MARIETTA, Ga. -- In the five years Ryan Childs has been a fulltime instructor and head coach at the Peachtree City, Ga.-based Home Plate baseball organization, he's dealt with players at just about every age group.
Childs was at the East Cobb Baseball Complex Wednesday coaching the Home Plate Chili Dogs 16u Childs squad, one of two Home Plate Chili Dogs 16u team playing at this week's 16u Perfect Game-East Cobb Invitational. Home Plate also has three Chili Dog teams playing in the 14u/15u PG-EC Invitational and two more playing in the 17u/18u PG-EC Invitational.
All of the fulltime employees at Home Plate coach a youth team in the spring and then coach a high school-aged team in the summer. Childs enjoys working with the older kids.
"The younger guys are fun and they kind of keep you on your toes, and you have to do a lot of teaching," he said Wednesday. "Here, you're teaching the subtle little things, the things that would go over the heads of the younger kids. So for me from the baseball side, this age group is kind of more my speed, a little more fun to work with. You don't have to have to say stuff like, 'Hey, get your glove down' or things like that."
The Chili Dogs 16u Childs are one of 64 teams vying for the championship at this week's 16u PG-EC Invitational. The Indiana Prospects 16u won last year's rain-shortened tournament using a tie-breaker formula, but the Prospects aren't a part of this year's field. The powerhouse East Cobb Astros 16u Grey and East Cobb Astros 15u are the likely favorites, but the Chili Dogs 16u Childs know they can compete.
Most of this group of Dogs come from the communities of Fayetteville and Newnan, about a half hour drive south of Atlanta. Eight of the players on the roster attend Whitewater High School in Fayetteville and four others attend Northgate High School in Newnan.
"A lot of these guys have been playing with each other or against each other for a long time," Childs said. "They're a real hard working group and they're a lot of fun to watch play; they make my job pretty easy. They're aggressive, they're a good group of kids and they have a chance to do real for themselves this summer."
Not unlike just about every other team in the tournament this week, HP Chili Dogs 16u Childs will go only as far as their arsenal of arms will carry them, and Childs thinks that could be pretty far. Right-handers Jeremiah Woods (2015, Fayetteville, Ga.), Tyler Sellers (2015, Locust Grove, Ga.), Dalton Chocallo (2015, Newnan, Ga.) and Ben Hughlon (2015, Fayetteville, Ga.) lead the staff.
Sellers is ranked as a "high follow" in the national class of 2015 and No. 41 in the state of Georgia PG prospect rankings. He is also ranked as Georgia's No. 12 right-handed pitching prospect in his class.
Hughlon started the team's tournament-opener late Wednesday morning -- a 5-1 win over BOSS Athletics -- and gave up one unearned run on two hits with three strikeouts and a walk in three innings. Right-handers Chad Green and C.J. Ballard came on to pitch the final four shutout innings and the threesome combined on a three-hitter with six strikeouts and three walks.
"We'll do fine," Childs said of his pitching corps. "Last weekend we played five games and we didn't even get to use all of them. I've had 17-year-olds the last three years and this is my first year with the 16s, but the 17s have more pitcher-onlys; they're a little easier to manage. With these guys, we still have some guys that are going both ways so the challenge me and coach (Kyle) Bedrosian is to make sure they're rested before they pitch.
"This one needs to be a lot more planned out from a lineup standpoint; we have to make sure we don't have a guy out there running around if he's going to pitch the next game. So it's not a bad problem to have, having too many (pitchers)."
Middle-infielder Casey Selfe (2015, McDonough, Ga.) doubled, tripled and drove in two runs to lead the Chili Dogs 16u Childs at the plate in Wednesday's opener.
Home Plate Baseball will celebrate its 11th birthday in November. Childs said the program is growing "but we're trying not to grow too much" and pointed out that for the first time Home Plate has two teams at the 15u, 16u and 17u levels.
"Our whole thing with the youth teams is to get those kids ready to play high school ball and at this level to get them ready and help facilitate the process to get them to college or pro ball."
The 16 pool champions at all three PG-EC Invitationals advance to the playoffs, which won't be seeded. The champion in Pool A will play the champion in Pool B, Pool C plays Pool D and so on down the line. Home Plate Chilidogs 16u Childs is in Pool C with BOSS Athletics, the Doubleday Yankees and the East Cobb Padres 16u. The corresponding Pool D features the Bullpen Diamond Dogs, the East Cobb Patriots 16u Blue, the Georgia Jackets 16u and the Middle GA Titans 2015's.
Winning the Pool C championship will be a suitable challenge for the HP Chili Dogs 16u Childs. Advancing to the quarterfinals with a win over the Pool D champion will be an even stiffer one.
"We played in a round-robin tournament last week and for the kids there was no pressure, they could just go out there and play; hopefully they don't feel any pressure this weekend," Childs said. "This will be a challenge but we pride ourselves on pitching and defense ... so if we cannot walk people and keep people off the bases by making routine plays, I think we'll be all right.
"I have high expectations and hopefully (the players) do, too. We did well last weekend so their confidence and as far as where they're at mentally, they should be just fine."