AUSTIN, Texas – The roster Houston Banditos Black owner and head coach Ray DeLeon posted online for this weekend’s Perfect Game WWBA South Qualifier reads like a college recruiter’s Dream Team.
Not all of the 23 elite prospects from the classes of 2012, 2013 and 2014 listed on the Banditos Black roster were in attendance when the Tomball, Texas-based Banditos opened play at the Perfect Game WWBA South Qualifier at the McNeil High School field Saturday morning, but it was impressive assemblage nonetheless.
According to the roster posted on the PG WWBA South Qualifier event’s homepage, no fewer than 16 Banditos Black team members have already made commitments to Division I schools, and that includes 2014 right-hander Jake Jarvis from Spring, Texas.
“It’s a great group,” DeLeon said before the Banditos Black disposed of the Diamond Dawgs, 13-5 in five innings, in their tournament opener. “A lot of people are taking their SATs and we have some kids who play football so we don’t have everybody, but we’re just here to get some work in and get ready for Jupiter, basically.”
DeLeon was referring to the WWBA World Championship which will be contested Oct. 20-24 in Jupiter, Fla. The champion of the South Qualifier receives a paid invitation to that prestigious Perfect Game event. The Banditos will have a team in Jupiter – about 80 percent of the Black’s roster will be on that team – even if they don’t get the paid invitation.
The core of the Banditos Black roster – quite a few of the 2012 guys – has been playing together in the organization since they were 10 years old. While almost all of them attend different high schools, the group has grown and improved playing together in the Banditos organization.
Included in that core group are 2011 Perfect Game All-Americans C.J. Hinojosa from Spring, Texas, and Courtney Hawkins from Corpus Christi, both of whom were at McNeil High School Saturday morning. Another 2011 PG All-American, Nick Williams from La Marque, Texas, also is on the Banditos Black roster but was unable to be attendance Saturday.
Hinojosa, a middle infielder who is ranked the nation’s No. 14 top prospect, has committed to Texas and plans on enrolling early for the spring semester at UT. Hawkins, an outfielder who is ranked 15th nationally, has committed to Oklahoma and Williams, an outfielder ranked No. 4 nationally, is another Texas commit.
Other top prospects on the roster who have already committed include right-hander/shortstop Ralph Garza (Oklahoma), left-hander Rex Hill (Texas A&M), infielder Austin Dean (Texas) and left-hander Dustin Theiss (Rice). Jarvis, the nation’s No. 5-ranked top prospect in the class of 2014, has committed to Texas.
Some of the other D-I schools that Banditos prospects have already committed to include TCU, Houston, Michigan, Oklahoma State and Rice.
DeLeon has brought this talented group to the Austin and Round Rock area this weekend to use the WWBA South Qualifier as a sort of warm-up the WWBA World Championship three weeks from now. As good as these guys are they can always use some extra work.
“When these kids are using the wood bats you’ve got to learn how to bunt guys over, and at Jupiter every time you get a kid in scoring position it means something,” DeLeon said. “We’re going to use this (to work on) getting guys over, knocking them in, learning how to bunt the ball in the right situations and get kids over – just get some extra reps before the ‘big dance.’
“None of these kids really get a chance, with everything going on in the late summer, to play (baseball) and this is really a great tune-up to get ready.”
That doesn’t mean winning the championship isn’t a point of emphasis.
“We always want to win. Nobody likes to lose,” DeLeon said with a chuckle. “I think we’ve got a chance to make a run at it but, of course, you need a lot of luck and you’ve got to get in the right (pool). There are a lot of good teams here … and we want to win, but we’re basically doing this to get some extra work and see how it works out.”
The Houston Banditos Baseball Club was formed in 1996 and features teams from 6u through 18u. It has grown into one of the nation’s most prominent travel ball organizations with highly regarded teams throughout the organization.
Three Houston Banditos Black teams are highly ranked in the Perfect Game Travel Team National Rankings. The team here this weekend is No. 3 in the 17u rankings; the 16u squad is No. 2 and the 15u team is No. 11. The Banditos 12u team won the 2011 National Youth Baseball Championship at the end of August.
Houston Banditos teams have represented themselves well at Perfect Game events for at least the last five years after the organization first developed its high school program. DeLeon swears by PG.
“Everybody’s got their own leagues and there’s all these other wanna-be recruiting services, and I always just say, ‘People, save your money. This is where it’s at,’” he said. “All of our kids have been recruited so (heavily) just at these Perfect Game events that this is all we do – we don’t do anything else but play in Perfect Game events. Where ever they’re at we go, and our kids are getting looked at. You don’t need anything else but Perfect Game events.”
Houston Banditos Black was scheduled to play a second South Qualifier pool-play game Saturday afternoon against Pro Source Athletics 18u and conclude pool-play Sunday morning against the Killeen Rebels. The first round of the playoffs begins Sunday afternoon, the quarterfinals will be played Sunday night, and the semifinals and championship game will be played Monday at Disch-Falk Field at the University of Texas.
DeLeon couldn’t predict if his team would be playing for a championship Monday afternoon, but he was clear when asked what the organization’s point of emphasis was.
“Just getting to this point,” he said. “If you make it to this point and play at this level, you’re going somewhere. We’ve got 16 guys who have given verbal commits and these guys are role models for all the younger Bandito kids that come up and play. We just come out here and have a bunch of fun and strap it on.
“This is more therapy for me here,” DeLeon continued. “This right here is the fun part of baseball and it’s a great opportunity to just be around these kids. I wish I could be 18 again. These kids have it good.”