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Tournaments | Story | 8/3/2012

Top guys grace Banditos' roster

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Gam

MARIETTA, Ga. -- Houston Banditos Black 16u highly ranked prospects Stone Garrett and Justin Twine are already pretty well known to college recruiters and members of the professional scouting community.

The two Texas kids have risen to the upper echelon of the class of 2014 rankings by attending a combined 11 Perfect Game events over the past two summers, including this week's 16u Perfect Game World Series at the East Cobb Complex. They're just two more top-notch prospects Banditos founder and head coach Ray DeLeon is putting on display for the enjoyment of everyone.

"Justin Twine and Stone Garrett, they're our two top athletes right now that are getting a lot of exposure," DeLeon said Friday afternoon. "They're phenomenal athletes."

The Banditos Black fell to 4-2 in pool-play after an 8-3 loss to Team Citius (3-2-1) on Friday but were still very much in the hunt for one of the two playoff berths out of Pool F at the 16u PGWS. All 44 teams at the 16u, 15u and 14u Perfect Game World Series play their final pool-play games Saturday, with four teams from each tournament advancing to Sunday's playoffs.

"We've been doing this for four weeks (in a row) now and we're just trying to play the most competitive baseball that we can," DeLeon said. "There are just so many events for every age group, I call it the 'circus'. You just have to follow the circus."

For Twine and Garrett, the 16u PGWS provides another stage within that circus to showcase their talents.

Twine, a 5-foot-10, 195-pound 2014 shortstop/right-hander from Hemphill, Texas, has climbed to No. 19 in PG's national prospects rankings (No. 3 in Texas) and is enjoying his second trip to the East Cobb Complex this summer.

"This is great competition down here and I'm just trying to make myself better and get exposed (in front of the scouts)," the soft-spoken Twine said. "There are great competitors out here and it's wonderful; we're just trying to go out there and win a championship for the Banditos program."

Twine played in five of the Banditos' first six games here and was 5-for-15 (.333) with a double, triple, three RBI and four runs scored. He was much better at the PG WWBA 2014 Grads or 16u National Championship in July when he was 7-for-16 (.438) with a pair of triples, two RBI and three runs.

He also pitched five innings of two-hit, seven-strikeout, shut-out ball and was named to the event's All-Tournament Team.

"He is a freak. A flat-out freak," DeLeon said of Twine with nothing but admiration in his voice. "People who get to watch him play, he's just amazing. He's a 6.4 (seconds) runner (in the 60 yard dash) and he hits for tremendous power. He plays shortstop like nobody else out there and he's got a good mind for the game."

Twine identified his speed and his quick hands both at the plate and on the field as his most favorable attributes. DeLeon sees a complete player at a very young age.

"He plays the game hard," DeLeon said. "He's a very quiet kid -- he's probably said one word the entire week -- but he plays as good as anybody I've seen at the 17u level and he's probably the most talented kid I've ever had in the organization in 18 years."

That's high praise considering 2012 Perfect Game All-Americans Nicholas Banks, Kacy Clemens and Kohl Stewart all played on the Banditos Black 17u team this year and 2011 PG All-Americans Nick Williams, C.J. Hinojosa and Courtney Hawkins played with the Banditos last year.

"I know that's saying a lot but talent-wise, he does it all.  He can play anywhere on the field and be successful at it," DeLeon said.

"The Banditos have been great to me," Twine added. "Ray has done a good job with me getting my  name out there; I'm very blessed."

DeLeon is equally effusive in his praise for Garrett, a 6-2, 185-pound 2014 outfielder from Sugarland, Texas. Garrett is knocking on the door of the 2014 national prospect rankings' top-10, coming in at No. 11 (No. 2 in Texas) and a good showing at next week's Area Code Games in Long Beach, Calif., could put him over the top.

Garrett performed well in two 17u PG events before coming back down to compete with players in his own age group this week. He also attended the PG Junior National Showcase in Minneapolis in June

He hit .318 with a home run, six RBI and seven runs scored playing for the Houston Banditos Blacks' PG national championship team at the PG WWBA 2013 Grads or 17u National Championship here in July. He followed that up by hitting .308 (4-for-13) with a triple, home run and three RBI at last week's 17u  Perfect Game World Series in Peoria, Ariz. .

"This summer is my first summer playing up (an age group) and at the beginning you're seeing faster pitching but you get used to it," Garrett said Friday. "When the scouts see me I don't want them saying, 'Oh, it's OK, he's only 16', I want them saying 'Wow, he's 16 and he's 16 and he's competing with 17-year-olds.'"

It is Garrett's strength and physique that most impresses DeLeon.

"God came down and chiseled Stone with a chiseler," he said. "He's got muscles coming out of his neck, coming out of his forehead. This kid is just a 'beautiful body' kid with a prototypical big-league body. And it's more than being a great athlete -- he's one of the nicest kids I've ever met, as well,  a 'yes sir', 'no sir' kid who has a bright future."

Garrett left Atlanta at 5:30 p.m. Friday to return home for one night before leaving for the Area Code Games Saturday morning. He was confident the Banditos Black 16u would carry on in his absence.

"We knew very game was going to be like a championship (game) so you're just playing your best so that you can play in the championship game," Garrett said. "We're going to try to win it all but it's going to be hard."

DeLeon will continue to bring into the Banditos organization the top prospects from the state of Texas, which often translates to the top prospects in the nation. He'll have them through their formative years and then send them off to college or the MLB amateur draft.

"It's a cycle," DeLeon said. "Once the Courtney Hawkins of the world take off, the Stone Garretts come in. And when the Stone Garretts come in, the Justin Twines come in too. When the Twines leave, somebody else comes in. It's a revolving door and it all starts with the younger age groups. That's the key for me. ... You've just got to find a way to keep it all rolling."

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