Perfect Game USA is announcing its preseason national Top 25 rankings this week. We began Monday by introducing the East Cobb Astros as the No.1 team in our 14U rankings, followed Tuesday with the Dulin Dodgers as the top club in the 15U ratings. Today’s focus is on the Houston Banditos Black as the No.1 team in the 16U rankings. We’ll announce the top team in the 17U ratings on Thursday and the No.1 club in the 18U ratings on Friday. We’ll announce the teams that received Honorable Mention in all five age groups next week.
16U Travel Team Rankings
Ray DeLeon hasn’t gotten much sleep this week. He didn’t get to bed until 5 a.m. on Tuesday after working through the night, and he sounded a little drowsy when he answered the phone Wednesday morning.
“Been working hard,” he said.
It’s been a weary labor of love.
DeLeon is the founder/director of the Houston Banditos Baseball Club, one of the elite youth baseball programs in the country. They held their tryouts last weekend, and DeLeon has been sorting through 30 teams and nearly 400 players, putting his rosters together.
It’s a long process, but DeLeon undoubtedly will be happy with the results.
Perfect Game USA has picked the Houston Banditos Black team as the No.1 club in our 16U preseason rankings, a testament to the talent in their overall program. Many members of the Banditos Class of 2012 – currently high school sophomores – will play for the Banditos 17U team against older competition this summer, but they’ll reassemble for some of the elite 16U tournaments this summer, including the 16U WWBA.
Courtney Hawkins, Cory Geisler, C.J. Hinojosa, Jarred Greene, Austin Dean and JoJo Hernandez – all members of the Banditos’ talented Class of 2012 – were honored as members of the Rawlings Preseason All-American team for underclassmen this spring. Hinojosa and Dean already have committed to the University of Texas, and the others are being heavily recruited as well.
“They’re just a special group that doesn’t come along very often,” DeLeon remarked.
Until next year, maybe. “The 2013 Class is just as good,” he said.
Hernandez, a member of the Banditos program since he was 12, has been on a torrid pace in Texas 4A baseball this spring for Rockwall Heath High School, which was sitting at 34-0 and ranked No.1 in the country by USA Today at last report. Hernandez was hitting .560 with eight homers, 41 RBIs and a 3-0 record on the mound.
“JoJo is just a flat-out stud. He’s got it all,” DeLeon said. “And he’s getting better every day.”
Hernandez can play any position on the field, but DeLeon thinks his best spot will be behind the plate as time goes by. “He could do it all,” DeLeon remarked.
DeLeon said that “97 percent” of the players in the Banditos program live in the Houston metropolitan area, and all of them – 100 percent – live in Texas. The Banditos have won 38 national titles and 93 state titles since the program was formed in 1996.
“It’s just mind-boggling, how every year the talent level continues to get better. It’s just crazy,” he said. “It’s everywhere. It’s not just our program.”
It’s enough to cost someone a few hours of sleep, trying to put it all together.