Tournaments : : Story
Sunday, October 23, 2011

WWBA World a family tradition

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

JUPITER, Fla. – It was back in 2007 when a young infielder from Lake Charles, La., named Garin Cecchini made his first of three appearances at the Perfect Game WWBA World Championship. Two years later, in 2009, his younger brother Gavin Cecchini made his WWBA World debut.

And it was at that 2009 event that the brothers Garin and Gavin Cecchini – a senior and sophomore, respectively, at St. Charles’ Barbe High School – were both listed on the Texas Sun Devils roster.

Garin was the top infield prospect on that Sun Devils team. Gavin is the top guy on this edition, a team that zipped through pool play with a 4-0 record and advanced to Sunday afternoon’s first round of the playoffs at this year’s WWBA World Championship at the Roger Dean Complex.

Sun Devils manager Matt Thompson had the opportunity to coach both Garin and Gavin during their time with the organization. The Sun Devils were able to bring in the entire Cecchini family in what Thompson called a “perfect storm” back in 2007. The boys’ parents, Glenn and Raissa came on as Sun Devils assistant coaches and remain in those positions today.

“It’s worked out perfectly,” Thompson said Sunday morning. “We got the best of what Barbe High School and Lake Charles has to offer.”

Garin was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Boston Red Sox and spent this past season with the Lowell (Mass.) Spinners of low-A New York-Penn League. Thompson admitted it was both easy and difficult to compare the two brothers.

“They’re both extremely strong and extremely fast,” Thompson said. “Garin is a left-handed hitter and Gavin is a right-handed hitter and as far as leaders on the field every team should have leaders like those two. They’ll do anything to win a ballgame and if they do something wrong they’ll go back and work on it at home.”

Thompson said he looks at Garin as more of a corner infielder while Gavin is more of a middle-infielder. Early on, Garin was the better hitter.

“Gavin’s infield tools have always stood out while Garin’s hitting tools stood out,” Thompson said. “But now, Gavin is one of the top right-handed hitters in the nation.”

Gavin Cecchini is ranked the country’s No. 28 top prospect overall in the class of 2012 and the nation’s No. 2 middle-infielder. He has committed to the Ole Miss – Garin had committed to LSU before signing professionally – and could be selected higher in the draft than his older brother.

“He’s definitely my role model, man,” Gavin said of Garin. “He’s two years older than me so he came through all this before I did, and when he talks about the mistakes he made, he tells me how to correct them so I don’t make the same mistakes. And the things he did (well), I just try to replicate his game.

“We’re actually kind of different,” he continued. “He’s a corner guy whereas I’ll stay up the middle, I’m faster than him and he’s more wide-hip where I’m more narrow. Other than that, we both can really hit, we both can play defense and we both have strong arms. I’d say we’re similar in some ways, and in some ways we’re different.”

The accolades continue to roll in for Cecchini as the stages he performs on get bigger and more select.

“I had a really good summer,” Cecchini said, pointing to his selection on the USA Baseball 18U National Team, and his participation in the Perfect Game National Showcase and Area Code Games. He attended seven Perfect Game events in the past calendar year (he has been to 21 overall) including the PG National, the PG WWBA South Qualifier and both the PG WWBA 17u and 18u National Championships.

Thompson might be his biggest fan.

“As far as baseball, he’s a tireless worker,” he said. “If you see Gavin today and you come back in a month and see Gavin play, he’ll be better. That’s been his graph chart since the first day he joined us over 2½ years ago, and he will work,  work, work to fix whatever his deficiencies are, and obviously it’s turned him into one of the top players in the nation.

“Gavin as a person, he’s the guy that keeps the dugout loose,” Thompson continued. “He’s the guy that if someone does something wrong, he’ll be the guy to pat him on the butt and say, ‘You’re all right, you’ll get it next time.’ In the dugout and on the field, he’s the guy we need out there.”

Now playing in his third WWBA World Championship at Roger Dean, Cecchini has gained a respect for the event that can only be developed by a top prospect that has experienced it first-hand.

“Jupiter is always one of the best tournaments you can go to because you can get recognized by some of these scouts and college coaches and you get to play with some of the best players in the nation,” Cecchini said. “Perfect Game is awesome and they’ve treated me so well. I couldn’t ask for anything else and this is an awesome event to come to and get recognize by the scouts and everything.”

The Texas Sun Devils faced the Midland Redskins/Royals Scout Team in the first round of the playoffs in a match-up of two the WWBA World Championship’s top teams. After capturing their pool championship, the Sun Devils and Cecchini felt good about their chances of advancing to Monday’s semifinal round.

Cecchini was on the field in Fort Myers, Fla., when the Sun Devils won the 17u BCS Finals national championship in July, a team that featured his fellow Ole Miss commits outfielder Cameron Dishon, catcher Stryker Trahan and right-hander Ty Hensley. Those three are also here this weekend.

“We just got done winning the BCS national championship, and we expect to win every tournament we play in,” Cecchini said. “We have some of the best players in the nation and we expect to win every tournament and every game we play in. We came into this tournament thinking we’re the best team and we’re going to go out there and show them.”

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