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Tournaments | Story | 1/18/2020

Arsenal '21 ST works and wins

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Coy Sarsfield (Perfect Game)

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Tri State Arsenal 2021 Scout Team that is competing – and competing quite well, it should be noted – at this holiday weekend’s Perfect Game WWBA West MLK Underclass Championship is an eclectic group in a variety of ways.

The prospects populating its roster arrived here in the Valley of the Sun from points primarily north and east, with each coming from decidedly different backgrounds. They have also pledged their allegiances to NCAA Division I programs flung near and far, from West Virginia to Arizona State and Maryland to Creighton.

But even while growing up in a total of 15 different states, they’ve simultaneously developed a love for both baseball and hard work, two entities that are far from being mutually exclusive.

The quality of the character and makeup the players on this roster exude certainly isn’t lost on Arsenal 2021 Scout Team head coach Gerry Patrizio, who has been with the Tri State program for the last three years. Speaking from the Dodgers’ side of the Camelback Ranch MLB spring training complex late Saturday morning, Patrizio laid it on the line.

“Every kid that has played for this organization works extremely hard,” he told PG without even mentioning that Tri State’s most famous alumnus is a fellow by the name of Mike Trout. “Not all of them are with us back in the academy in New Jersey but they’re working with their trainers back in their home states and they’re constantly getting after it. …

“These kids work extremely hard and all the credit goes to them,” he continued. “If they weren’t working this hard they wouldn’t be getting recruited by those top Division I schools. It’s a pleasure for us just to coach them; they’re all great young men, great kids.”

And pretty darn good ballplayers, to boot. The Arsenal 2021 ST vaulted into Sunday’s West MLK Underclass playoffs by winning its two pool-play games Friday and Saturday by a combined score of 23-2 and will now be wearing an extra-large target on the backs of their uniforms.

Every player on the official 20-man roster is a high school junior (class of 2021) and, perhaps, as an indicator of how just blue-collar this group is, 12 of the them are ranked as top-500 national prospects.

Corner-infielder Grant Hussey, an alumnus of the 2018 PG 14u Select Baseball Festival and a West Virginia commit from Washington, W.Va., is the highest ranked at No. 145; Hussey played in Friday’s opener and singled and drove in a run but was not available Saturday.

“When you play with guys like this you can find out the things you’re good at, the things you’re not good at,” top-500 outfielder Jesse Robinson told PG on Saturday. “You can compare yourself with other people and then get better. …

“We just go out there and play as hard as we can and play for each other,” he said, noting this was the first time he’d played with Tri-State. “We play hard and whatever happens, happens. With this group, it’s pretty easy to connect with these guys.”

And it’s easy to see why these guys can connect the dots so effortlessly, despite the eclectic nature of the lineup. Robinson is a VCU commit from Virginia and he has no problem meshing with the other top-500s on the roster like, perhaps, Coy Sarsfield, an outfielder/middle-infielder and an Iowa commit from Iowa or, let’s say, Ty Gill, a middle-infielder and a Purdue commit from Indiana. (In that example, all three did decide on schools in their home states but it goes beyond that).

And there are plenty of others. Sarsfield was one of four Arsenal ST players to collect three hits in the first two wins, and two of his were doubles. The others were Dj Pacheco, an infielder/outfielder and a Richmond commit from Massachusetts who doubled and tripled; Will Rogers, a catcher/third baseman and an Arizona State commit out of Minnesota and Caden Chamberlin, an infielder from Sarasota, Fla.; both Rogers and Chamberlain contributed doubles.

Ayden Edwards, a top-500 catcher/corner-infielder and an East Carolina commit from North Carolina, had two hits, and one was a home run; Jake Elbeery delivered a three-triple. The Arsenal 2021 ST totaled 21 hits in the two wins, including 14 in a 15-2 win over the Las Vegas Knights Orange/Bishop Gorman HS on Saturday.

Gill is playing in his third tournament with the Tri State Arsenal program, with the other two being the 2019 PG WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., and last year’s West MLK Underclass Championship.

“It’s always fun getting back together with these guys, and the environment with everybody here is just so fun,” he told PG on Saturday. “Everyone knows what they’re doing so it’s just fun to be around these type of guys and the type of competition that we get to play.

“I love coming down here, it’s awesome,” he added. “The weather’s always great and I love playing with this team. It’s just always fun coming down here.”

Robinson was in total agreement with his teammate: “It’s different; it’s pretty warm down here. It’s nice and warm and it’s a lot of fun; a lot of good baseball.”

There are several of the players on this roster that have played together on other teams before, but an established program like Tri State is always bringing new guys on board in an effort to further improve the product.

Most of them are brought to the attention of the directors by word of mouth, with those words coming from other players already in the program, Patrizio noted.

“Our biggest thing here is just to get to know kids from all over the country to see where they’re from and how things are different where they’re from,” he said. “It’s mostly through word of mouth and then just scouting them a little bit and doing things like that.”

Every player on this Tri State Arsenal 2021 Scout Team roster is a junior at his respective high school which means after they complete their prep seasons this spring they will enter the most important summer of their young careers.

From that standpoint, Patrizio feels like it’s important to get them down here to experience certain game situations and they can then use those experiences as building blocks heading into the months ahead.

“Most of these guys are from the Midwest and the Northeast where it’s a little bit colder than here in Arizona,” Patrizio said. “We think it’s very advantageous for them just because they’ll be seeing some live pitching and the pitchers will be facing live batters.”

One of the first things that might catch a scout’s eye when he looks at this TSA 2021 Scout Team roster is just how big these top prospects are for their age. Seven are listed at either 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-3 and 13 check-in at 185 pounds or more. Most importantly, they’ve learned how to best utilize their physiques without sacrificing anything in return.

“They’re incredible athletes,” Patrizio said. “They project very well with their movements and the way they approach the game. They’re not stiff, they’re loose, and their movements are very pro-like. I call them men, but they’re just teenagers having fun.”

The one thing Patrizio never has to worry about is big egos with these guys. Sure, they’re highly ranked and sure, they have D-I commitments in their back pockets but they take nothing for granted.

Hard work is what got them here and they know if that doesn’t continue those rankings and scholarship offers will evaporate as quickly as a raindrop landing on the desert floor.

A big ego? This is not the time or the place for anything like that to put on display.

“I just tell them to come here and have fun,” Patrizio said. “You’re here for a reason and that’s why you’re committed and all that, so their egos are checked at the door. They don’t think they’re above the game or anything like that. … They just show up and play ball and they have a lot of fun together.”

Without looking at anything other than the make-up of this roster, it’s obvious that the Tri State Arsenal 2021 Scout Team was one of the favorites to win the West MLK Underclass Championship title even before the first pitch was thrown.

For that reason and many others, Patrizio’s message to his players coming in was a simple one. He told them that the Arsenal coaches and other staff within the Tri State Arsenal program all knew what they were capable of. And, he added, the players knew what they’re capable of, as well.

So, he told them, just come out here and have fun. Go out and do your thing and do what you do best and let the head coach take care of the little things. It’s a message that resonated within the dugout and the result was a pair of wins by scores of 8-0 and 15-2.

“Everybody’s cool; this is a really fun team to play with,” Robinson said. “Everybody’s cool with each other and we’ve got good team chemistry, good coaches.”

Gill summed it up nicely:

“I think we all know in our heads (about the expectations), so we just go out there and play,” he said. “We just know what we need to do to get the job done. This group is very hard-working and very determined to get things done. We just want to win and I think that’s what everybody’s goal is.”

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