Tournaments | Story | 7/10/2017

New name, same talent for 5 Star

Steven Walters        
Photo: Perfect Game

CARTERSVILLE, Ga. – If you have followed the Perfect Game World Wood Bat tournaments over the years, you would notice Chain Baseball is missing from 16u event. The long-standing organization, led by Andy Burress decided to make a move, merging with the 5 Star Tigers to create 5 Star National.

“Well, Mr. Buddy Myers started Chain Baseball back in 1985. Great man, passed away in 2014, and when he passed away, there were other people that got to use the name of Chain Baseball. We had done a lot, won two National Championships with Chain, and because of the other people that got to use the name, we just wanted to separate ourselves,” Burress said. “That’s the biggest thing for us. We wanted to separate ourselves from what some of the other guys associated with Chain Baseball were doing, we merged with the Jacksonville group that already had a good name in the Five Star name, it’s Five Star Tigers, and on the youth side, already had a lot of the logos and stuff done, so it was for us a good separation.”

Burress goes way back with Chain Baseball, having played there as an amateur and coming back as a coach in 2007 after a stint in the Minor Leagues. Although he is sad to see his time with the Chain name end, he said that the move was best for the organization. He did not make the decision over night, either, having consulted with former players and coaches on some of the changes that were being made.

“You always wonder when you have a name change, because we had created such a good brand with Chain Baseball and were nationally known, we felt like maybe we were going to have some hurdles when we changed that name, but really it’s been all good,” Burress said. “Nothing negative has come of it.”

Part of that transition has been the people that he has built relationships with over his time as a coach. People recognize the 5 Star name, and have seemed to take hold of it quickly. The organization is continuing to grow, and has followed a similar model in regard to the personnel as in the past.

“For me, I think we have probably more than anything, what I’ve always tried to do is find the right people, find the right men or coaches,” Burress said. “The people involved, we have some really good guys in North Carolina now, Paul Brannon. Some really good guys down in Florida that are associated with the program and for us, that’s more than anything is what I’ve looked for over the course of, started this in ’02 and 15 years later build it into something that we’re proud of.”

The success that Chain had in addition to the development reputation that Burress has built over his time in travel baseball has allowed them to bring in some of the best names in the country. Burress said that he focuses on developing kids from a young age, rather than just bring in kids who are already committed. This past year, Chain had two high-round draft picks in D.L. Hall and Cole Brannen, and have caught the eyes of talent in states other than Georgia and Florida.

“I think people come up to us and say ‘Hey, how’d you get this guy from West Virginia? How’d you get this guy from Texas? How’d you get this guy from California?’ What it’s become is guys reaching out to us and say ‘Hey, we like how you do things, we want to be a part of what you’re doing,” Burress said.

One of those players is the No. 32 player in the class of 2019, Isaiah Bennett. The 16-year-old is a native of Fayetteville, N.C., and although he could have played in his home state, he decided to play with Burress’ squad after he and his father watched them play a game in the fall.

“One of my boys, Christian Cairo, he’s an LSU commit. He plays middle infield and he was on my team in the USA tournament down in Florida and he was telling me about his team,” Bennett said. “I kind of need a new little view of everything because I used to play for my dad since I was really little, and I was like ‘I kind of want a new way, see something different and get me higher exposure,’ and he told me Andy does it the best way, so I came and joined, they were Chain at the time, so I came and joined 5 Star.”

The 6-foot, 170-pound righty has been clocked up to 91 mph on the mound. He has thrown hard for his age for a few years now, sitting between 83-86 mph, but really took a step forward over this past year after ramping up his arm care exercises, allowing him to consistently sit in the high-80s to low-90s. He is currently committed to the University of North Carolina and hopes to continue his development as a pitcher as a Tar Heel.

“Coach [Robert] Woodard, he was a big reason. He’s transformed pitchers into big league ball players and I really wanted to do that,” Bennett said. “That’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I was little was be a big league pitcher, so I feel like he was the best one out there for me and I wanted to stick with him.”

Another top-tier player is Niceville, Fla., native Rece Hinds. The No. 2 ranked player in the class of 2019 had been with Chain Baseball since the fall of 2015 and said that Burress has really helped him grow as a player in addition to helping him to commit to Louisiana State University.

“Andy’s done everything I’ve wanted him to do,” Hinds said. “He’s the best coach out here and being with these teammates, it’s fun. I’ve been going on visits because of him, got to where I’m at right now because of him with college and stuff.”

The bat is one of the highly regarded tools of the shortstop, possessing a 92 mph exit velocity, while also ranking in the top percentiles in barrel speed, impact momentum and max acceleration as measured by Diamond Kinetics. With the numbers aside, the 6-foot-3, 195-pound Hinds can really play and shows a knack for many aspects of the game.

“Honestly, the Tournament of Stars that we went to last week made me know where I’m at as a ball player,” Hinds said. “Playing up one age group and playing against the best players in the country.”

Both players are highly-regarded by Burress, and he praises their abilities both on and off the field, raving about how good each is as a teammate.

“You couldn’t ask for two better kids on the field, in the dugout, no matter what happens, those guys are two of our leaders also,” Burress said.

The two sparked the offense in a 6-3 win over Legends Baseball Club 16u on Monday morning, as they scored two runs apiece. Bennett is now 4-for-10 with two RBIs and two stolen bases, while Hinds is 3-for-8 with a triple and an RBI. On the mound for 5 Star against the Legends was Luke Lesch who gave up one unearned run and three hits, while striking out four over five innings of work.

“For us, kids at 16 years old playing a full game, playing seven games in five days is really tough. It’s one of those things that we have to be able to play start to finish,” Burress said. “Allowing them to be able to understand the importance of playing a game start to finish.”

The team has successfully finished four games, off to a 4-0 start to the tournament which has them in the lead in their pool with two games left to play. On their tail is Stix Baseball at 4-1 and the East Cobb Sox 16s at 3-1, the former having been beaten 5-0 by 5 Star. With a playoff spot in reach, the team is looking to give Burress a WWBA win under the new 5 Star name.

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