Tournaments | Story | 7/19/2016

Causing CHAOS in Georgia

Vincent Cervino        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – CHAOS defeated Team Elite South 9-2 to improve to 6-0, clinch their pool and advance to bracket play on Tuesday at the 2016 15u WWBA National Championship. CHAOS will play their final pool play game on Wednesday and look to remain undefeated to maximize their seeding.

Based out of Baton Rouge, La., CHAOS is a single-team organization and their manager is former MLB and LSU standout Ben McDonald. While attending LSU he was an All-American, Golden Spikes winner, and in the 1989 MLB Draft he was selected first overall by the Baltimore Orioles. He enjoyed a nine-year career playing with the Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers, finishing his career with a 3.91 ERA in nearly 1,300 career innings. He is also a college baseball analyst for ESPN.

McDonald started the organization as a fast-pitch softball program almost 10 years ago. CHAOS came to be when his son was growing up and this team is the entirety of the CHAOS program. They’ve been playing for three years and going up one age division at a time.

“It actually started with fast-pitch girls softball,” said McDonald. “I started a one-team organization 10 years ago with my girls and we started playing fast-pitch softball around the country. We were very successful and we had 12 Division I scholarships on one of our teams and we won two summer league titles. My son came along and I started CHAOS Baseball around three years ago. It’s not the same as a lot of these big organizations with hundreds of kids, this is a one-team organization. We go up an age group every year and this is small; I don’t have the time to have multiple teams in the organization because I do some college baseball commentating. I get with the boys as soon as the College World Series is over and we start playing.

“It’s kids mostly from the Baton Rouge area and we have some kids from Mississippi and Northern Louisiana. This is a young team but we’ve had a lot of success; we finished third in the BCS last year with 11 kids. I’m learning through this process that you need pitching so I brought a couple extra arms this year. This is an exciting team with young, talented kids that I picked up from that area who are working pretty hard. We had one kid commit to UL the other day and (Kellum) Clark, who’s getting a lot of attention because he’s a 2020 graduate. We have some other kids who have gotten on some radars and that’s why we do it, to get the boys out there so we can get them playing in big events, getting exposure and having fun.”

Having one team in your organization implies that your team won’t have a very deep roster. After playing through the 14u division last year McDonald realized that you need pitching depth to last through these long tournaments. While CHAOS doesn’t necessarily have that one “guy” who stands out on their pitching staff, they do have more arms this year to help burden the load.

“We don’t have a big, dominant arm. We don’t have the type of guy who’s going to jump on the bump and throw 88 miles per hour,” McDonald added. “We have a lot of kids who throw in the low-80s who know how to pitch, can change speeds, and get players out. We have a lot of players who are talented but a little bit raw. You’ll see some of our outfielders have talent but aren’t polished just yet. Our strength is probably our offense, but our pitching can be our strength too. This isn’t a team that’s going to jump at you on the mound but they’re a pretty talented bunch who can do some things. It’s been a game of chess with our pitching staff.

“One of our best pitchers didn’t show up but he’s going to be here and pitching for us tomorrow. We’re trying to keep our starters below the 60 pitch mark so they can have their two days of rest and then we get them back. No one has gone beyond 55 pitches because I didn’t want to waste a guy for three days. I’ve been doing the same with my relievers at 30 pitches that way if I need them the next day I can have them. It’s been strategic and a couple of guys have picked up some big innings for us that haven’t thrown all year.”

McDonald founded this team in order to get players from the Louisiana/Mississippi area exposure to go on to play college baseball. By playing in tournaments of this caliber his players are exposed to not only competitive baseball around the country but also a plethora of college coaches and scouts. A lot of his players have been noticed, notably 2020 graduate Kellum Clark who has commanded a lot of attention with his swing from the left side.

“Our offense has been good,” said McDonald. “We’ve been able to score some runs and give our pitchers a chance. Our baserunning has been good too, we have some speed in the back end and the front. They can make some things happen with hit and runs and stealing bases. We’re in bracket play now and we want to win tomorrow to get to 7-0 and get a better seed. But anytime you can be one of 34 teams out of 272 teams to make bracket play it’s a yeoman’s effort. I’m pumped for our kids and I’m happy for them.

“It’s been an exciting time but we’ve pitched just well enough, the guys have played good defense, and we’ve had some timely hits. That’s what it takes to win baseball games. It’s only going to get tougher from here so we’re going to have to play better than we have. But I like where we’re at right now and I like what we’ve done so far.”

Colton Frank IV started on the mound for CHAOS on Tuesday, and he, like the rest of the team, has big goals for this tournament. For CHAOS if they don’t end up with the trophy at the end they will be disappointed, but the team is confident in their abilities and will be dangerous when bracket play begins on Wednesday afternoon.

“Every game we come with the approach that we have to win our pool games,” said Frank. “When we found out that only the first place team in each pool gets to advance our mindset was that we want bracket play. We want to get to bracket play to get the big trophy.”

CHAOS is in and now the true test of their skills will begin. McDonald and his team won’t be satisfied with just a participation trophy. They are here now and have the opportunity to not only win the championship but to leave a lasting impression of CHAOS.

“I said to myself that if we can get to bracket play it would be a hell of an effort,” said McDonald. “I don’t want to be satisfied with that and I don’t want the players to be satisfied with that. Now that we’ve gotten here, I know how bracket play works and it can happen really fast. I know there’s more talented teams and better teams out there. Having said that, baseball is the greatest game in the world and anything can happen when you suit up and go play. That’s what the boys are starting to realize that they can. They’re in a position now where no one really thought we could do it or knew who we were. It’s going to be fun and I hope they continue to play well.

“It’s a great environment and Perfect Game does a great job down here. It’s been a great experience for the boys and we have thoroughly enjoyed it. The talk today was about congratulating them for being one of 34 but there’s still work to do. Let’s not stop here and let’s make memories that are going to last a lifetime.”

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