Tournaments | Story | 10/20/2017

Texas righty leads Texas Yanks

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

JUPITER, Fla. – These are Texas prospects through and through, these guys that are almost exclusively from the class of 2018. They arrived from major metropolitan areas like Houston and Dallas along with smaller communities like Heath and Fredericksburg, and all points in between.

They’ve climbed into the top-500 of PG’s national prospect rankings, and almost all have committed to NCAA Division I schools, including in-state baseball powers like Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Dallas Baptist and Baylor.

And they’re here this weekend at the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship at the Roger Dean Stadium spring training complex wearing the same uniform – oddly enough, the pinstripes of the N.Y. Yankees – and playing under the same banner: the Texas Scout Team Yankees.

“Being out here is a blessing, honestly, because you’ve got so much good competition, you have so many opportunities,” Houston 2018 right-handed pitcher Simeon Woods-Richardson told PG. “I love the team that I’m with and I love this coaching staff; I’m happy with all my teammates.”

It’s a group put together with a plan and a purpose. The Texas Scout Team Yankees’ entire coaching staff of this group are full-time scouts with the Texas Rangers, and they’re mostly Texas guys who are very familiar with the top Texas prospects.

They watch the young guys play for their travel ball teams during the summer, they watch them perform at PG showcase events and they also take a team to the Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., in August.

“These guys have never played together, at least not as an entire group,” head coach Bobby Crook, one of those Rangers’ scouts, told PG. “A lot of have played together at different events on different summer teams and at the Texas Scouts Association Game we have every summer, but these 22 guys have never played together as a team.”

This isn’t the first time Crook has worked with a scout team at a major tournament event, and he knows such teams will inevitably experience their share of peaks and valleys. He called the tournament-opener the most problematic because the team has never practiced together, leaving the coaches no choice but to come up with a batting order and assign defensive positions based on past observations. And the it’s time to just turn the boys loose.

That proved to be the case Thursday when the TST Yankees went up against the Georgia-based Nelson Baseball School; the Yanks managed only three hits and dropped a 2-0 decision. Crook marched Woods-Richardson out for the start and he was very good, allowing one earned run on three hits and striking out four without a walk. His fastball averaged 89 mph and topped-out at 93; he also showed a 74-mph curveball and a 77-mph slider.

Woods-Richardson is a special case on a special roster that features 20 seniors ranked in the top-500 nationally. He checks in at an athletic 6-foot-3, 200-pounds, and is a Texas commit ranked No. 61 in the 2018 class.

“I do know most of these guys,” he said while looking into one of the dugouts at a field on the Marlins’ side of the complex. “I’ve played with, played against, trained with most of them; we’re all family down there in Texas. We can be enemies playing (against each other), but when we’re on this team we’re all together. We all have the same mindset that we want to win ballgames, so we’re going to take that mentality … and get this show on the road.”

He will be surrounded by some very talented teammates throughout the duration of this roadshow, including four other fellow Texas 2018s ranked in the top-230: Ty Madden (No. 81, Texas), Luke Trahan (No. 171, Dallas Baptist), Riggs Threadgill (No.224, LSU) and Nate Rumbach (No. 229, Texas Tech). Rumbach, Ty Coleman (No. 414, Texas A&M) and Diego Muniz (t-500, Oklahoma) collected the hits in Friday’s loss.

“Obviously, we want to win because once you get in here you want to compete, but we also want them to go out and just do their thing,” Crook said. “And it’s good to win because the more they win the (farther) they’ll advance in the playoffs and more scouts will see them and things like that.

“At the end of the day it’s more for the kids to showcase their abilities, we as scouts get to spend a lot of time with them and we can continue to reinforce that relationship that we’ve built.”

Woods-Richardson plays his summer ball with Marucci Houston for coaches that include former MLB All-Star Adam Dunn and Chris Schultea. He said Dunn and Schultea are “like father-figures to me” and are two men he calls and sends texts to almost every day.

This summer has been a tumultuous one for Woods-Richardson, a senior at Kempner High School in Sugar Land. He was born and raised in Houston and he was in his hometown when Hurricane Harvey made landfall with its full destructive force in late August.

While hundreds of thousands of homes were flooded in the Houston area and in East Texas in general, his family was not directly impacted by the deadly storm. He can only count his blessings.

“We had water in our front yard and up to our front doorstep, but my family is all safe and sound,” he said. “A lot of my friends got hit pretty bad … and I feel sorry for them because a lot of still aren’t together, they’re still moving around.”

The tall, sturdy right-hander has been pitching since he was 10 years old and looks up that as his primary position. He also plays third base when he’s not pitching and enjoys keeping busy at all times when a game is being played. It’s all part of his never-ending development process, as his involvement this premier tournament.

“I still have a long way to go; I can’t be satisfied with anything yet,” he said. “I’m taking the time to learn from anybody I can. I’m taking tips, I’m taking advice and I’m trying to advance my game to the next level and be the best that I can be.”

He has the commitment to Texas and there isn’t much about the Longhorns program with coaches Pierce and Shawn Allen, and that includes the campus and the proximity to his Houston home which means his parents could watch him play.

But he admits he’s allowed himself to think about the 2018 MLB June Amateur Draft, and why not? The No. 61-ranked prep prospect in this year’s senior class should be allowed to dream big and see how things work out roughly eight months from now.

“The draft is a goal of mine; it’s always been my goal,” Woods-Richardson said. “If I can achieve that goal, it would make my life even better than it already is.”

Although this is his first visit to the PG WWBA World Championship, after just one day he knew it was going to be a learning experience. He welcomes the thought of meeting other talented ballplayers for the first time, developing a work-place relationship with them and then picking their brains.

He likes the way good ballplayers find a way to work together as they all chase the same goal. That extends to the TST Yankees’ coaching staff, as well.

“it’s a learning experience for then and for us, too,” Crook said. “It helps us do our jobs a lot better when we spend four or five days in the dugout with these guys. You get to know what they’re made of a little better than if you would have just watched them through the fence.”

Woods-Richardson and his teammates arrived in Jupiter with big plans and big dreams while also being careful to not take for granted the fact that they are in a very special place at a very important time in their baseball lives. As a team, and despite that day-one loss, these Texas Yankees can still win their pool and reach the playoffs that way, or possibly earn one of the 10 wild card entries into bracket-play.

“The biggest thing for me, honestly – and I know is sounds cliché – but I hope they have fun,” Crook said. “There is a lot stuff with summer baseball and high school baseball that gets real intense. We want to win, we want to compete, we want to do things the right way, but hopefully these guys walk out of here and say, ‘Hey, I had a good time with the Rangers, I had a good time with the Yankees, I had a good time with the Reds’ or whoever is in the dugout.

“But, hopefully we win, too. It’s a lot more fun to win than it is to lose,” he concluded. “The more we win the more they get exposure and that really helps a lot.”

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