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ABC: 'We're playing to win it'

Tournaments : : Story
Jeff Dahn        
Published: Sunday, October 02, 2011

AUSTIN, Texas – There are a handful of teams playing in this weekend’s Perfect Game WWBA South Qualifier that have already secured invitation’s to the PG WWBA World Championship in three weeks.

Action Baseball Club isn’t one of them.

Action Baseball Club (ABC), based in nearby Round Rock, has three teams entered in the WWBA South Qualifier with the intent of winning the paid invitation to the WWBA World Championship the tournament champion will receive.

The three ABC teams don’t have the luxury of using the South Qualifier to fine-tune for the prestigious WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., Oct. 20-24. One of them has to win it if ABC is going to have a presence in Jupiter.

“We’re playing to win it. Absolutely,” said Keith Jackson, who runs the ABC organization and also serves as head coach for the team called Action Baseball Club. “We have to win-out (to get the WWBA World). That’s why we put three teams in, to give ourselves, hopefully, a good shot to do it.”

Jackson has gone the extra mile – or, perhaps, hundreds of miles – to make sure Action Baseball Club is up to the task. That ACB team’s 22-man roster consists of 15 Texas prospects, along with seven of the country’s top prospects who have come in from Florida.

Nine of the players on the roster – six from Florida and three from Texas – have made NCAA Division I commitments. A fourth Texan – middle-infielder Trey Rodriguez – has committed to national juco power San Jacinto Community College.

The top Floridians on the ABC roster include middle-infielder Avery Romero, the No. 55-ranked top national prospect (2012) and a Florida commit; LHP Nate Brecklin (The Citadel); RHP/SS/3B Frank Grandinette (Miami); PF/RHP Jamal Martin (Florida State); OF/IF Edwin Gabriel Rios (Florida International); and OF/1B Alexis Rivera (Florida International).

Romero and Grandinette both participated in the 2011 Perfect Game National Showcase. Romero has played in the past for travel ball stalwarts Tampa Bay Warriors and Chet Lemon’s Juice and Grandinette has played for FTB Mizuno.

The Texans with D-I commitments include right-hander Jordan Church (Sam Houston State), SS/RHP Tyler Gonzales (Texas) and MIF Wyatt Mathisen (Texas). Gonzales is ranked No. 88 on the nationally and Mathisen is No. 99.

The Florida prospects ended up in Texas this weekend through Jackson’s friendship with George Gonzales from Florida-based FTB Team Mizuno.

“We’ve done some stuff together with USSSA and we’ve become friends, and said he’d be more than happy to send some extra players over here to help us,” Jackson said Sunday morning before ABC beat Pro Source Athletics Abbott, 17-3, in its final pool-play game of the tournament played at Austin’s Reagan High School.

That team, the one simply called Action Baseball Club, won its South Qualifier pool with a 3-0 record and outscored its opponents 23-6. Action Baseball Club 18u Green – a team comprised mostly of prospects from Oklahoma – and Baseball Club 17u White won their first two pool-play games on Saturday and were looking for wins Sunday afternoon to also advance to the 12-team playoffs.

“We started basically with our group of Action kids, and we put three teams in the tournament and we tried to get the teams pretty balanced,” Jackson said. “Our group out of Oklahoma is real strong, and then we just added some extra players for this tournament to, obviously, made as deep of a run as we possibly can make.”

The majority of the players on the normal summertime rosters of the ABC teams come from the Round Rock-Cedar Park-Austin area, or from about a 30-mile radius, according to Jackson. The addition of all the Florida prospects is what made the Action Baseball Club roster stand out.

“We’ve tried to put the best team on the field to hopefully get as deep as possible,” Jackson said. “We finished third last year and we came back with more arms. We kind of ran out of pitching last year and we wanted to make sure we loaded up with extra arms and maybe a few extra bats, and maybe some more depth.

“All three of our rosters are somewhere between 24 and 26 guys and we’re trying to make sure we don’t get tired and we’ve got plenty of energy at the end.”

Action Baseball Club has been around seven years and currently has about 250 young players in the program, according to Jackson. He said “about 95 percent” of former ABC players have gone on to play on the collegiate level and that the organization is “really focused on player development.”

“Player development is big with us,” Jackson said. “We train them three days a week and play a lot of good baseball during the summer and the fall.”

Now is the time for all that training to play off. There’s probably not organization in the South Qualifier’s 38-team field that has gone to such lengths in an attempt to win the paid invitation to the World Championship.

“This tournament fits right into our schedule and the fact that it’s local makes it real convenient,” Jackson said. ABC is really just getting started participating in Perfect Game events, although it did send two teams to the PG WWBA 2012 Grads or 17u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., in July.

“This summer we did Atlanta and we’re probably looking to do more,” Jackson said. “We just try to find the best venues to go to and, obviously, Perfect Game has pretty much got the top venues. We need to start playing in some other stuff.”

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