Tournaments : : Story
Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Team Elite, Bandits 13u join forces

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

Perfect Game is bringing back its PG 13u BCS Finals after a seven-year absence and many of the top youth programs from 12 states and Puerto Rico have already committed to the revived 32-team event.

Among the elite organizations that will be sending teams to the elite metal bat tournament is, well, Team Elite. And one of the three squads the program will be sending under its umbrella will consist of players from the nationally regarded Georgia Bandits organization.

The Georgia Bandits 13u squad will play in the 2012 13u BCS Finals under the Team Elite White banner after Team Elite founder and General Manager Brad Bouras reached an agreement with Georgia Bandits officials and coaches Troy Roberson and Joey Hardigree to do so.

Team Elite Baseball is headquartered in Loganville, Ga., in the eastern-Metro Atlanta area while Georgia Bandits Baseball calls the Ringgold, Ga.,-Chattanooga, Tenn., area home. That proximity and a working knowledge of each other’s organizations led to the relationship.

“We had worked with the Bandits at a couple of camps and several (Bandits players) take lessons either with a couple of our coaches, Shane Hopper and Brooke Richards, or with me,” Bouras said in a recent telephone interview. “We’ve built a relationship with them and several of them played with us with our fall developmental program, and basically we’ve always talked about trying to get them together and play with Team Elite.”

Roberson and Hardigree have for many years put on the field some of the top youth teams in the country, including last year’s Georgia Bandits 12u team. According to online accounts, that squad played in 110 games in eight states and finished with a 104-4-2 mark. The Bandits teams have never played in a Perfect Game event, and Hardigree told Perfect Game in a telephone interview that Team Elite will help the young players adjust quickly to high-profile tournament.

“The instruction (the players receive) from Team Elite is great; every detail is looked at,” he said. “One thing with our team is we’re really spread out and we have to find the time when the kids can get together. In June when school gets out we’re going to spend about a week with Team Elite and really try to hone everything with those guys. They’re professionals at what they do and we want to take advantage of the time we can spend with them.”

The 2012 PG 13u BCS Finals is scheduled to run July 7-13 at five venues in Fort Myers, Fla., and will run simultaneously with the 2012 PG 15u BCS Finals. The five venues include the new JetBlue Player Development Complex (spring training home of the Boston Red Sox), the Lee County Sports Complex (Minnesota Twins spring training), Lee County 5-Plex (former Red Sox player development site), the Terry Park Complex and City of Palms Park.

This tournament will not take a backseat to any of the other BCS Finals tournaments held throughout July. The championship team will receive a trophy and championship players will receive rings, and the runner-up and third-place teams will receive trophies. Individual awards will be presented to both the Most Valuable Player and MV Pitcher, and there will also be Home Run Challenge and Fastest Man competitions.

MBA Pride Elite (Miami), Team Florida (Panama City), Houston Banditos (Texas), EvoShield Canes Gold (Durham, N.C.), East Cobb Astros (Marietta, Ga.) and Academy Select Sun Devils (Dallas, Texas) are among the powerful programs already entered in the tournament. Perfect Game will release its 2012 Preseason 13u National Travel Team Rankings on Tuesday, May 15.

Team Elite’s Bouras feels the PG 13u BCS Finals will provide the Bandits an excellent platform on which to display their talents.

“Troy Roberson and Joey Hardigree have the like mind-set for their players; they really care a lot about them and they’re very adamant about those kids getting exposure to the next level, where ever that may be,” Bouras said. “I’ve expressed to them that Perfect Game at the high school division is pretty much the epitome of everything that gets kids exposure and gets kids seen by scouts.”

Bouras stresses that the goal here is not to assimilate the Bandits into the Team Elite organization.

“They’re a close-knit group and no one wanted to break them apart, so we just pitched the idea to them that, ‘Hey, we’ve  got a good relationship with Perfect Game and they wanted us to come down and play in the BCS, and would you guys  be interested in coming down and playing as a Team Elite team?,’” Bouras said.

“We’re just trying to build a relationship with them; they’re a good team with a lot of good players and we just want to continue that relationship and work with those kids,” he continued. “Their parents are outstanding as far as being real supportive and they see that our main goal with our older teams is to get kids into the next level … and they know we’re going to be the best team for the kids.”

It’s that attitude that is most encouraging to Hardigree and the Bandits organization.

“They’re interested in the team staying together and that’s what’s really beneficial for our team and our kids,” Hardigree said. “They love each other and the thought of them, sometimes, of them not being with each other in these types of tournaments is something that they don’t want to accept at this point. This is just a win-win for the Bandits, and hopefully for Team Elite and Perfect Game, as well.”

Bouras started Team Elite in 2005 with one 18u team and has added teams in each subsequent year. This is the first year it will sponsor 13u teams and two of those – Team Elite Black and Team Elite Grey – will join Team Elite White at the PG 13u BCS Finals.

“We’re going to these Perfect Game events to make it known that we’re putting together a program at this level that focuses on pure development of the kids,” Bouras said. “We all try to win championships and we all try to win every game we play, for sure, but we’re also putting the No. 1 focus on repetition, instruction and development and putting the kids in situations where they’re able to get plenty of playing time and get better at the game of baseball.”

To Hardigree’s way of thinking, this arrangement with Team Elite will help his young players prepare for what lies ahead as they move into their middle school and high school years.

“We tell them that this is the type of thing they’ll probably be playing in for the next four or five years – these Perfect Game events and these showcases – and this is just getting them ready to do that,” he said. “We’re going to be down in a place there in Fort Myers where the kids can go to the beach and have fun together outside of the games, so they’re looking forward to all of it.”

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