, it did so in a very big way.
That very first Canes’ 16U team traveled to Orlando, Fla., to play in the AAU National Tournament. It was a team of unpretentious high school all-stars from North Carolina – where Coach Jeff Petty lived and coached high school baseball at the time – and promptly went 10-0 in pool play and won five winners’ bracket games before losing in the national championship game.
“That was our first tournament ever,” Petty said. “We literally brought the kids in, we practiced for like three days, and we went down there and played.”
Still fielding just one team, Canes Baseball became a full-time traveling team in 2006, and started attending Perfect Game USA events in 2008.
There are now seven teams under the Canes’ umbrella, and a combination of 17U and 16U teams won four tournament championships this summer, including the Perfect Game 16U WWBA National Championship in July.
The PG 16U National Championship was the second straight for a Canes team as the program joined the East Cobb Astros as the only to win back-to-back 16U championships since the tournament began in 2004.
It was the Canes Green team that won this summer, beating Carolina Cubs Blue, 10-4, in the championship game July 10 at Marietta, Ga. In 2009, Canes North beat the Florida Mustangs to win Canes Baseball's first 16U title. Canes Green has earned the No. 1 spot in Perfect Game's final 16U National Rankings.
Green's Cole Irvin (2012), a 6-3, 160-pound left-hander out of Anaheim, Calif., won the 2010 tournament's Most Valuable Pitcher.
Soon after establishing Canes Baseball, Petty got involved with Doug Collins in North Carolina and the two decided to expand the operation. Petty had moved back to Virginia by then, so he took over the operation there while Collins manned the fort in North Carolina.
“That way we were more than just a one-state program,” Petty said. “We were going to focus on getting the best players we can find from Virginia and North Carolina.”
The expansion continued. Petty is a good friend of James Evans, who is an owner of the National Pitching Association, an organization co-founded by former Major League pitcher Tom House. Evans, who lives in Maryland, has helped Canes Baseball get players from that state and Collins will venture into South Carolina and snag some players from there.
“We’ve been able to get kids from four states with me watching after two states and Doug watching after two states,” Petty said. “You look at our rosters and we have guys from all over the damn place. We won’t go get kids just from one city. Without a doubt, that’s helped to be as successful as we have been.”
Canes Baseball lists 21 coaches on its staff who work with the seven teams from 12U to 17U. Many of them are associate scouts for Major League teams: Petty works with the New York Yankees, Collins with the Milwaukee Brewers, Todd Goodson, Mike Royal and Rob Younce with the Yankees, Tom Willoughby with the Tampa Bay Rays, Mike Petty with the Boston Red Sox and Darin Campbell with the Cincinnati Reds.
The ultimate goal of Canes Baseball is no different than that of the country’s other top travel programs – it wants its players to receive college scholarships. It has also been able to help its players improve their draft status by participating in tournaments up and down the East Coast, including Perfect Game tournaments and showcases.
“The kids are coached and are prepared to be ready when they get to college,” Petty said. “We have, at any given time, probably 30 kids committed to college already. The question will be raised (as to) why are they still playing when they’ve already committed, it’s because we’re trying to get them prepared for college or for the draft. We kind of sell that to our kids after they’ve committed to buy in and continue to play baseball with us, and help them get better so when they step foot on campus they’re not just on the team but they’re ready to compete for a starting position.”
Canes Baseball had four players – all from the Canes 17U North travel team – selected for this year’s prestigious Aflac All-American Classic, which was played Aug. 15 in San Diego. The group consisted of middle infielder/outfielder Josh Tobias, right-handed pitcher Dillon Maples, right-hander Tyler Beede, and outfielder/first baseman/left-hander Jake Cave.
Tobias is the seventh-ranked national prospect and top-ranked North Carolina prospect in Perfect Game’s rankings of the high school class of 2011. Maples is ranked 16th nationally (second in North Carolina), Beede is 17th nationally (first in Massachusetts), and Cave is 29th nationally (second in Virginia).
Tobias has committed to the University of Florida, Maples to the University of North Carolina, Beede to Vanderbilt and Cave to Louisiana State.
“I can only imagine it’s going to be close to that again next year,” Petty said of anticipated Aflac invitations. “We just won the national championship in the 16-year division this past summer with a completely different team. Those are the 2012 graduates, and I think we have some of the better players in the country in that age bracket, too. And we’ve got other guys coming up through the ranks.
“Helping kids has always been No. 1, and it always will be No. 1” he continued. “Winning championships is secondary but it is very important to us. We play competitive baseball and we coach every pitch. Our kids know what to do in first and third situations, picks, and we play enough baseball – we probably play 100 games a year together – they know what’s going on.”
Quite a few of those 100 games are played at Perfect Game tournaments, and Petty plans to take a team to the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 21-25.
“They’re pretty much the measuring stick for where we stand at the national level, and they’re very important to our kids,” Petty said of Perfect Game events. “We play in a lot of other competitive events that our kids take seriously … but ultimately the Perfect Game events are the ones that stick out the most, and our kids kind of dial it up a notch for those events.”
Canes Baseball doesn’t own its own facility but has 10 high school varsity head coaches in Virginia and North Carolina involved in its program. The Canes teams have ready access to those high school playing fields and also play at lot of college fields and stadiums.
In the early years, the growth of Canes Baseball was rapid. Petty said that growth has slowed now that the program has reached comfort level.
“I don’t see us trying to grow into anything else, to be honest with you,” Petty said. “I just think we want to continue to help the kids and stay competitive nationally. That’s been our goal since day one and it will continue to be our goal.”