Tournaments : : Story
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

ABD gives players a solid road map

Jeff Dahn        

ABD Academy, headquartered in Southern California in the area in and around San Bernardino, is a true baseball academy in the sense it offers training and instruction in the fundamentals for high school-age players at various locations.

It’s staff, headed by president Randy Curtis and executive director Mike Spiers, is filled with former Major League players like hitting instructor Matt Nokes (Yankees and Tigers) and pitching instructor Terry Clark (Rangers, Angels and Orioles). There are also college coaches and professional scouts on staff.

Curtis, the president, was a two-time New York Mets Minor League Player of the Year. Spiers, the executive director, is a scout for the Boston Red Sox and the West Coast Director for Perfect Game USA.

ABD Academy started in the early 1990s as a training program to help high school players develop into college players. From there it grew into what it is today – one of the premier baseball academies and travel-team organizations not only on the West Coast, but in the nation.

“Our goal has always been to try to work with players and give them a road map on how to get to college as far as their development,” Spiers said. “That’s pretty much how we’ve always been, and we’ve had pretty good success with college placement for our players.

“Now it’s in a situation where we’re not only doing that, but we have a lot of players who are getting the opportunity to play professional baseball out of high school.”

ABD will put 12 of its best teams and all of its best players on a big stage this weekend.

The ABD Bulldogs, Mustangs, NC Bulldogs, Red Dogs, Tigers and Trojans will compete at the Perfect Game/Evoshield National Championship (Upperclass) Friday through Monday (Sept. 24-27) at Goodyear Sports Complex in Goodyear, Ariz.

ABD’s Boxers, Bulldogs, Nevada, Reddogs, Surfdogs and Valley Dogs will take part in the Perfect Game/Evoshield National Championship (Underclass) at Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, Ariz., over the same four days.


This summer, ABD Academy fielded 35 high school age-group teams with close to 500 players. Although it was set up to serve the Southern California community, players from all over the country are welcomed.

“We get a lot of players by word of mouth,” Spiers said. “Players will come to us and the players we don’t know anything about, we’ll have a tryout.”

The program produced four Aflac All-Americans this summer – third baseman/outfielder Travis Harrison (2011, Aliso Viejo, Calif.), infielder Christian Lopes (2011, Huntington Beach, Calif.), left-handed pitcher Henry Owens (2011, Huntington Beach, Calif.) and left-hander Daniel Camarena (2011, Bonita, Calif.).

Owens is Perfect Game’s 15th-ranked national prospect in the high school class of 2011. Harrison is ranked 15th, Lopes 18th and Camarena 38th. Camarena has committed to the University of San Diego.

ABD’s ultimate goal, like so many of the other top organizations across the country, is to teach their players how to play the game the right way and land coveted college scholarships.

“That’s always been our whole thing and how we started,” Spiers said. “It’s trying to work with them as far as getting them in a situation where they understand what it takes to get to college.”

There have been hundreds of ABD graduates who have gone on to play college baseball and at least 100 more who were drafted professionally.

Through mid-August there were four former players on Major League rosters: third baseman Greg Dobbs with the Phillies, leftfielder Allen Craig with the Cardinals, pitcher Tommy Hanson with the Braves and outfielder Reed Johnson with the Dodgers. Outfielder Xavier Paul has been up and down between the majors and minors most of the season for the Dodgers.

ABD teams have won numerous Perfect Game and USA Baseball regional, national and world titles since 1996, including four in 2009.

The ABD Bulldogs 18U and 17U teams won Perfect Game WWBA national championships last year and the Bulldogs also won the 2009 18U USA Baseball Labor Day Cup in Cary, N.C.

But the real surprise came at last year’s Perfect Game WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., when the upstart ABD Braves Scout Team beat the ABD Boxers in the event’s championship game. The Bulldogs 18U, ABD’s top team, was also at the World Championship but didn’t advance out of pool play.

“We had our No. 2 and No. 3 teams playing in the championship game. It was definitely an interesting situation,” Spiers said. “Our No. 3 team was really our Bulldogs underclass team. They went as the Braves Scout Team and they all played on our underclass team.”

The Bulldogs and the Boxers will return to Jupiter for the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship at the end of October. But it has been a bit of a grind for the top-tier Bulldogs this season.

“We haven’t had the success we had last year,” Spiers said.


The ABD teams aren’t backing down from the nation’s top competition, however. Spiers, with his connection to Perfect Game, makes sure the program’s top-tier teams are at all the top-tier events.

“We try to go to the tournaments that are going to give the best exposure to the players,” Spiers said. “Whether it’s the Perfect Game World Championship or their national championships, or USA Baseball events, those are the events our teams are going to.”

The growth of ABD Academy since its inception almost 20 years ago will continue. Curtis, Spiers and the rest of the staff – as well as a baseball hungry community in Southern California – will see to that.

“We’re always trying to stay on top of things,” Spiers said. “We’re actually in a situation where we’re getting bigger, and we’re in the process of securing our own facility and building a new facility. We’re looking potentially to break ground yet this winter.”
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