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Tournaments | Story | 6/25/2019

DRB Elite: playing the right way

Cory Van Dyke     
Photo: Hudson Sapp (Perfect Game)

MARIETTA, Ga. – Baseball can have such a profound impact on so many lives. There’s moments of heartbreak and moments of ecstasy that come to consume every ball player. But in the end, it revolves back to some of life’s greatest lessons that can only be taught on a diamond.

Ryan Dunn, president of DRB Baseball, placed an emphasis on the bigger things associated with baseball when he started One Thing For Youth ministries. DRB Baseball partners with One Thing For Youth, with the name emblazoned on the team’s jersey, in order to help grow these players into young men through a Christ-centered approach.

DRB Elite 17u is putting those qualities on display this week at the 2019 WWBA 17u Elite Round Robin.

“We want them to understand that there’s bigger things than baseball,” head coach Dwayne Sapp said. “This is just a small part of your life. We all want to give back and help others. That’s what we’re trying to do is help kids, talk to them, not preach to them, but guide them in the right way. 

“There’s a lot of kids who come out here that have the wrong attitude sometimes with baseball. We want them to understand that you can play this game, play it right, and have a mission and better understanding of life.”

Sapp has seen firsthand the way that DRB’s approach has shifted how Hudson views the game. Hudson Sapp, an Ole Miss commit and the No. 21 player in the state of Georgia for the 2020 class, works with some youth on the side who look up to him as a role model. It’s the same for all the players down the roster for DRB Elite.

“Most of our kids have known each other since they were 12,” coach Sapp said. “You can see with these kids that they go about it the right way. They hopefully parlay what they’ve learned on down the line.”

Hudson operates from a perspective where he finds joy through the game of baseball anytime he gets to step on the field.

“It’s the passion to keep playing,” said Hudson, who went 3-for-4 with three RBIs in Tuesday’s win, finishing a triple short of the cycle. “It’s something I’ve done my whole life, so I just come out here and enjoy it every day. You never know when it’s your last. You just keep going.”

So far at the 2019 WWBA 17U Elite Round Robin tournament, DRB Elite has jumped out to a 2-0 start. The purpose of the round robin style is to prepare teams for the upcoming 2019 WWBA 17u National Championship that begins on Friday. 

“It’s exciting to get out here now and prepare,” said Reuben Church, a Kentucky commit who went 2-for-4 on Monday with two RBIs. “Just get the bats going a little bit. We’re getting our players back and we should be able to make a run for it next week.”

DRB Elite’s roster is loaded with D-I talent from top to bottom and Sapp noted that half his roster isn’t even here yet, but will be ready to go for the WWBA National Championship. That likely includes top 100 players Robert Hassell III and Josh Shuler, who will be competing in the SEC a couple years from now at Vanderbilt and South Carolina respectively.

“The kids are always excited about the WWBA because it’s going to bring in all the best kids around the country,” Sapp said. “They’re excited to compete in those types of tournaments. You know the competition level is going to be good… I think it brings out the best in some of the kids.”

The WWBA National Championship also sets up the opportunity for a multitude of college coaches and pro scouts to be in attendance. With some skilled players still uncommitted on DRB Elite, this is a real chance to get some key exposure.

“The wins are nice,” Sapp said. “Some programs are running out for trophies. I’m more about wanting to get the kids the looks to get them all their offers. That way, by the end of the summer they can relax and not have to sweat those things.”

So while DRB Elite is using the time now to get in a rhythm at the plate and managing their pitchers to get loose, things will soon heat up in a few days. Teams from all over the country will soon be settling in Georgia, but it affords the possibility for the moment of a lifetime.

“I’ve been playing with these guys since I was about 13,” Hudson said. “They’re all kind of like brothers to me. It’s fun to have one more summer together as brothers. Just keep going and hopefully do good in the WWBA.”

Not only does the impending tournament provides time for the brotherhood as teammates to flourish again, but is also provides those special father-son memories on a baseball field that can never be taken away.

“I was telling my wife that it’s coming to an end,” Sapp said. “They grow up so fast and people don’t realize one minute they’re five, a decade later they’re 15, and another decade later and they’re 25. It happens so fast, and people say it all the time, but when you’re young, time is irrelevant. 

“One last hurrah with [Hudson]. It’s a bittersweet type of thing… We’re excited for our next chapter.”

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