Tournaments | Story | 6/15/2019

Knights prepare for next level

Jack Nelson        
Photo: Chris McElvain (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – The summer after high school graduation can be a time to relax one last time with childhood friends. It can be a time to get a summer job and save up some money before heading off to college. If you are lucky enough to continue your athletic career, it could be a time to rest following a grueling spring season and get ready for fall workouts at school.

For the members of Knights Baseball 18u Platinum, these next few months are critical in preparing them for the next chapter in their baseball careers. The first step of that is competing in this week’s WWBA 18u National Championship.

“We have heard some pro scouts say that the guys that take the summers off, those are generally the guys that don’t quite cut it in college,” said Knights coach Justin Alberson. “We really encourage them to not just think about this summer, but how this time will get them to be ready for the future.”

The Knights have had an impressive track record of developing players. Notable alumni include 2016 first round pick Jordan Sheffield and 2017 first rounder Kyle Wright. Since its inception in 2002, they have been an elite travel organization for the top talent in Tennessee, sending players to elite programs across the country such as Auburn, Mississippi State and Louisville.

“Our program has been a pipeline for guys to play at the next level,” said Alberson. “We have had former players have great success not only in college, but in professional baseball as well.”

Drafted just two years ago, Wright has already made his MLB debut for the Atlanta Braves.  Additionally, 2014 first rounder Justus Sheffield has appeared in the big league games for the Mariners and Yankees.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the current Knights are loaded with college commitments and players destined for pro ball, boasting 19 players that are going to continue their careers after high school. This includes Chris McElvain (Vanderbilt), Blaine McIntosh (Vanderbilt), Travis Odom (Auburn) and Jett Jackson (Purdue).

Ranked 148th in Perfect Game’s high school class of 2019, McElvain was the top catcher in the state of Tennessee, but also showed his versatility by playing shortstop for the Knights in Saturday's pool play victory over Powermill Brown 18u.

McIntosh, an outfielder, was ranked 451st overall in Perfect Game’s class of 2019 player rankings, and was drafted by the New York Mets in the 13th Round of the 2019 MLB Draft. The Vandy Boys recruit know adjusting to the SEC will not be easy, but they have a plan for the summer before heading to school. And the stout competition at the 18u WWBA National Championship provides them the opportunity to evolve their game.

“I’m just trying to refine my skills,” said the speedy McIntosh. “More specifically, I’m working on bunting and trying to steal more bases.”

“I’m trying to stay in the groove of things and get my at-bats,” added McElvain, another Vanderbilt recruit. “I want to get as many reps as I can.”

As the College World Series begins this weekend, quite a few Knights know they will soon be helping their programs to get to Omaha. Many have been committed to their respective schools for a couple years. Now, they are eager for their time to shine. For McElvain and McIntosh, they have been preparing for years to finally get their chance to represent the Commodores.

“It has really been since I committed to Vanderbilt that I knew I needed to always get better,” said McElvain. “You don’t just flip a switch and think you can get ready in a summer. It has been years in the making.”

“I’m really motivated just by seeing that they’re in Omaha and knowing how difficult it is to get there,” added McIntosh. “It’s definitely driving me more to get extra work in to continue the tradition.”

So while many of their friends are out by the pool or at the beach, the boys of Knights Baseball are right where they want to be. They are chasing their dreams on the ball fields of Georgia. Under the guidance of experienced coaches, they are hoping to follow in the footsteps of those that wore the jersey before them.

“Who doesn’t love baseball?” said McElvain. “I’m trying to play in the major leagues.”

“I have an opportunity right now. I’m not going to waste it,” said McIntosh. “I want to make it to the highest level.”

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