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Tournaments  | Story  | 9/12/2015

SACSN NT plays with purpose

Jeff Dahn     
Photo: Perfect Game

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Student Athlete Community Service Network (SACSN) National Team is back in the desert for the third straight year this weekend and up to its same old tricks. These tricks aren’t tired by any means; in fact, they’re very much tried and true.

When the SACSN National Team shows up at one of the two Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championships in mid-September, the only thing that follows in its wake is winning baseball and a lot of really good will that walks stride-by-stride with a commitment to community service.

The Jupiter, Fla.-based SACSN organization was first put into place in 2013 by Frank Torre Jr. with the goal of getting “student-athletes out in their community and out doing good things off the baseball field as far as performing community service in many facets,” Torre Jr. told PG shortly after the group first organized.

Working in conjunction with the Joe Torre Foundation – Frank Torre Jr. is Joe Torre’s nephew – the group’s stated mission is to provide student-athletes with a “great way to build leadership qualities, build volunteer hours, network within your community and ‘stand out’ during the college application process.”

On several occasions over the last three years, Torre Jr. has assembled veritable all-star teams to compete at selected high-level Perfect Game tournaments, and they can’t help but be competitive. A SACSN National Team roster finished runner-up at last year’s PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) tournament.

The SACSN National Team is back in the Valley this weekend for the 7th annual PG/EvoShield National Championship (Underclass) tournament this time boasting an eye-popping roster filled with dozens of top prospects from the national high school class of 2017, along with a few very special 2018s added to the electric mix.

Exactly how eye-popping? These prospects have been brought together from big cities and small towns from at least 15 states; 15 of them are ranked in the top-300 in their respective classes' PG national prospect rankings; 15 have committed to 12 high-profile NCAA Division-I universities at least two years before they will graduate from high school.

Each one of these prospects puts in full-time duty with many of the top travel ball organizations from across the country during the summer and fall PG tournament seasons. They are only invited to be a part of the SACSN NT after it is determined their own specific travel ball team will not be in attendance at the event SACSN will compete at.

Don’t attempt to identify the prospects here this weekend by the name on the back of their jerseys, either. The members of this SACSN National Team have been raising funds and awareness in an effort to combat bullying, and each player wears the words “Don’t Bully” on his back.

Louisville, Ky. … Glen Burnie, Md. … Ossining, N.Y. … West Wildwood, N.J. … Memphis, Tenn. … Chandler, Ariz. … Houston, Miss. …

They come from cities big and small and many of the nation’s top 2017s are on board this weekend, arriving from states as far-reaching as Maryland and Arizona. The headliners are difficult to distinguish from the second tier simply because the line of demarcation is blurred at best. The No. 6 (Jordon Adell), No. 7 (Cole Turney), No. 27 (Altoon Coleman), No. 43 (Noah Campbell) and No. 59 (Weston Bizzle) ranked 2017 prospects are on the roster, so that could be called a nice place to start.

They are joined by the No. 33 (Chase Sanguinetti) and No. 68 (Jacob Plennigs) ranked prospects from the 2018 class. Every prospect just mentioned – with the exception of Plennigs – has already made a D-I commitment.

Louisville … Maryland … North Carolina … Penn … Vanderbilt … Stanford …

Words like “dynamic” and “electric” are often used to describe Louisville, Ky., outfielder Jordon Adell, and he’s in the SACSN lineup after a summer in which the U. of Louisville commit rocketed to the No. 6 position in the national rankings.

“It’s been awesome getting to know everybody,” Adell said Saturday. “I’ve played against or with just about everybody throughout the years and I pretty much know most of the guys on the team. It’s kind of cool to come together and be a part of this tournament.”

Adell was like a comet streaking through the sky during his breakout performance at the PG Junior National Showcase in Fort Myers, Fla., in June, an event at which he was named the top prospect after throwing 97 mph from the outfield and running a 6.47-second 60-yard dash (he also hit and pitched at a very high level.)

After leaving Fort Myers, Adell suited up for three different EvoShield Canes teams and was named to the all-tournament honor squads at the 16u PG WWBA National Championship and the 16u PG World Series. He is especially excited about the community service aspect that his inclusion with the SACSN NT involves.

“It’s always important for me to set an example,” he said. “Now that I feel I’m a part of something (special) it’s really important for me to be a role model I need to show myself the best that I can.”

Durham, N.C. … Mount Dora, Fla. … San Diego, Calif. … Leesburg, Va. … Shroudsburg, Pa. … Fairfield, Ohio … Richmond, Texas …

Richmond, Texas, outfield standout Cole Turney enjoyed a summer of sunshine similar to Adell’s in that one breakout performance at a PG showcase sent him shooting up the 2017 prospect rankings. He came into the PG/EvoShield National Underclass ranked one spot behind Adell at No. 7.

Turney, an Arkansas commit, took his turn in the spotlight at the PG Underclass All-American Games in San Diego in early August, where he was named the top prospect primarily because of the way he handles a bat from the left side of the plate. Turney usually wears the uniform of the South Texas Sliders in the summer and the fall, but is thrilled to have the opportunity to wear the SACSN colors this weekend.

“We’re playing for something much bigger than what we usually play for,” he said. “I want to play to make a difference and inspire others and this is a good place to learn about it and go from here. You’ve got ‘Don’t Bully’ on the back of your jersey and you’re coming here to play for something. A lot of people see that, so you want to give it 100 percent – 110, 150 percent – and show them what you’re here for.”

Turney admitted that he didn’t know anyone on this SACSN National Team roster until he arrived in the Valley a couple of days ago, but loves the fact that he’s been given the opportunity to make a boatload of new friends who also happen to be terrific ballplayers and share his desire to compete at the highest level.

“These are the people you want to be surrounded by,” he said. “Being surrounded by people with the same goals helps you strive to come together and pursue even bigger goals; it helps you accomplish even more.”

South Carolina … Florida State … Indiana … Miami … Mississippi … Arkansas …

No. 123-ranked 2017 catcher/outfielder Brock Mathis from Fairfield, Ohio, joins Adell as a Louisville commit and comes across as exactly the type of young man Torre Jr. is looking for when he puts together the SACSN National Team roster.

Mathis was named to the Top Prospect List at the PG Jr. National Showcase and is another member of the proud EvoShield Canes organization; he displays a very real appreciation for where he’s at this weekend.

“It’s a great honor to be playing with the Canes, and the Lord’s blessed me to be able to do that,” he said Saturday. “Just the blessing that He’s given me to even be here and be a part of this is great … and to be able to come down here and wear ‘Don’t Bully’ on our backs.

“For the people around here (in the Valley) that we go and visit and do community service for, it’s just a great time; the (SACSN) coaches are great people.”

Adell, No. 226-ranked right-hander and South Carolina recruit Shane Roberts from Jupiter, Fla., and No. 143-ranked shortstop and Maryland commit Jeremy Arocho from Glen Burnie, Md., were teammates of Mathis’ with the Canes this summer.

“When you combine other guys with those guys that you get to meet and you get to hang out with, you become a family down here in Arizona; it’s really cool,” he said. “Coming down here, I’m preparing myself not only for (this) but for the fall, getting ready to go down to Jupiter (PG WWBA World Championship) and Fort Myers (PG WWBA Underclass World Championship); it’s really a great time.”

As one of the few 2018s on the roster, it would be easy to excuse first baseman Chase Sanguinetti from Tampa, Fla., if he feels somewhat overwhelmed. But, in fact, he has shown no signs of that whatsoever, and as the No. 33-ranked prospect in his class who has already committed to Florida State, there is absolutely no reason he should feel out of place.

“It’s been amazing,” said Sanguinetti, who is used to the bright lights and big stages of PG national championship-level tournament play as a member of the FTB Pride. “This is probably one of the best groups of kids I’ve ever played with and I love the cause that we’re playing for; we’re playing for more than baseball at this tournament.”

The SACSN National Team won its pool championship with a 3-0 record, and by outscoring its three opponents by a combined 25-2 put itself in position for a top-six seed in the 20-team playoffs that begin Sunday. The semifinals and championship game will be played Monday morning at Camelback Ranch Stadium.

This is a squad that was built to win ballgames and win them impressively, but it’s also one that plays for a slightly higher purpose.

“It’s special because I know a lot of these players are the best players in the country. I’m just blessed to be a part of this be able to play with them,” Sanguinetti said. “When we’re out there on the field we can kind of feed off each other; it’s special. We expect to be playing on Monday – that’s our goal and our expectation.”