Photo: Todd Gold

Yak Opens 17u With Statement Win

Tournaments : : Story
Todd Gold         Ben Collman        
Published: Saturday, July 09, 2011

MARIETTA, Ga. -- Over the past decade the 17u WWBA National Championship has developed into one of the premier scouting events of the year. The list of organizations in the loaded 216 team field for 2011 reads like a who's who of perennial powerhouse programs. On Opening Day of the 2011 edition it was a newcomer that grabbed the attention of scouts and recruiters in attendence at the East Cobb Baseball complex -- Yak Baseball (West).

Yak (West) opened the tournament in front of a large crowd of scouts, most of whom were there to watch perennial national powerhouse Marucci Elite. Marucci boasts a roster of 17 players already committed to Division I programs, with several more likely to do so in the near future.

Yak (West) is a team put together by James Byers to provide an opportunity for underprivileged players from southern California to showcase themselves to pro scouts and college recruiters at no cost. In spite of the limited exposure for most of the players on the Yak (West) roster, a few have already established themselves as high level prospects. Ron Miller is known for having one of the quickest bats in the class of 2012. Dominic Smith and John Paul Crawford are a pair of exciting young players who are ranked #13 and #19 respectively in the class of 2013. And as the large contingent of evaluators found out on Saturday morning, there is much more talent on the Yak roster than those three.

Marucci sent five highly ranked pitchers to the mound to try and pull out a victory in the opener, with each working with fastballs above 90 mph. But as head coach Carl Nichols explained "we face this kind of competition all the time, for us it was no big deal." His team's performance certainly is a big deal to scouts that witnessed the 8-3 win though. For a team that is playing together in their second event ever to come in and knock off a loaded team like Marucci says a lot about the caliber of its players.

The team is the focus of a documentary being produced for Fox Sports called Dreaming of the Big Leagues. The show's host Antonio Todd  explained "when they came to me with this idea I was all in with it. For a guy to do what James Byers is doing for these kids is great." Todd added "I can't say enough about him, he'll probably be broke after all of this."

With a 1-0 start to the tournament and a win over their biggest competition in pool K already under their belt things are looking good for Yak (West). But Nichols isn't worried about his players looking ahead, saying "all these kids are thinking about right now is going to the pool, they're not looking ahead and for us coaches it's all about the next game."

Footage of Ron Miller's 2nd inning Home Run:
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