Tournaments | Story | 12/19/2011

Dodgers shine at all levels

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game
The players that dotted the rosters on four of the six Dulins Dodgers teams this past season worked together a lot like a string of Christmas lights: Plug one guy in and the entire strand lights up.

A solid nucleus of about 18 players – most of them from western Tennessee and the Memphis area – spent this spring, summer and fall dividing their time between the Dodgers 18u, 17u, 16u and 15u squads. Plug them in and watch them shine.

Several of the same prospects that helped the Dodgers to the semifinal round of the Perfect Game WWBA 2011 Grads or 18u National Championship were together again at the PG WWBA 2012 Grads or 17u National Championship team. There were others who played together for Dodgers teams at 17u and 16u WWBA National and BCS Finals events, and at least one top guy who played in both 16u and 15u WWBA and BCS events.

And all of them, to a man, were on the roster Dulins Dodgers Baseball owner and manager Tim Dulin took to Jupiter, Fla., for the WWBA World Championship in late October. That group finished 1-2-1 at the prestigious event, but in Dulin’s way of thinking, the tournament was a success.

“We don’t like to lose, we like to win, but it’s not winning at all costs,” Dulin said in a recent telephone conversation. “We are different than some of the other organizations where we don’t have large numbers on our rosters (and) we don’t fly guys in for weekend events just to try to win the event. We try to build some chemistry with a nucleus of guys and families that understand that ultimately it’s more about the journey than about just winning one event.”

No Dulins Dodgers team won a Perfect Game national championship this year but there was plenty of winning, as a quick peek at Perfect Game’s final National Travel Team rankings will attest. The Dulins Dodgers 18u finished No. 5; 16u No. 6; 15u No. 2 and 14u No. 17.

The prolific East Cobb Baseball organization finished with nine top-10 teams in the five age-group rankings, and the Orlando Scorpions and Houston Banditos Black were well represented, but Dulins was right there at the top.

Tim Dulin retired from a seven year professional baseball career in 1990 and started up his Dulins Sports Complex training and teaching facility in Memphis area shortly thereafter. The Dulins Dodgers Baseball Organization started up in 2000 with one 18-and-under team, and has since to grown to six teams from 13u through 18u.

More than 20 Dulins Dodgers alumni are playing professional baseball and many have already made it to the major leagues. Dozens and dozens more have gone on to play college baseball.

“It’s obviously my passion and my whole motivation for getting into the business is to give kids opportunities that I didn’t get as a young player; obviously giving them an opportunity to get to another level, whether it be competing at the high school level, getting to college or ultimately getting to the professional level,” Dulin said. “It’s very gratifying to see guys like Matt Cain, Julio Borbon, Logan Forsythe and all the other guys that we’ve had come through the program and ultimately get all the way to the big leagues.”

Veteran Chicago Cubs scout Jim “Crawdaddy” Crawford recently spoke glowingly of what Dulin has accomplished with the Dulins Dodgers organization.

“Tim and his staff do an excellent job of preparing young players on how to play the game on and off the field,” Crawford said in a testimonial. “As a professional scout my job is to know everything about the player. The players in the Dulins program separate themselves from the rest.”

This year’s Dodgers’ 18u rosters included many terrific seniors from the class of 2012 – there were some 2011 grads sprinkled in as well – as did their 17u rosters. Among those top 2012 prospects was right-hander Brady Bramlett, an Ole Miss recruit who played in the WWBA 18u, WWBA 17u and 18u BCS national tournaments and was named to the all-tournament team at the WWBA World Championship.

Other top 2012 guys included right-hander John Marc Shelly from Germantown, Tenn.; catcher Daniel Garner from Madison, Ala.; third baseman Meade Kendrick from Cordova, Tenn.; second baseman Kyle Overstreet from Boaz, Ala.; right-hander Matthew Ferguson from Cordova, and catcher Michael Parrish from Cordova. Shelly and Garner have signed with Mississippi State, Overstreet is an Alabama recruit, Kendrick has signed with Samford, Ferguson with Austin Peay and Parrish is headed for Tennessee.

But a lot of the talent currently in the Dulins Dodgers organization is in the 2013 class and is a group that won both the 2009 WWBA 2013 Grads or 14u National Championship and the 2009 14u BCS Finals championship just over two years ago.

“It’s a great class,” Dulin said. “That’s really the first class that we started with at 14u, when we won the World Wood Bat (WWBA) and the BCS (Finals). And we had 12 players on that club. We found the right guys and we found guys that were versatile and then we added and subtracted a little just like everybody else does.”

Heading that list are right-hander Cheyne Bickel from North Palm Beach, Fla.; Dulin’s son, Dalton Dulin, a middle-infielder from Memphis; right-hander Austin Sexton from Madison, Ala.; right-hander West Covington form Lakeland, Tenn.; outfielder Carlos Williams from Covington, Tenn., and middle-infielder Garrett Copeland from Bartlett, Tenn.

Bickel is the No. 74-ranked national prospect in the 2013 class and Dalton Dulin is ranked No. 95. Both have verbally committed to Ole Miss. Sexton is ranked No. 90 and is a Mississippi State recruit, Covington is No. 235 and uncommitted, Williams is No. 408 and is uncommitted and Copeland has committed to Austin Peay.

Those guys played primarily on the 17u and 16u level this year and all but Williams were on the Dodgers’ WWBA World Championship roster.

Brett Hanewich, a right-hander from Bradenton, Fla., was on the Dodgers’ WWBA 16u National, WWBA 17u National and 16u BCS Finals rosters this year and played with Dulins in some events in 2010. Hanewich is ranked 69
th nationally in the class of 2013 and has committed to Stanford.

Led by Bickel, Dalton Dulin, Copeland, Sexton, Covington, Williams, Hanewich and 2014 shortstop and Florida commit Cameron Varga, the Dodgers won their first six games at the 16u BCS Finals before being eliminated by Palm Beach Select in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.

But it was Dulins’ 15u team that really made some noise over the summer. Paced by Covington and Varga – the nation’s No. 4-ranked prospect in the class of 2014 – that Dodgers team finished 8-2 and lost to the top-ranked East Cobb Astros in the championship game at the WWBA 2014 Grads or 15u National Championship in Marietta, Ga., and then went 7-0-1 before losing to the Astros in the semifinal round at the 15u BCS Finals in Fort Myers, Fla.

Mike Fitzsimmons, a former football player at Ole Miss, coaches the Dodgers’ 15u team and, according to Dulin, has a “unique” way of managing his youngsters.

He has a football mentality and he’s kind of a rah-rah guy,” Dulin said. “Going into their 14-year-old year I told him, ‘Look, you’re going to have to kind of sit back and let these guys play, and this isn’t football.’ But what’s funny about it is, he had an unbelievable ability to motivate his players and they bought into and have continued to buy into it. So I just got out of his way, and it worked.”

Dulin said he thinks that roster could eventually have as many as 10 Division I players on it.

The process is ongoing at Dulins Dodgers Baseball. Tim Dulin is in the player development business and that’s where his 50,000-square feet Dulins Sports Academy comes into play.

We have workouts throughout the winter where we have clinics, and we bring in all our players from 8 to 18 and bring back some of our former players,” Dulin said. “Our middle-infielders at 8 (years old) are taking ground balls and turning double-plays with our 16- and 17-year-olds. They’re able to look up and say, ‘Man, I’m doing it with this guy’ and then they’re not in awe of anything. That’s what we’re trying to continue to build upon.”

It’s important to Dulin to keep the program as local as possible, although he will pick up Florida kids to play in Florida tournaments. He can look around western Tennessee and see a warehouse of talent that may one day stock the shelves at prestigious SEC schools or even in the professional ranks.

The Memphis area has been rich in baseball tradition (for a long time) and we get the nucleus of our guys from this market,” Dulin said. “We get kids that inquire about wanting to be a part of it because they see how we conduct our business. If it’s a fit and we can deliver on their expectations then we add them (to the organization).”

He continued: “Over the years we’ve branded our name and we get as many kids and families that want to be part of our organization as we do seeking out players. I think that’s a tribute to our staff – Curtis Copeland is my director of baseball operations and has a long history of being a player in a competitive market. We make sure we run it much like a professional organization in the sense that you won’t see our coaches screaming or yelling at a player.”

Dulin tries to make sure the spotlight stays aimed at the players.

We would have loved to have gone (to the WWBA World Championship) and make a big-time run, but that would have been more about me than the kids,” he said. “Perfect Game continues to a great job of getting kids exposure and we pride ourselves in saying that 95 percent of the kids that come through our program go on to play at the next level. That’s why we do it.

We spend a lot of time … evaluating not just the player but also looking at how as an organization we can deliver upon their expectations, and we do a good job not missing on those.”

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