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Tournaments | Story | 7/24/2016

A Premier PG partnership

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

MESA, Ariz. – Four programs from Texas were invited to this weekend’s exclusive 24-team 17u Perfect Game World Series, and the Tomball-based Premier Baseball Futures were thrilled to be one of the four. The mere fact that Premier was on the hand-picked invite list, along with the Tomball-based Houston Banditos and the Plano-based Dallas Patriots and Academy Select Sun Devils, speaks volumes of the solid relationship that has developed between Perfect Game and the Premier Baseball of Texas (PBT) organization.

Just in the last decade, PBT owner Roy Barrett has built both an amazing facility and a growing travel ball organization in Houston’s northwest suburbs, and PG has taken notice. Not only are Premier’s top-notch teams and prospects invited to PG’s most high-profile tournament and showcase events, but PG is using the Premier Baseball of Texas facility to host a growing number of those events.

“It’s always an honor to be involved with a PG event,” Premier Baseball Futures head coach and PBT staff member Vince Moore said Sunday morning from the Cubs Baseball Riverview spring training complex, the host site of the 17u PG World Series. “This is one of the top events (the entire year) in all of (amateur) baseball and PG has done a great job with it – and at all of their events – but invitation-only, only 24 teams and with us being one of them, that’s an honor, it really is.”

The Futures went 2-3-0 during a rugged pool-play schedule when they scored only 14 runs, and 12 of those came in their last two games.

Their two victories came over the Nevada-based Chicago Cubs Scout Team, 1-0, and over the Arizona-based Tucson Champs, 7-4; they lost games to the Sun Devils, 3-1, California-based BPA Rawlings, 2-0 and to the Virginia-based and pool champion EvoShield Canes, 7-5. Premier led the Canes 5-1 after five innings but gave up a single run in the sixth and five in the seventh to squander that league.

“Anytime we put something together we’re looking at it as an opportunity to go out and compete (against the best),” Moore said. “I think we’ve done that as a group, and you really can’t ask for anything more. We just ask them to go out there and compete and then live with the results. If they can do that, then I’m fine with it.

“This is about getting exposure but also about always competing at this high of a level so we’re always able to come back here and play every year,” he continued. “I think we’ve done a great job of competing. We came up short a couple of games but that’s just baseball.”

The Futures roster at this event is fully stocked with talent although it might not be as heavy with top prospects as those some of the other more prominent teams are carrying. The top guy here is Ronald Washington, a 2017 outfielder from Houston who is a U. of Texas commit ranked 55th nationally in his class; No. 414-ranked shortstop Matthew Stary from Houston has also been playing.

The Futures hit .223 as a team while averaging just under three runs per game during pool-play. Their top hitter was 2017 outfielder Michael Cooper, a top-1,000 prospect from Missouri City, Texas, who had five hits in five games, including a double. 2017 right-hander Austin Hendrix, a Texas A&M commit from Livingston, Texas, and 2018 righty Blake Brogdon, a Texas State recruit from Cypress, Texas, combined to throw nine shutout innings, allowing just four hits while striking out eight and walking one.

“It’s been very competitive over here in Arizona,” Washington said Sunday morning. “I’ve been facing some pretty good pitching and when I’m out in (centerfield) I can tell the other hitters are pretty good, too. It’s always nice to get out here and face new kids, and I know a bunch of these kids on other teams just from other events; it’s always fun to keep playing against them.”

All of the players on this Premier Baseball Futures roster are from east Texas and west Louisiana cities and towns that are part of or very close to the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area; all of them made the team through a tryout process and many of them train regularly at the Premier Baseball of Texas facility in Tomball.

PBT stands proudly under the same umbrella as every one of the other 23 programs represented at the 17u PG World Series, at least as far as what it hopes to accomplish. It’s mission statement echoes that of most other high-profile organizations, reading:

“Premier Baseball of Texas is an organization with the goal of not only being an elite baseball program, but one that is also highly impactful in young players’ lives, as well as within the community. Premier Baseball of Texas … is designed to provide a complete baseball experience for the highly skilled player by providing the highest level of competition, player development and … the opportunity of pursuing and reaching goals of playing collegiately and/or professionally through the exposure to college coaching staffs and professional scouts.”

What sets Premier Baseball of Texas apart from other organizations, and is the reason PG puts such a high value on maintaining and expanding a healthy working relationship, is Premier’s first-rate facilities. During the 2016 calendar year, Premier Baseball of Texas has hosted or will host the PG Sunshine South Showcase, the PG Texas State Championships, the PG WWBA South Qualifier, the PG National Underclass South Showcase and the PG South Uncommitted Showcase.

“It’s been a very good working relationship, and it’s the kind of relationship that has been built up over the course of two or three years,” Moore said. “We’re just trying to bring PG to Texas. It’s been (difficult) getting PG or any other big events to Texas, and I think that’s one of the routes PG and Premier is trying to take to get PG out there on a consistent basis.”

Last month, Perfect Game hired former Texas junior college head coach Britt Smith to oversee its operations in PG’s South Region, which includes Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas. Smith’s efforts will be directed toward improving everything from customer relations to scouting initiatives in the far-reaching region, and his presence will be felt in everything from PG WWBA tournaments and regional showcases right on down through the youth levels.

When Perfect Game has held its events there over the past three years, it had access to four regulation-sized, 100 percent turf fields and will soon have access to four more that will be opening soon; there are also two turf youth fields on the property. Fifteen indoor batting cages are available for use, as is a state-of-the-art weight room.

“Our owner (Barrett) has built several fields just because he has the mindset of putting these (players) in a situation to get looked at and get offers to any college (that best fits them),” Moore said. “It’s important to get them in front of the right guys and in the right place where they can showcase themselves, and our facility is built around that.”

Moore is a perfect example of the type of baseball men Barrett has brought onboard. Moore was a fifth-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 MLB Amateur Draft and went to play seven seasons in the minor leagues and seven others in various Independent leagues. He was the manager of the Edinburg (Texas) Roadrunners/Coyotes in the now defunct United Independent League from 2005-11 and was named the league’s manager of the year in 2006.

Washington is one of the Premier Baseball of Texas regulars, showing up at the facility three four times a week from his home in Houston. “It’s a little bit of a drive but it’s a really nice facility and I really like going there,” he said. “They’ve got great (batting) cages and they just built new fields … and being able to go to the cages whenever I want (has been very beneficial).”

Moore said he has no doubts that Premier Baseball of Texas will continue to grow but admits that the competition in the Houston area is fierce. “If there were only three academies out there in Houston, we would be the biggest thing since orange juice,” he said with a laugh, “but there’s like 30 or 40 of them. We’re getting guys more and more each season to buy into what we try to do; it’s just a building process.”

The Futures’ Washington will be graduating from Ridge Point High School in Missouri City in the spring of 2017, but he will continue to perform and train at Premier Baseball of Texas right up until he heads off for Austin or signs a professional contract. From his point of view, the Premier-PG relationship has been a strong one and should continue to grow stronger.

“I know there have been a couple of (PG) events down there and I feel like there are going to be more and more because they’re building more fields,” he said. “Those turf fields, with all the rain over there and everything, they do really well.”

Meanwhile, out on the Cubs Baseball Riverview playing fields Sunday afternoon, the four teams that will be playing in Monday’s two semifinal games were being determined. The EvoShield Canes (5-0-0) and SoCal-based CBA Marucci (5-0-0) – the No. 1 seed – clinched their pool championships on Saturday and could play tension-free on Sunday (both won their games). T-Rex Baseball (5-0-0) from here in Arizona and CCB Elite (4-1-0) out of Northern California were crowned pool champions on Sunday.

The players, parents and coaches from the Premier Baseball Futures team were indeed thrilled to be part of this show and they all hope to be invited back again next year. The Premier-PG partnership looks as strong as ever and it seems certain everything will be done to keep it that way.

“Our relationship with PG has taken some tremendous steps from day one … and hopefully it does continue to grow,” Moore said. “At the end of the day, at the end of each year, we’ll have to see what our owner of the facility (Barrett) and PG comes up with and just roll with it.”

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