South Qualifier brings the Heat

Tournaments : : Story
Jeff Dahn        
Published: Monday, September 27, 2010

The Perfect Game WWBA South Qualifier scheduled for Saturday through Monday (Oct. 2-4) in Texas is going to provide one powerhouse program a chance to bring a little heat.

Houston Heat Baseball, under the direction of Phil Cross, will send two teams to the South Qualifier, which has a new home this year.

The Dell Stadium in Round Rock, Texas – the home of the Class AA Round Rock Express – will serve as official tournament site and will host the semifinal and championship games on Monday, Oct. 4. Tournament games will also be played at seven other fields in the area.

The winner of the 32-team tournament receives an automatic paid invitation to the 2010 WWBA World Championship at Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 21-25.

The Houston Heat Silver and Houston Heat White teams will play at the South Qualifier. It will give the players a nice tune-up as they look down the road toward the WWBA World Championship.

“It’s a good tournament for us,” Cross said. “It will be a good chance for our kids to get out and go through the format a little bit before we do get to Jupiter.

“It looks like it’s going to be a wonderful tournament. There are some real good ballclubs in it and that’s what will make it a lot of fun. It looks like this is going to be a nice one.”

All of the competing teams are based in Texas, and they all just may be chasing the Heat all weekend.

Houston Heat Baseball was established in 2001 with two teams, an 18-and-under and a 17-and-under. This summer Heat Baseball had three college-aged teams, four 18U teams, four 16U teams and one 14U team.

“What we hope to achieve with our kids in our program is that every day they continue to become better ballplayers,” Cross said. “We strive for the kids to become better citizens (and) we help with the maturity factor.

“We tell them this is a game of failure and how you handle it. The guys who handle it are going to be the guys who have a chance to move on. … Our goal with this is to get young men ready for collegiate baseball.”

The members of Houston Heat teams don’t fail often.  Well over a hundred former players moved on to play collegiately at some level and dozens more are playing professionally.

On the Heat Silver team that will be Round Rock this weekend, five players have committed verbally to Division I schools: right-handed pitcher Bryan Brickhouse (2011, The Woodlands, Texas) to North Carolina; right-hander Michael Clemens (2011, The Woodlands) to McNeese State; catcher Daniel Mengden (2011, Houston) to Texas A&M; right-hander/infielder Michael Resnick (2011, Houston) to TCU; and outfielder Harris Rome (2011, Houston) to TCU.

Mengden played in the Aflac All-American Classic in August. Former Heat player Anthony Rendon, now at Rice University, was named Baseball America’s College Player of the Year for 2010.

Houston Heat and Perfect Game alumni playing in the Major Leagues include Homer Bailey (Reds), Josh Barfield (Indians), Jay Bruce (Reds), Paul Janis (Reds), Scott Kazmir (Angels), David Murphy (Rangers) and Kyle Drabek (Blue Jays).

The Houston Heat players that have not committed to a college yet will continue to perform in front of coaches and pro scouts at the upcoming WWBA South Qualifier and the WWBA World Championship.

Cross is especially fond of the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship. Houston Heat won the event in 2004 and finished runner-up in 2006. Drabek was named the Most Valuable Pitcher in 2004 when the event was moved from Jupiter to Fort Myers because of a hurricane.

“We really look forward to going down there,” Cross said. “Most of the years we’ve gone there we’ve been in the hunt for the big one. We realize that we’ve always got a target on our back, but that’s OK, that’s what I want for our kids. If your kids have to compete at a higher level because the other guys are getting up to play against you, that’s the way it needs to be.”

Cross doesn’t see Houston Heat Baseball growing much more from where it is today. He just wants to keep giving young players as many opportunities as he can.

“I like where we’re at right now,” Cross said. “There have been a lot of other select organizations crop up in the Houston area and the talent pool is spread a little more thin than it was in the past. But that’s OK. The kids are getting a chance to play baseball and it makes us work harder with kids that we have.”
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