Tournaments | Story | 7/12/2016

Tri State legacy continues

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – Tri State Arsenal enters the 2016 16u National Championship as the defending champions of the tournament. A northeast-based team, Arsenal has improved to 5-0 in pool play and look to be in prime position to defend their title.

The organization’s founder Joe Barth and his son Bob have had an immense impact on the organization. Taking strategies and philosophies from old Legion baseball teams, this organization has prided itself on playing fast, playing hard and wearing opposing teams out.

“It all starts with Joe Barth,” said manager Justin Carter. “He’s the head honcho and he started this way back when. He and Bob, his son, really found the guys and Joe’s system that he started with Brooklawn, one of the big Legion baseball powerhouses back in the day, and how they played baseball. A little small ball and a lot of pressure and that came right through to the Arsenal program. I played through the system and those guys taught me everything I know about baseball, along with the other coaches there.

“The northeast was smaller back then, there weren’t as many teams, so a lot of the elite guys started flocking towards Joe and Bob. It’s a different kind of culture. We want guys who love being on the field every second and who care more about the team goal rather than the individual. The biggest thing with Arsenal is that we always seem to find guys who have great chemistry and play for each other. They really care about the organization and that’s my biggest thing: care about who you play for, care about who you represent and what’s on your shirt.”

Carter and his players clearly have a strong bond as a team and that’s what Carter and the Arsenal program preach. It’s a lot easier to play with teammates who have spent years playing with and who are some of your best friends. Another asset for Arsenal is their team speed and versatility. Carter stresses the importance of pressure and making the opposing team have to play perfect to get their players out. Carter also mentioned that anyone on the team can play any position and that makes a coach’s job easier when he has to make lineup decisions.

“Our defense is fast, the whole team is under a seven-second 60 (yard dash),” said Carter. “Having speed in the infield and having elite speed in the outfield really helps out our pitching. It’s incredible the athletes that we have; it makes my job easier. The best part is they’re all interchangeable. Everyone can play outfield and everyone can play infield. I don’t have too many worries when I have to switch someone or have to make EH switches. The defense is one of our strongest assets.”

The Arsenal program has been built almost like a family. When Barth established the program he focused on building teams, and the organization in general, as one tightly knit group. That helps because last year’s championship team has been giving advice to the younger guys on this year’s team.

“What those guys (last year’s 16u national champion Tri State Arsenal team) did last year and what they did in the 15u (two years ago) losing to the Georgia Jackets in the championship round, it all made that team hungry for when they got to 16u and that was an incredible run,” said Carter. “As this team saw that run last year, it gives them confidence to show them that this can be done. They’ve seen small ball work on the biggest stage against some of the best teams in the country. It is definitely something that motivates them to represent Arsenal and what that team did last year. It was incredible what they did and these guys want to defend the title for them.

“It’s a family. All of these guys know all of those guys and they respect each other. They really want to step it up for the guys that paved the way for them last year and show Joe and Bob that this is a force to be reckoned with.”

“They (last year’s team) always tell us to play hard and that every run matters,” added Charles Mack, the No. 98 overall prospect for the class of 2018 and a Clemson commit. “It could just be a couple of runs that decide whether or not you have a first round bye. We have to play 100% all the time and that we can’t take any game lightly.”

The family element to Arsenal helps them attract elite talent. By instilling a culture of playing for your teammates and coaches, Barth has created an organization that focuses on player development while also developing character.

“Our team is very bonded together,” said Mack, whose two-run home run in the first inning on Monday proved to be all of the runs Tri State would need in a 2-1 win over 643 DP Baseball Mang. “We work together and we play hard together. It’s not really an individual game, although our pitchers and defense are a little individual, but as a team we’re very strong together. We rally behind each other and play great as a team. We have great coaches, Joe Barth and Carter, and they’re always working hard with us and bonding with us. Carter is always telling us what to do and helping us out. The program is very well known as a top program so it’s always good to be on a top team and perform at a high level.”

While team chemistry and overall closeness as a team are crucial to success, so is having talented players and executing strategy. Carter operates under a philosophy of small ball and pressuring opponents. Defense is the team’s biggest strength but don’t count out the pitching and offense either.

“The mindset going into games is to jump ahead early,” said Carter. “Especially with wood bats runs are more of a premium than with metal bats. Executing small ball is huge and jumping out to an early lead is big. The other team has to pay catchup and it eliminates some of the pressure moves that the other team can make. This is a great group of kids they’re loose and they’ve been playing with each other for a couple of years. The mindset is just to do what you do. I’m not going to try to change the way they play the game. Respect the game, respect Joe and Bob, and respect the Arsenal program. Leave it all out on the field.

“We’ve got some arms who throw strikes and they believe in the defense behind them as the defense believes in them on the mound. Offensively this is a strong lineup top to bottom. They all run which puts a lot more pressure on every single ground ball and fly ball. It makes it easier to coach, having a team like this, and it’s fun and one of the most special teams I’ve ever seen, anywhere. They’re a great group of kids and they talk with their bats and their gloves.”

Arsenal, so far, has shown why they are undefeated. They put runs up early and their pitching and defense secures the lead the rest of the way out. Coming into Tuesday’s game against Ohio Elite they have only surrendered three runs in five games. Arsenal looks to be peaking at the right time in the tournament and they will look to win the final two games and secure one of the top seeds in bracket play.

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