Tournaments | Story | 7/11/2017

Duo of arms lead Indiana Bulls

Steven Walters        
Photo: Perfect Game

EMERSON, Ga. – In today’s era of travel baseball, many teams pull players from out of state and even from across the country. That is not the case for the Indiana Bulls organization, who take pride in selecting only kids from the state of Indiana.

“Well, we get players from the state of Indiana only,” said Dan Held, head coach of the 16u Bulls Black. “Our by-laws do not allow us to go outside the state of Indiana, so we really keep it home grown, and we’re really trying to promote our Indiana kids, and that’s why our organization was built honestly.”

The organization is celebrating their 25th year in travel baseball, having been established back in 1991. The Indianapolis, Ind.,-based team currently has 24 teams ranging from ages eight to 18. The Bulls Black are just one of the 16-year-old teams, the other being the Bulls White.

“At the lower ages, it’s a lot about development,” Held said. “We develop within a winning atmosphere, not that it goes away at the older ages. With the older ages at the high school levels, we’re really trying to get these guys showcased to get those college scholarships or pro offers.”

They have certainly done their fair share of developing big league players over the years as notable Bulls alumni include former and current every day Major League players. Arguably their most famous alumni is 1997 National League Rookie of the Year and eight-time Rawlings NL Gold Glove award winner Scott Rolen. Current Major League players include Lance Lynn, Adam Lind, Tucker Barnhart, Drew Storen and Clayton Richard.

Part of their success of producing players has been the exposure that they provide for their players. They have been mainstays at the PG WWBA events since PG began hosting them in the early 2000s. The Bulls Black are back in Georgia for the 16u WWBA, and the opportunity for exposure was what Held said was a driving force behind their continued attendance.

“What keeps us coming back is the fact that our kids get to get in front of colleges that don’t get to get up north, so we’ll be seen by a lot of the SEC, ACC, Big 12 schools that don’t come up to Indianapolis or the Midwest area,” Held said. “So, it gives the kids an opportunity that may be able to qualify for a school like that an opportunity to be seen honestly.”

The Bulls Black currently has three players committed to college, including Cameron Dennie and Parker Maddox, both of whom are ranked in Perfect Game’s top 500 prospects in the class of 2019. Dennie, a 6-foot-2, 175-pound righty is committed to Arizona State University, a program that has produced a few good arms over the years such as Cardinals righty Mike Leake.

“Cam is a special kid with a good arm. He’s a hell of a kid as far as his makeup, good to have on the team, but he’s got a bright future ahead of him going out to Arizona State,” Held said. “He’ll do a good job out there, but he’s a special guy.”

Ranked as the No. 194 player in the class of 2019 and the No. 3 in the state of Indiana, Dennie runs his fastball up to 91 mph and generally sits in the high-80s. Refining his game is a current goal of Dennie, as he is currently working on his changeup. He came to the Bulls as a 15-year-old and attributes much of his growth and exposure as a player to his time with the Bulls.

“It’s been amazing, honestly. The recruiting process with the whole team, getting recruited, hanging out with your friends, especially in the hotels, it’s been fun,” Dennie said. “I’ve definitely improved physically and mentally in the aspects of the game.”

While Dennie will take his talents out of state, Maddox will stay in Indiana and attend Indiana University. The future Hoosier, ranked as the No. 414 player in the class of 2019 and the No. 6 player in Indiana, said that the school caught his attention after a visit in the fall.

“The facilities are nice. I love the coaching staff. It’s like 45 minutes away from home and I mean I like it a lot there,” Maddox said. “I felt like I was at home, because I went to the Hoosier Hysteria last fall and it made me want to be a Hoosier. That was one of the main reasons why I committed there.”

Maddox, like Dennie, can run his fastball up in the high-80s, having been clocked as fast at 88 mph by Perfect Game. The 6-foot, 180-pound righty has been a veteran of the Bulls program, in his fifth year with the team. Held described him as someone who ‘wants the ball,’ and will go right after hitters. That same mentality was expressed in Maddox’s evaluation of his mindset on the mound.

“Just get a first pitch strike every hitter,” Maddox said. “Get the first hitter out and not walk the dude, because I mean once you walk the first guy, usually the run scores and that’s not good for your team and not helping anyone out.”

The righties have already made an appearance in the 16u WWBA, with Dennie throwing five shutout innings against Building Champions White while Maddox threw an inning against Game On Stealth. The Bulls are 3-2 after playing their pool play games, falling short of the playoffs. Although the team was unable to move on, they still showed their talent as an organization, continuing to showcase some of the best baseball players that Indiana has to offer.

“Well, one thing we always have and in this team, is good kids. Quality kids, high academic kids, they all get along, they’ve been playing together for a long time, and I think that makes it a special experience for not only them but for the coaches as well.”

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