MARIETTA, Ga. – Director of operations and head coach Chad Raley makes only one demand of the prospects that come to play for him at Louisiana-based Marucci Elite Baseball.
Play the game the right way.
“Our whole coaching staff is pretty intense people and I think that kind of spreads over to the players,” Raley said Thursday afternoon at the hot and muggy East Cobb Baseball Complex. “They see us working hard during practice and I think that spills over to them and they want to work hard.
“We preach to them all the time, ‘Play the game the right way,’” he added. “The game of baseball doesn’t need Marucci Elite, we need baseball. It’s going to survive without us.”
Marucci Elite has four teams in Georgia this week, with two participating in the 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational and two others in the 17u/18u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational. Marucci Elite teams won the championship of both of those tournaments in 2010, the event’s inaugural year.
With many of the nation’s most competitive travel ball organizations in attendance here for three tournaments (a 14u/15u event is also being held) that run through Sunday, Raley knows it will be difficult for his teams to repeat last year’s accomplishment.
“It’s very fun, and I think we’ve probably got a bulls-eye on our back and everybody’s going to be gunning for us,” Raley said. “I hope the kids are up to that challenge, and I think they are. We have a special group of kids.
“They’re just baseball players,” he continued. “We don’t have any prima donnas or anything like that – we’ve got a bunch of baseball players that like to get after it and compete. That’s kind of the Marucci Elite way – just compete.”
The team known simply as Marucci Elite opened pool-play Thursday by blanking 5280 Baseball, 6-0, in a game played at the ECB Complex. Left-hander Hunter Devall and righty Matthew Sharp combined on a two-hitter, with Devall striking out 11 and walking none in six scoreless innings.
Shortstop Andrew Velazquez belted a three-run home run and catcher Tyler Moore added a solo shot.
Devall, a senior at Centreville Academy in Mississippi who calls Clinton, La., home, has committed to play collegiately at LSU, one of 14 players on the Marucci Elite roster who have committed to a Division I college.
Other Marucci Elite players in that group include left-hander Zach Irwin from Madison, Miss., who Perfect Game ranks as the No. 64 national prospect in the class of 2012 (No. 2 in Mississippi) and has committed to Ole Miss. There’s also LSU commit Chris Eades, a 6-3, 215-pound catcher from Slidell, La., who is ranked 140th nationally in the 2012 class and No. 3 in Louisiana.
It’s a very talented team, and one that expects to still be playing here late Sunday afternoon.
“The biggest thing that sets this team apart from any other team that I’ve ever coached is that they jelled very quickly,” Raley said. “This the core group of our 16s from last year, and they meshed within a weekend, which is really special. They all know each other, they all like each other, and I think that stems from them just not being prima donnas and just being dirt-bag baseball players.”
Marucci Elite Baseball now has 13 teams under its umbrella from across the country. There’s a team in California, a team in the Texas Panhandle, and other teams in “ArkLaTex” which represents the Arkansas-Louisiana-Texas corridor. Most of the teams are based in Baton Rouge, La.
The PG-EC Invitational represents the first tournament of the season when the Marucci Elite teams are finally at full strength now that their players have completed their high school seasons.
Raley, who is beginning his seventh season at Marucci Elite, said the organization has always enjoyed a strong relationship with Perfect Game.
“They’ve been good to me and they do run the best events in the country and that’s why we come to all of them,” he said. “We send multiple teams to every event because they’re the most scouted, most competitive.
“In Louisiana, there’s not much competition for us, so we’ve got to get out and play the best competition. Perfect Game attracts the best teams from throughout the country, and that’s the guys we want to play. We don’t want to shy away from anybody.”
And they want to play the game right way.