Tournaments : : Story
Thursday, October 14, 2010

FTB Mizuno sets sights on Jupiter

Jeff Dahn        

A successful summer is already leading to what could be a successful fall for FTB Team Mizuno Baseball.

FTB Mizuno, based in Orlando, Fla., has grown into one of the country’s top travel team organizations in a relatively short period of time by bringing in some of the best talent available and concentrating its efforts primarily on four big national tournaments – two in the summer and two in the fall.

Jered Goodwin, head coach of FTB Mizuno’s elite 17U team, said the organization bases its summer around two events that are two weeks apart. The first is the Perfect Game 17U WWBA National Championship at East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga., and the second is the USSSA World Series, played this past summer in Kissimmee, Fla.

FTB Mizuno finished second at the 17U WWBA National Championship July 6-12 after losing to the South Carolina-based Diamond Devils, 2-1, in the championship game.

“Obviously, East Cobb is the one you want to win. You build your roster to go and try to win that event,” Goodwin said. His team did win the USSSA World Series championship.

FTB Mizuno then structures its fall around two major events: The just completed Perfect Game WWBA Underclass World Championship in Fort Myers, Fla., and the upcoming PG WWBA World Championship Oct 21-26 in Jupiter, Fla.

FTB Mizuno sent two teams to the 122-team WWBA Underclass World Championship, and its FTB Mizuno Underclass squad recorded a top-eight finish at the event. It was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Marucci Elite, which went on to capture the championship with a 2-0 win over the East Cobb Braves in the championship game.

Goodwin said organization founder George Gonzales’ “baby” is the PG 17U WWBA National Championship at East Cobb.

Goodwin said his “baby” is the PG WWBA World Championship.

“I’ve been enamored by Jupiter since we took a team that had to win the Florida Qualifier just to get-in in 2007,” he said.  “Ever since then that’s been the event that I really want to win. The thing is, you just never know (what’s going to happen). It’s the best event, in my opinion, in the country and on any given day you could run into a guy that’s just going to shut you out regardless of what roster you bring.”

FTB Team Mizuno Baseball was started by Gonzales eight years ago, but it wasn’t until about three years ago that Goodwin began actively seeking out players largely from the Southeast and began building a national power.

“(Gonzales) is a special character guy who tried to treat kids like gold,” Goodwin said, “and because he’s willing to do that, I’ve been able to go out and recruit guys and get guys in here who are kind of special kids.”

FTB Team Mizuno fielded two full-time teams this past summer – a 17U team that played mostly at 18U events, and a 16U team that played-up in 17U events. It also had an 18U team that played in a limited number of tournaments.

The 17U team finished the summer ranked No. 2 behind Diamond Devils in Perfect Game’s final 2010 national rankings.

“I always like to say we’re a showcase team that tries to win tournaments,” Goodwin said. “We won’t go out and look necessarily for the ‘pro’ guy – though we’ve been lucky enough to get some – but we want to get kids that do it in the classroom and help them along the way in their baseball careers and their academic futures.”

Goodwin said the program has been “blessed and cursed” by attracting a lot of baseball players who are also standout football players. That leaves those players unavailable in the fall for tournaments like the WWBA World Championship.

“At Jupiter, we’re able to go out and get a couple of new guys from around the country to come in and play with us and kind of help us out,” Goodwin said.

The roster FTB Mizuno will take to Jupiter includes five 2010 Aflac All-Americans, two of whom played with FTB Mizuno all summer.

Those two are catcher Tyler Marlette (2011, Oviedo, Fla.), who was named the Aflac All-America Classic’s Most Valuable Player and has verbally committed to Central Florida, and shortstop Francisco Lindor (2011, Clermont, Fla.), who won the Home Run Derby at the Aflac event and has committed to Florida State.

Lindor is Perfect Game’s No. 3-ranked national prospect (No. 1 in Florida) and Marlette is ranked 35th nationally and seventh in Florida.

“If we’re playing in a sandlot game against a 16-and-under team they’ll be playing as hard as they can, and if they’re in the East Cobb finals they’ll be playing as hard as they can,” Goodwin said. “They’re both pretty special.”

The other 2010 Aflac All-Americans who will join FTB Mizuno in Jupiter are left-hander Henry Owens (2011, Huntington Beach, Calif.), right-hander Jose Fernandez (2011, Tampa, Fla.) and right-hander Deshorn Lake (2011, Newport News, Va.).

FTB Mizuno also features shortstop Dante Bichette (2011, Orlando, Fla.), first baseman Daniel Vogelbach (2011, Fort Myers, Fla.) and right-hander Hudson Boyd (2011, Fort Myers, Fla.).

Bichette, whose father of the same name played 14 seasons in the Major Leagues, is ranked 47th nationally and 10th in Florida, and has committed to Georgia. Vogelbach, whose bulk and power have drawn inevitable comparisons to Prince Fielder, is ranked 84-14 and has committed to Florida, and Boyd is ranked 44-9 and has also committed to Florida.

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