Tournaments | Story | 6/11/2019

Team Halo rises above competition

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Breon Horne (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – At the 2019 WWBA 16u National Championship Qualifier, there’s one team elevating above the rest of the competition. It’s Team Halo.

Team Halo has jumped out a 4-0 record in pool play, outscoring opponents 24-4 through those games. However, the team’s journey to get to this point could be considered an anomaly in today’s travel baseball landscape.

Team Halo originally began under the name of the Atlanta Angels back when head coach Curtis George inherited the team full of seven year olds. George and Co. had to play up a level with eight year olds in order for it to be kid pitch. And ever since, the Atlanta Angels transformed into one of the premier youth travel teams.

They traveled to Yuma, Arizona where they faced teams from California and Mexico as eight year olds, eventually finishing in third. At ten years old, the Angels made the journey to Puerto Rico and finished in second. The team ran through their competition in Georgia, and eventually teams in the area started combining.

The team eventually made the switch to Team Halo and competed in the National Youth Baseball Championship at 12 years old where the top eight travel teams in the nation come together every year, finishing fourth in that tournament.

So what makes the current Team Halo 16u team so unique? Half of the current roster has been together since they were 10 years old, with a handful of players being on the team since the very beginning.

“That is the pedigree of this team,” George said. “One thing I can tell you I do like, watch how they play together, how they communicate, how they have fun… I like the way they fight. I love what I do. I have a passion for all of these guys.”

Where there’s a revolving door of different players coming and going over the years, the same core for Team Halo has largely remained the same year after year. Michael Braswell, the No. 17 ranked player in the 2021 class, is one of those players who’s been there from the beginning, and he insists that it forms a bond that cannot be found elsewhere.

“It creates a brotherhood,” Braswell, a South Carolina commit, said. “I’d die for a lot of these guys here. It shows on the field. We have conversation. It’s past baseball. A lot of the travel teams, they just come to the field and play and don’t really form bonds with everybody. We’re a brotherhood and we’re a family. I think that helps us with team chemistry and all that stuff on the field.”

Breon Horne is another one of those players who’s been around the block with Team Halo. The No. 209 player of the 2021 class shares a similar sentiment.

“We stay together since the beginning,” Horne said. “It shows where our loyalty lies. It helps us chemistry wise because we’ve all been with each other since we were young. We all know what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s the same goal of getting to the next level.”

It’s helped George focus on the product on the field when he doesn’t have to iron out any intricacies and cultivate relationships between the players off the field. They’re already best friends having been around each other and a part of the same team for all those years in the past.

“Half of them, they grew up together,” George said. “When I say that, all of these guys are friends. 

“Once you play with each other for a while, it’s chemistry… They know each other. They don’t have to hang out, but on the field they’re the best friends and brothers. They want to win. That’s the biggest key.”

So how exactly does that chemistry built over time manifest itself between the lines? They’ll communicate with each other about a pitcher’s pick off move or what pitches he starts most at-bats with. The communication has become second nature and led to the players calling their own plays.

“They give each other signs,” George said. “It’s a plus to play together. That’s the biggest benefit they get. I get that I don’t have to coach now. I’ve been coaching them since I was seven, so I just stand over there. Everybody has the green light. I don’t throw in a sign unless the game is close. That’s what I appreciate.”

It’s all created a distinct style of play that Team Halo prides itself on. The team is filled with athletes, and they use that adroitness to be menaces on the base paths in order to manufacture runs differently.

“Being able to go first to second, steal third base,” George said. “It takes a lot away from bunting. We get to swing the bat. It’s all about our athleticism and everybody knows it. They know we’re going to run. You either have a good catcher or you don’t.”

The summer ahead for Team Halo is jam-packed with a competitive schedule. The team is no stranger to it, though, as they’ve been playing up an age group every other year since they started. JonPaul Wheat, another player who’s been around from Team Halo’s early stages, says it’s what has helped them develop into the players they are today.

“It’s a big journey that’s going to come,” Wheat, a top 500 prospect for the 2021 class, said. “Everybody knows it. We’re up there in the nation, so everybody pitches their best pitcher against us. We get good competition, so that’s what’s good for us.”

For George, who played his college ball at Florida A&M and was eventually drafted by the Indians in the 18th round in 1992, the ultimate satisfaction for him is helping his players accomplish their dreams by reaching the next level.

“It’s a trust factor,” George said. “If you’ve been together since you were 10, parents trust we can pick them up and get them there. It takes a village, and I think we have a pretty good village over here to help kids succeed to the next level.”

Right now, Team Halo currently has six players who are signed to play in college and a handful of others who have offers on the table. It’s all about reaching the pinnacle of the mission that was birthed nearly a decade ago with all these stepping stones along the way.

“Being a small organization out of Atlanta and you wouldn’t know unless you look us up, but everybody in Atlanta who’s been playing since seven knows us,” George said. “It’s been a good run. I’m waiting to see the finished product and see how it ends… My boys are who they are. I can appreciate coming out and watching them play hard. 

“At the end of the day, I’m just enjoying the moment.”

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