Tournaments : : Story
Monday, October 26, 2009

ABD makes WWBA finals a family affair

Jim Ecker        
JUPITER, Fla. -- You probably won't see the Yankees and Phillies pose for a group photo after the final game of the 2009 World Series, but you saw something comparable after the last game of the 2009 WWBA World Championship Monday afternoon.
The winners and losers walked to center field, posed for pictures together, made plans to socialize once they return to California and had a joint post-game meeting with the winning and losing coaches. It sounds odd, but it all made perfect sense.
The ABD Academy made the championship game of the WWBA tournament a family affair Monday when the Braves Scout Team defeated the Orange County Boxers, 7-1, at Roger Dean Stadium behind a strong pitching performance by David Longville.
The Braves Scout Team and the Orange County Boxers came up with new names for the World Championship, but the players on both clubs belong to the vaunted ABD program of California and carry the ABD banner wherever they go. This time, they met in the championship game of the 85-team tournament and had a grand time.
"This is a family, in a sense," said Jon Paino, who coached the Boxers. "We play together all summer long, we work out together. These kids are friends, on and off the field. They all play in California together, they play on the same club teams, they play high school baseball against each other. We are kind of a second family, so this was a lot of fun."
The Braves Scout Team scored four runs in the fourth inning to grab a 6-1 lead and was never headed. They strung together five straight hits by Rouric Bridgewater, Brett Harrison, Jean Ramirez, Bryce Mosier and Josh Guerra to take control. Harrison and Guerra hit doubles and Ramirez, Mosier and Guerra had RBIs.
Longville pitched five solid innings for the Braves with five strikeouts. Henry Owens, who was named the Most Valuable Pitcher in the tournament, tossed the last two frames to end the tournament.
Ironically, the most talented team in the ABD program did not make the playoffs. The ABD Bulldogs, blessed with four Aflac All-Americans and other highly regarded players, did not win their pool and did not advance. Meanwhile, their buddies who play on other ABD teams competed for the trophies.
"It's always good when you get two teams like this in the finals. We feel pretty good about it," said Mike Spiers, the director of ABD baseball who coached the Braves here.
The players who compete for the ABD Bulldogs are all high school seniors. Most of them have already committed to Division I colleges and some of them will be high draft picks next June. The players on the Braves Scout Team, by contrast, are high school juniors with a couple of sophomores thrown in. They could be next year's Bulldogs, and they gave a good account of themselves in Jupiter this past week.
Danny Camarena, who pitched a two-hit shutout for the Braves with 12 strikeouts in the semifinals, was named the Most Valuable Player in the tournament. He got the save in a 4-3 victory in the quarterfinals on Sunday night, then tossed a complete game in the semifinals on Monday morning. He finished with a 2-0 record in the tournament with a 0.00 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 11 2/3 innings. He also played the outfield and had several big hits.
"I'm very excited. I mean, I never would have thought," said Camarena, a left-hander from Bonita, Calif. "You come here, I wanted to do good. Me and my brother (Louie) talked about it, but I never really expected this."
Owens, a 6-foot-5 southpaw from Huntington Beach, Calif., pitched nine innings in the tournament without allowing a run. He struck out 13 batters and allowed only four hits to earn the award as Most Valuable Pitcher.
Camarena and Owens both went home to California with handsome trophies for their individual awards. Another teammate had the championship trophy in his mitts and wasn't letting go. A member of the ABD program won the title, but it wasn't supposed to be the Braves.
"We weren't expected to do anything, but we knew we could go far. We weren't intimidated by them seniors," said Owens, smiling broadly.
The Braves and Boxers mingled in center field after the game, savoring a big moment for the ABD program.
"We all know each other, we're all good buddies," said Owens. "But once the game starts it's all business. And once it ends, it's all cool."
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