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Tournaments | Story | 5/25/2019

Team Elite's evolution

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Grant Taylor (Perfect Game)

Back in 2005, Brad Bouras realized that there was a rare crop of baseball talent in Gwinnett County out to Barrow County, and even towards Athens that hadn’t been showcased enough. It was here where Bouras began the Team Elite Baseball program that has since evolved into a national power.

Bouras himself was raised on the baseball field, drafted in the 21st round by the Chicago Cubs in the 2001 draft. After a few years in A ball, Bouras got out of pro ball and was faced with a decision to see where the next phase of life would take him.

“When you get out of pro ball and you’re not a baseball player anymore, you either have a chance to be a high school or college coach usually or you finish out and get your degree and go to corporate America working a 9-to-5 (job),” Bouras said. “There was only a couple programs around during that time. I basically told myself that I was going to go 100 percent, full throttle at it and see where it took me.”

And full throttle is exactly how Bouras approached the beginnings of the Team Elite program. He and several other instructors had been doing lessons with players for a number of years, building relationships with those who would eventually be the nucleus of his first teams.

“We had over 400, 500 guys coming to try out for us,” Bouras said. “A lot of them were students of mine or my other instructors in the academy. We were able to go to multiple teams very quickly right there.”

Now nearly 15 years later, the Team Elite program has evolved into multiple teams at each age level all the way from 8u to 18u. What began as a focus on finding the best talent in the Winder area where the program is based has transformed into a search for players statewide and other states nationally.

The on-the-field accomplishments for Team Elite in terms of tournament success are astounding, but that’s just touching the surface level of the vision for the program.

“My goal from day one was to see if we could help kids get to the next level, accomplish their goals, get them signed to college, get them signed to pro ball,” Bouras said. “That was always the goal from day one. That’s been the main goal that I harp on to our staff. I knew we could accomplish it because we had kids in our area that were not seen as much as other areas.”

What once was just a vision has morphed into reality for Bouras and Co. since 2005. Team Elite has produced seven MLB debuted players including Chris Beck, Adam Frazier, Tyler Austin, Clint Frazier, Austin Meadows, Rowdy Tellez and Christin Stewart.

In addition, there’s been 159 players drafted and 1,130 college commitments to date from those who have come up through the ranks at Team Elite. Scan any SEC or ACC baseball roster and there’s a high probability that someone from Team Elite is on the squad.

So what’s the secret sauce that has transformed Team Elite into a premier developmental program? Bouras maintains that it’s the family-like environment of the program that makes everything so appealing.

“I never in a million years thought I’d have this many good friends in the baseball industry that either coached for us at Team Elite or played for us or other college coaches or high school coaches,” Bouras said. “We’ve built so many great relationships. It’s been a network that we’ve built now that I never dreamed of.

“Whenever you talk about the relationships and having all these great families involved, it’s been awesome… All my ex-players are now coming to coach for us. They know how we run things and they’re able to run it at different age groups now and more teams and doing things differently.”

While the goal has always been to focus on the development and exposure of the current players so they can get to the next level, it doesn’t stop there. Once a member of Team Elite, always a member of Team Elite.

“We stay in contact with a lot of our players whether they’re in college ball or pro ball,” Bouras said. “I have some of my coaches who drive to go see college teams play. They stay in touch with them. Pro guys come home and train a lot of our guys year round. We are not just a high school based, amateur program … That’s one thing, we don’t try to just get them there, but we also try to help them maintain and keep getting better over the years.”

The program wouldn’t be able to grow to the levels where its at now without an extremely loyal coaching staff that has been by Bouras’ side every step of the way. Alongside him are four partners in Mike Gearheart, Brooke Richards, Marc Nellist, and Shane Hopper who keep the wheels churning.

Through all the highs and the lows, the wins and the losses, and the joy from seeing players accomplish their dreams, it’s the simple game that has grown Team Elite Baseball into what it is today.

“It’s a great game,” Bouras said. “[Baseball’s] the best game in the world.”



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