Tournaments | Story | 7/9/2020

643 DP Cougars Playing Team Ball

Brett Greenberg        
Photo: Andruw Jones (Perfect Game)
MARIETTA, Ga. – The 643 DP Cougars Sterling/Mang is a team that has had continued success this summer in each Perfect Game tournament. The 16U Cougars are filled with players who will be playing baseball at the collegiate level whether that be D-I, D-II, D-III, JUCO or NAIA. This team is coached by Ryan Sterling, who has been with the 16U Cougars for 10 years now. Coach Sterling has seen his players go on to play in college and several have been drafted. 

As previously mentioned, this team is in the 16U division, but compete in tournaments that are 17U and 18U. Competing in tournaments with older players is something Coach Sterling has been doing for years he says. He says playing in older age tournaments allows for his players to see the best of the best in competition. The Cougars previously competed in the 18U WWBA National Championship where they placed third. 

“The 18U and 17U tournaments allow us to face better arms, said Coach Sterling. “As coaches, we are trying to get our players ready for the next level and to take the next step.” 

643 was one of the teams that was affected greatly by the Coronavirus pandemic in the past couple months. The players were not able to compete in their high school seasons, so the first couple of weeks of the summer season were rough. Coach Sterling says he has a lot of respect for high school coaches especially this year because in a normal year, his players show up ready to compete at a high level.  

“The high school coaches are something, man,” said Coach Sterling. “It is obvious how much the high school coaches mean to the players.”

Coach Sterling also acknowledged that his players struggled mightily in the first couple weeks in all aspects of the game. It took some time before finding their footing in the box. From a pitching standpoint, their arms were not as conditioned as they would have liked. With no high school season, the slow start to the summer is no surprise. 

“We were decent defensively,” said Coach Sterling. “We struggled with having productive at-bats in the beginning, but we are where we want to be as a team now in the final month of the season.”

Coach Sterling made it clear that 643 is a family. Most of these players have been playing together for years while building friendships and making memories. He attributes his team’s continued success to the family atmosphere and comradery that the players and their families have built through the years and prides himself on making the dugout seem like a high school atmosphere, which keeps the players engaged. 

“The 643 organization is one that prides itself on being a whole,” said Coach Sterling. “Our players are so close, making it easier for them to play for each other, which helps us win ball games.”

When asked what he would like to see his team improve upon in the final month of the season, Coach Sterling identified three things including having productive at-bats, knowing where to go with the baseball, and being a team player. He wants his players to understand that an RBI groundout is best for the team and is not the end of the world if a player goes 0-4. 

“Knowing what you are going to do with the baseball before it is hit to you is very important through our eyes as coaches,” said Coach Sterling. 

In the dugout and outside the foul lines, Coach Sterling is a regular guy who is having fun on the baseball field. If you watch a 643 game, he is often the only voice you will hear and takes great pride in developing relationships with each of his players outside of being their coach. On the field, Coach Sterling is strictly business because he knows what it takes to win.

“At this age, it is important for our players to have a coach who cares about them, said Coach Sterling. “My players and I have a regular relationship where we like to have fun and mess around, but they know where the line is with me.” 

“I still talk with my players from ten years ago,” said Coach Sterling. “Having that relationship outside of baseball is huge because they’ll always come back and stay in touch.” 

Coach Sterling also says that he has the same, one rule that each of his players follow. He went on to say that this rule is said at the first meeting in the fall and is expected to be followed as long as the player is with 643. 

“Do things right is the rule,” said Coach Sterling. “It sounds simple, but it is great because it relates to baseball and how to go about life, something I pride myself on as well.”

The team’s lone college commitment is son of former Atlanta Braves all-star, Andruw Jones. His son, also named Andruw Jones, is a class of 2022 outfielder who is committed to Vanderbilt. When asked to name some other players who could be picking up some offers soon, Coach Sterling mentioned these players, all of which are 2022 grads. 
1. Will Tippett: unranked 2B 
2. Reginald Austin: #5 SS in GA
3. Kai Cunningham: #24 SS in GA
4. Dawson Campbell: #31 OF in GA

643 is in their final month of the summer season and have been on a roll of late. They have gone to the semifinals in their last two Perfect Game tournaments and seem to be primed to get over the hump this week. They went undefeated in pool play managing to score 32 runs while shutting out their opponents. They won both of their first two bracket games posting two mercy rule victories.  
The 643 DP Cougars Sterling/Mang are hopeful of winning two more games tomorrow to crown them champions of the 16U Perfect Game World Series. The semifinal game will be at 10:15 a.m. on field two at East Cobb followed by the championship game.

Tomorrow’s final three games look to be filled with top prospects and great overall play, as we have been accustomed to witness during all Perfect Game championship days. 
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