General | General | 1/28/2011

MLB prospects started with Trombly

Jeff Dahn        

Major League Baseball recently released its rankings of the top 10 prospects at each position, and they’re lists that make Steve Trombly smile.

Trombly, the founder and head of the Anaheim-based Trombly Baseball Academy, looked over the rankings and saw that six players who were with his program as youngsters were ranked in the top 10 at their respective positions. Two are ranked in the top 33 overall, regardless of position.

And that doesn’t include No. 3 top prospect Bryce Harper – the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft by the Nationals – who played in two tournaments with Trombly Baseball as a high school sophomore.

All six of the former Trombly players – first baseman Freddie Freeman (Braves), left-hander Tyler Matzek (Rockies), catcher Austin Romine (Yankees), second baseman Danny Espinoza (Nationals), third baseman Josh Vitters (Cubs) and shortstop Grant Green (Athletics) – were with Trombly Baseball in the mid-2000s and played in the minor leagues at various levels in 2010.

Freeman, Matzek, Vitters and Green were Aflac All-Americans and all six of the prospects participated in numerous Perfect Game events while in high school. MLB ranks Freeman as the No.  17 top prospect overall (No. 2 at 1B) and Matzek is No. 33 overall (No. 8 LHP).

Trombly can also count current Major Leaguers Hank Conger and Chris Tillman among his alumni (they were also Aflac All-Americans) and has had eight former players – Conger, Matzek, Green, Vitters, Gerrit Cole, Matt Hobgood, Kyle Skipworth and Mike Leake – selected in the 1st round of the Draft.

“I don’t credit myself or our academy for turning these guys into what they are today. I consider those guys responsible for turning our program into what it is,” Trombly said. “Some programs are going to tout their alumni as ‘Look what we did for these guys.’ I feel it’s the other way around: ‘Look what these guys did for us to help our program.’ They’re the ones who helped build us up to where we are.”

Steve Trombly started his organization with a single team in December of 2002 to play in a Southern California Christmas tournament. He said seven players from that team ultimately received NCAA Division I scholarships.

“I was coaching at a high school and I had no intention of starting teams,” Trombly said. “Then, as January came and February came, guys started asking, ‘Hey, are you going to do a Connie Mack team?’ I kept saying no and finally I said, ‘Hey, let’s do this.’”

Trombly decided to put together a Connie Mack 18-year-old team for the summer of 2003, and pretty soon he had friends and associates volunteering to help put together 15U and 16U teams. The program continued to build from that point and last summer Trombly Baseball fielded seven teams (15U, 16U, 17U, 18U) with about 120 players.

The organization is in the process of putting together 14U, 13U and 12U teams for 2011.

In Trombly Baseball’s second year (2004) its 16U team traveled to Marietta, Ga., where it won the Super 7 World Series at the East Cobb Complex. That championship provided a big boost to the organization’s reputation. Green, Freeman and Romine were members of that championship team.

Trombly Baseball sent teams to the Connie Mack World Series in 2005 and ’06, and one of its teams won the 2007 Don Mattingly World Series. The six young players now ranked by MLB played prominent roles on those teams.

 “We were fortunate when we started out early on that we got a couple of the (very talented) younger players,” Trombly said, mentioning Conger and Tillman, who are on big league rosters with the Angels and Orioles, respectively. “They started playing with us as sophomores (in high school) and because they ended up being two of the best players in Southern California, it was guys like that who helped us recruit.

“When you have some really good players like that, there are other players they know and it’s easy to ask an elite player ‘Do you want to play for us’ when you have that base,” he continued. “Once you achieve success it’s a lot easier to recruit (the elite) guys. Success breeds success.”

Trombly worked with Perfect Game for a year organizing tournaments in Southern California in an effort to help PG establish more of a presence in the region.

“I’m a big believer and fan of Perfect Game and what it can do for the guys,” Trombly said. “We do try to go to a couple events a year with our guys, and the ones we can’t go to, I’ll get guys on teams that are going. We don’t go to Jupiter but I’ll help get 15 or 20 players on teams each year to go an event.”

It’s been enjoyable for Trombly to watch his former players continue to develop and move up through the minor leagues, but he admits he didn’t always see it coming.

“It just depends on the kid,” he said. “Obviously, Bryce Harper came out and played in a couple of tournaments with us – it was his sophomore year – and he was already well-known. When guys like Freddie Freeman and Austin Romine started playing for me, they were 14. … The earlier age you get guys it’s kind of an unknown.”

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