CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – Talking to Chain National Burress’ third baseman Brandon Howlett, you would get the sense that he doesn’t know how talented he is. Make no mistake, Howlett is immensely talented and he knows it, but he is one of the more humble players attending this year’s 16u WWBA National Championship.
Howlett is currently Perfect Game’s No. 6 overall player for the class of 2018 and is committed to play baseball at Florida State. The Lakeland, Fla., product really jumped onto the national spotlight at the Junior National Showcase in June in Fort Myers. Scouts were impressed with Howlett’s bat speed, strength, and projectable frame at 6-foot-4.
“It’s an honor, to be honest,” said Howlett on Sunday. “It’s crazy, ever since the Jr. National Showcase, my phone has been blowing up with different people asking me questions. My mom doesn’t even want to deal with it, she just tells me to deal with it.”
Talent aside, Howlett is having the time of his life especially when he is on a baseball field. One of the more obvious traits that anyone, not just scouts, could point out is that Howlett loves being on the field. He is always smiling at third base and remembering to have fun playing the game that he loves.
“I just go out there and have fun,” said Howlett. “That’s pretty much all I can say is not worry about anything and have fun. You play the right way and everything will take care of itself.”
“We’ve had some good players, several first rounders, and he (Howlett) is one of the best players that we’ve ever had,” said Chain National manager Andy Burress. “He does everything right and he’s all smiles on the field. Everyone comes up to me and says, ‘he’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to a big-leaguer at 16 years old.’ That speaks volumes. I’m his coach so of course I like him but when everyone else comes up and says how impressive he is it really makes a difference.”
Howlett is part of a very talented Chain National team whose goal is to win the 16u National Championship. This is the same team that won the 15u and 16u BCS Finals titles a year ago, however they lost in the championship game of the 2015 15u National Championship to the East Cobb Astros. Losing the final game of the season last year has left this team hungry to be fitted for WWBA National Championship rings.
“We want redemption,” said Howlett. “When we came to this tournament we wanted to get two rings instead of one, we won the BCS last year. It makes us work harder to finish and achieve the ultimate goal.”
“This group played very well last year, they were ranked No. 2 in the country coming into this year. We added some good pieces,” added Burress. “This group got beat in the championship last year so you know they’re talented. The biggest thing is taking care of what we’re supposed to do and everything else will fall into place.”
Pitching and defense lead the way for Chain as they play very crisp defense and pound the strike zone. Burress mentioned the word “focus” several times when discussing strategy for the tournament and he made clear that his team needs to remain focused and understanding of the goal.
“For us we need to continue to throw strikes and play good defense,” said Burress. “That’s been our thing and we want to hit fastballs no matter who’s throwing. The approach needs to stay the same. We want to have good at bats. The biggest thing with sixteen year old kids is the mental focus.”
Chain took another step to returning to the championship round with an 11-1 throbbing of Coastal Prospects on Sunday to improve to 4-0. Howlett finished the day going 2-for-2 with one run scored and two RBI to lead the offense. Chain got great pitching performances from both Austin Temple and Conner McDonald who held the Prospects to only two hits and one run scored over seven innings.
There are numerous obstacles that players and coaches have to overcome on the baseball field, whether it be opposing pitching or figuring out a curveball. However, Howlett has had to overcome a lot during his young life, on and off the field. He never met his father and was raised by his mother and his grandfather. Howlett credits them as the reason that he is in the position he is in now.
Without his mother and grandfather, Howlett has no idea where he would be.
“Growing up, that was my goal to play MLB baseball,” said Howlett. “I made a promise to my mom when I was six, because growing up I had no father, that my goal is to work hard and get to the point where, say, I do get some money then I want to give back to her. Without her I wouldn’t be where I am today. My grandpa too, he’s been with me my whole life.”
At such a young age, Howlett has shown a lot of maturity and responsibility. His aforementioned humility has been ingrained at an early age from his mother and grandfather. He has shown the ability to be a leader on and off the field and enjoys his success without boasting it.
Lee Howlett is very proud of the man that his grandson has become. Lee admitted that he has spent a lot of his time not only teaching Brandon about valuable life lessons, but pushing Brandon to be the best that he can be. Lee Howlett has been a father-figure to Brandon and Brandon has certainly grown to be not only a great baseball player, but by all accounts an even better person.
“We’ve had our talks about baseball and about family life,” said Brandon’s grandfather, Lee Howlett. “Outside of here, all kids are going to misbehave, but he knows right from wrong. He’s always been that way and he takes responsibility when he’s wrong. On the baseball field I’m very proud. I have pushed this young man since he’s been playing travel ball at six. When he gets lazy out there I push him, right to this day.
“He understands where it is now, over the last year and a half, he understands where he wants to go and what he wants. I’m very, very proud.”