As grandly as 2012 treated the Dallas Patriots Baseball organization and founder, CEO and head coach Logan Stout, it still should surprise no one that Stout is welcoming the 2013 season with arms as wide open as the central Texas plains.
Stout, who founded the Dallas Patriots program in 2000 and opened up his first state-of-the-art indoor training facility in Plano, Texas, in 2008, minces no words when asked to assess the organization’s standing as this year comes to a close.
“2012 was the best year that we’ve ever had,” Stout said in a recent telephone conversation with Perfect Game. “I know I say that every year, but it really was. And we’re really excited about 2013.”
With more than 65 teams in age groups 6u through 18u, Dallas Patriots Baseball is established as one of the nation’s elite organizations. Top prospects from across the state of Texas strive to be part of the program and use it as a ladder to baseball’s next level.
According to the website dallaspatriots.com, at least 35 Patriots alumni from the class of 2012 – which is to say all of them – went on to play college baseball, including several to Division I schools like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M, Texas Tech, Missouri and Wake Forest. Most of the 2013s are busy solidifying their college plans.
“That’s obviously our goal – 100 percent of our graduates get to (play college ball) – and we hit that goal again,” Stout said. He added that another positive development to come out of 2012 was that the Patriots’ second indoor training facility in the Dallas area had been up-and-running for a year, which will enable it to serve even more young prospects.
The Patriots older age-group teams didn’t experience the on-field triumphs of some past groups, but that isn’t how Stout measures his program’s successes. The 2013 class didn’t win a Perfect Game tournament during the 2012 season, although a team consisting primarily of 2013s and 2014s did finish in a tie for third place at the rain-shortened PG WWBA South Qualifier.
The top prospect on the team Stout sent to the WWBA South Qualifier was 2014 right-hander/third baseman Connor McMann from Flower Mound, Texas. McMann is ranked 319th nationally in his class and is uncommitted. Right-hander Holden Grounds (2013, Corsicana, Texas) had committed to Texas State, the only player on the roster committed when the South Qualifier commenced.
“Our 2013 and 2014 groups are going to be great,” he said, speaking of college commitments. “We’ve got some kids that have already committed but we’ve got a bunch of really, really good Division I caliber players that haven’t even committed yet. It should make for some good recruiting (trips) for the colleges to come see our guys. Normally, by this stage, all of our guys have usually committed, so this is a unique situation where we still have some really good guys available.”
Make no mistake that the excitement Stout has trouble containing when he talks about the Patriots’ program emanates from his group of 14-year-olds from the classes of 2015 and 2016. Fourteen young Texas teenagers playing under the Dallas Patriots Stout banner teamed to win a co-championship (with the EvoShield Canes) at the 14u PG BCS Finals in July; finish as runner-up at the PG WWBA 2016 Grads or 14u National Championship, also in July; and as runner-up again at the inaugural 14u Perfect Game World Series the first week in August.
Stout has coached the core of this 14u group since they were 9 and 10 years old, and he’s enjoyed watching them develop into talented players who are still in their early teens, still learning the game and improving each day.
“I wouldn’t put anything against those kids,” he said. “They’re just great kids and they play as a team, and anybody that has selfish motives, they get weeded-out pretty quick. They play the game the way the game was designed to be played and because of that, they’ve had the success that they’ve had.
“I’m really excited about them because I think they’ll be just as good if not better than my 2011 group.”
That collection of prospects from the class of 2011 that played in the 2010 PG WWBA World Championship included 15 players who had committed to Division I schools, many of whom were later drafted. Shortstop Trevor Story was a first-round compensation pick of the Colorado Rockies and outfielder Josh Bell was taken in the second round by the Pittsburgh Pirates despite his insistence that he was going to the University of Texas.
That was an incomparable group, but Stout isn’t shy about touting this group that will play primarily at the 15u and 16u levels next year as its equal.
“They are definitely ultra-talented,” he said. “The biggest thing, as I’ve said, that sets them apart is they play together as a team. They understand that it’s about teamwork … and if you play as a team and you perform like you’re supposed to, you’re going to have great opportunities beyond high school.”
The Dallas Patriots Stout 14u squad put together a combined record of 23-2 at the three PG national tournaments. The losses came in the championship games of the WWBA 14u National Championship and at the 14u PG World Series.
It’s a team led by third baseman Michael Neustifter, an impressive 6-foot, 185-pound 2016 prospect from Carrollton, Texas, who was named the Most Valuable Player at both the WWBA 14u National Championship and at the 14u PG BCS Finals. He hit .600 (12-for-22) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBI and nine runs scored at the BCS Finals, and .550 (11-for-20) with two doubles, a home run, 12 RBI and three runs at the WWBA 14u National Championship.
The Pats’ players were well-decorated at all three events, especially at the 14u PGWS. They put nine players on the all-tournament team, and Neustifter, outfielder Blake Frasier (2016, Garland, Texas) and right-hander Cody Sturgeon (2016, Garland, Texas) were named to the elite Louisville Slugger MLB Prime Nine, a distinction earned by the tournament’s nine most prominent offensive players.
Sturgeon was also named the event’s Most Valuable Pitcher after working 9 1/3 innings and allowing one earned run (0.75 ERA) on six hits while striking out five.
The Patriots put nine players on the 14u PG BCS Finals all-tournament team and eight on the WWBA 14u National Championship honor squad. Neustifter, Sturgeon, Frasier, middle-infielder Austin De Leon (2016, Frisco, Texas) and second baseman/outfielder Alex Jackson (2016, Double Oak, Texas) were selected to the all-tourney teams at all three PG national tournaments.
Stout pointed out that his 14u team played last summer without Jordan Roberts, perhaps its best prospect from the class of 2016. Roberts is a 6-foot-3, 183-pound left-handed pitcher from Euless, Texas who, according to Stout, flashed a mid- to upper-80s fastball as a 14-year-old (he’ll turn 15 on Jan. 1). He didn’t pitch this summer while experiencing a phenomenal growth spurt.
“He’s special. Very special,” Stout said. “I don’t throw this out there lightly … but assuming he continues to develop I’d be shocked if he’s not a first round draft pick out of high school. I hate to say that because how do you know – he’s still 14 and a freshman in high school – but based on what he already can do, it’s just crazy.”
The best 2015 prospect who was young enough to play on the 14u team is Olajide Oloruntimilehin, an outfielder from Garland, Texas, ranked 79th nationally in his class. With 15 characters in his surname, he can also proudly claim to have the longest last name in Perfect Game archival history.
The challenges Stout now faces with this group is keeping them all together and making sure they and their parents continue to work toward the common goal. He has had tremendous success meeting those challenges in the past simply because of the quality of the young men the program attracts.
“You want kids to believe in themselves but you don’t want kids to think too highly of themselves where they don’t have the right work ethic,” Stout said. “As it pertains to the kids themselves, you’ve just got to keep stretching them. A coach’s job is to stretch their players almost to the point where they break; every time you do that they’re just getting better and better and better. Kids will rise to the level you expect out of them.
“If you expect them to be good, they’re going to be average; if you expect them to be excellent, they’re going to be good; and if you expect them to be the best, they’re going to perform excellently.”
And that, in Stout’s view, is what leads to winning PG national championships. If a kid happens to learn a valuable life lesson or two along the way while striving to meet those expectations, well, that’s all the better.
“I think 2013 is going to be the best year that we’ve ever had,” Stout said, finishing up right where he began. “In my opinion, you’re getting better or you’re getting worse; there’s no such thing as being stagnant. You’ve got to keep pushing yourself and do whatever you’ve got to do to make an impact.”
Stout requires all the players in his organization to put in 20 hours of community service each year and tries to instill a sense of community among his young players. He paused briefly before offering one final thought:
“Life comes and goes and baseball careers come and go. It’s the mark you can leave on a community or the difference you can make in people’s lives that ultimately leaves a legacy.”