FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Cordova, Tenn.,-based Dulins Dodgers 16u squad came down here to the Perfect Game 16u BCS Finals with the same goal every Dulins Dodgers team has when it attends PG events.
It wants to take home championship gold.
“We come here to win. I don’t like to lose,” Dulins Baseball founder and coach Tim Dulin said Sunday morning at Terry Park before his team was to play its second game of the six-day 16u BCS Finals. “We don’t put our pitchers in jeopardy by extending them too far, but it is about winning because I believe winning makes all the players champions.”
The Dodgers 16u beat the Palm Beach Rockets on Saturday and Gatorade Baseball Academy on Sunday by identical 6-5 scores. They were scheduled to play their third and final first-round pool play game Sunday afternoon against Lookouts Baseball at City of Palms Park.
At mid-afternoon on an exceptionally hot and steamy day in southwest Florida, the Dulins Dodgers 16u team was right where it wanted to be.
“We look forward to coming down here every year; we’ve been down here since the inception of it,” Dulin said of the BCS Finals. “We’ve grown from having just an 18-and-under team to having teams from 13 all the way to 18, and we bring all of our teams down here to play in both the BCS and the World Wood Bat.”
Dulins Dodgers Baseball has enjoyed a tremendous amount of success at both PG BCS and WWBA tournaments. This 16u team won the BCS Finals and the WWBA Nationals as a 14u group two years ago, and was the runner-up at the 15u WWBA National Championship last year.
“We’ve had a lot of success and we really enjoy it,” Dulin said. “The competition is great, and the way that (PG National BCS Director) Ben Ford and the organization run the events, it’s where we want to be.”
This year’s 16u team may be one of Dulins’ best. Middle-infielder Dalton Dulin and right-hander Cheyne Bickel – both in the class of 2013 – have already verbally committed to Ole Miss. Class of 2014 shortstop/right-hander Cameron Varga has committed to Florida.
Bickel, from North Palm Beach, Fla., is ranked the No. 64 top national prospect in his class (No. 11 in Florida) by Perfect Game. Dalton Dulin, from Memphis and Tim Dulin’s son, is ranked No. 93 nationally and No. 1 in Tennessee.
Other top arms on the Dodgers 16u staff include right-handers Brett Hanewich from Bradenton, Fla. (No. 24 nation, No. 4 Florida) and Austin Sexton from Madison, Ala., (No. 97 nation, No. 7 Alabama).
“We have a very good club here with this 16-and-under team,” Dulin said. “We’ve got several SEC commitments already, we have several kids who we feel like have a chance to get drafted (in 2013), and it’s just a fun club to be around.”
Putting a team of this caliber together doesn’t happen overnight.
“We do a lot of homework that helps us find the right kids. Not necessarily the best players, but kids who have the right makeup, that understand, and that have the same goals,” Dulin said. “I think our chemistry is really good, and we do it throughout our whole organization.”
Hundreds of quality players have come through the Dulins Dodgers organization over the years, and two alumni – Matt Cain with the San Francisco Giants and Julio Borbon with the Texas Rangers – played in last year’s MLB World Series.
“The majority of our kids play at the high D-I level and those are the kids we get in the program early and they kind of get it, you know,” said Dulin, who was a second round pick of the Baltimore Orioles in 1986 and played six years professionally. He owns and operates the Dulins Sports Complex and has been a coach and instructor for 25 years.
“I’ve played a long time and I’ve been in the business for a long time and we have a big teaching academy in the Memphis area,” Dulin said. “First and foremost, it is about the kids and it’s about getting exposure; it’s about playing in front of scouts and playing at a high level to hopefully get them ready to play, whether it’s in college or as a professional.”
The BCS Finals are using the BBCOR-3 bat in four of its five age-group tournaments over the next three weeks, with the 14u event the only exception. Dulin was originally a BBCOR bat skeptic, unsure of how its lack of pop would affect the game at the collegiate and high school level. He has slowly come around.
“You look at this year and how it’s transitioned, and I think college baseball thrived. Home runs were down but the game of baseball kind of got back into bunting and defense and strategizing,” he said. “I think it still boils down to if you square-up on balls and hit them in the sweet spot, they still go. Pitchers are able to pitch inside and hitters have got to be better hitters.”
The bats may change but the goals of Dulins Dodgers Baseball will remain the same, especially when one of its teams arrives at a PG tournament.
“It’s been a lot of fun, and events like these are special because you can’t replace times like this, whether it’s with your family or with your son or your players,” Dulin said. “We like where we’re going.”