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Tournaments | Story | 7/9/2019

Patience key for Sheets Baseball

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: Seaver Sheets (Perfect Game)

EMERSON, Ga. – Ben Sheets was once a premier arm in the MLB, being selected to the MLB All-Star game four times over eight years with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Now, he’s running Sheets Baseball, a travel baseball organization based out of Monroe, Louisiana. In the 2019 WWBA 16u National Championship, Sheets Baseball has jumped out to a 6-0 start in pool play, clinching a spot in the upcoming playoffs round after outscoring opponents 48-6 over the course of those six games.

With the experience in the majors, there’s one piece of advice that he tells his team of 16 years olds on a consistent basis.

“One of the biggest things for me is just making sure they understand that you have to get better each and every year, each and every time you step on the field,” Sheets said. “When you show me somebody that’s staying stale in their progression of getting better throughout the years, I don’t think that’s what you’re looking for. You want to see guys who are trending right.”

Among those trending in the right direction on Sheets baseball is Sheets’ son, Seaver Sheets. This past Saturday, Seaver committed to play his college ball at Auburn University.

“I came out to the Perfect Game Junior National in Hoover and I started getting some interest after that, talking to a few schools,” Seaver said. “Then I came to this event, we came early for the 17u (WWBA last week) and I pitched and got more interest off of that… Auburn was really the school I wanted to go, so I chose to commit there.”

For Seaver, who uses a 5-foot-10, 150-pound frame to generate a fastball that topped at 91 mph in Sheets Baseball’s 8-0 win over Team Steel Select on Tuesday night, it was the competition aspect of the Junior National Showcase that really appealed to him and ended up igniting his recruiting process.

“That was really cool because there was so many coaches out there and so many good players,” Seaver said. “I got to get at-bats off some of the best pitchers and face some of the best batters when you’re pitching. It’s just a really cool thing.”

Brody Drost, an LSU commit and No. 1 player in Louisiana for the 2020 class, offered a similar sentiment. Drost, who called LSU his dream school, recently participated with the top 2020 talent across the country at the National Showcase at Chase Field in Phoenix. 

“[Perfect Game’s] got a good thing going on and it will be here for many, many years,” Drost said. “It was cool because hopefully one day I’ll be there again actually playing for a real MLB team.”

Having gone through the process himself before eventually settling at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, Sheets has preached a message of patience to the members of his team who are still looking to fulfill that baseball dream by playing in college.

When there’s a multitude of college coaches at a tournament like the 16u WWBA, it’s sound wisdom for those on players on Team Sheets instead of getting caught up in the moment.

“I continue to let them all know that your opportunity is coming,” Sheets said. “Your chance is coming. You just have to be patient. That’s what I was telling Seaver. They’re going to find a good player. Good players are going to end up somewhere.

“If you have a tool, you want to show it off whether it’s your arm, whether it’s your speed, whether it’s your power. [Perfect Game] gives you that opportunity, it gives you that platform to get out there and show what your tool is. You talk about five tool guys, but a lot of times one or two tools makes you draftable.”

So what sets Sheets Baseball apart from the field of 392 teams at the 16u WWBA? While the 6-0 record is certainly gaudy, the team is doing it without a roster of 20-25 guys like most of the top-tier teams. 

There’s no PO’s (pitcher only) on Sheets’ roster. Drost threw a five-inning no-hitter in the first game on the mound and plays in the outfield otherwise. Hayden Durke, the ace of the pitching staff who fanned 10 batters over five inning earlier in the tournament, oftentimes is an extra hitter or third baseman in the lineup. Seaver Sheets will play shortstop unless he’s called on to pitch. It allows an exciting brand on the field that doesn’t strap the players into one role.

“Our team only has a few players, so we play everywhere,” Seaver said. “We have position guys pitching because we only have 12 players. It’s just really cool to be able to move around and have everybody playing all kinds of positions.”

It’s been that way from the beginning and it has brought success in the past. Last year in the 15u WWBA tournament, Sheets Baseball went 11-1, losing only in the championship with a similar cast of players.

“I think one of the biggest things is us against the world when we get here,” Sheets said. “It’s that mentality that we’re going to continue to play good baseball. We’re going to bring guys in to save games that necessarily maybe aren’t closers… we don’t have the luxury of having six D-I arms in the wings waiting to pitch.”

Sheets Baseball had a promising showing last week as a 16u team in the 17u WWBA. The team finished the pool 5-1-1, but lost the tiebreaker to advance to bracket play, despite being without the services of Drost for the tournament, who Sheets calls the team’s ‘Superman’. 

Now in their own age group this week, Sheets Baseball is attempting to make another run back to where they were last year. With the aforementioned players along with Kael Babin, Matthew Russo, Clint Lasiter, and Connor Simon among others, Sheets Baseball seems poised for another run.

“The team is playing really good right now,” Drost said. “It’s hot out here, everyone is tired, but if it was easy everyone would do it. Just play hard every single day.”

No matter the results, Sheets is already proud of the way his team has made a mark and a lasting impression at the tournament.

“I told them you’ve already positioned yourself as one of the best teams in this age group,” Sheets said. “There’s no denying it regardless of what happens. We’re very proud of what we do. We’re not a huge organization. We’re really just a travel team that continues to play and get better.”
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