Opening Day! Around The Quad
Opening ceremonies is behind us and despite the cold weather the day was filled with highlights. First was the nice gesture from league President Dennis Birdwell and Vice Presidents John Robertson and Mike Kelly. Our league brass invited local Kroger manager Don Cox who is retiring this month to the park to be honored for 19 years of service to Krogers and our park in general. Over the years Mr. Cox has allowed countless all-star teams, at least fifty which were state champs, to stand in front of the Krogers building and collect money for tournament trips and expenses. Those fifty plus teams collected an estimated $80,000-$100,000 in that time. Never once did Mr. Cox ever turn a team away if they requested to have a fund raiser and he would try to come outside and chat with the parents and players from time to time when he had the time. The league presented Mr. Cox with a plaque recognizing his generosity and shadow box with a signed bat and ball from the 2012 Little League World Series United States Champion team. It was a small token of appreciation to someone who meant much more to the league over the years. Thank you again Mr. Cox!
I missed the opening round Friday night due to wimping out and heading home because it was “too cold” but I heard there were some bombs hit by the twelve year old group. Dylan Suter from the 11-12 Red Sox was credited with the longest blast that cleared the right center field fence and one hopped a car in the parking spaces across the street. I heard it was close, if not, longer than 300 feet! The player who ended the night with the first round lead was the Mariners’ Bryce Miller who belted 5 balls over the fence. Bryce has put in the time over the winter and it is beginning to show on the field. I am so happy to see him succeed. Big Ty Reeves finished in second place which was good enough to advance to the Saturday finals where he took over the lead with some mammoth car bashing drives to left center field. Reeves took home the crown as homerun derby champ and my guess is he is far from finished smashing cars this season. The kid is a man child and a nightmare to have to pitch to. Good luck coaches.
The 10 year old division was won by Easton Dillard. Dillard was impressive in the Friday semis and the Saturday finals displaying some serious bat speed and pop off the bat collecting oohs and ahhs from the crowd. The kid hits more line drives than high blasts which, is PERFECT, in my book but when he hits it just right, it sails a seriously long way. He has some wonderful batting mechanics. Try to catch some Angels games this year, Mr. Dillard won’t disappoint.
Saturday Observations in the Major League
Saturday was the first game of the season for the major league where the other age levels were playing shortened practice games. The Major division had some great moments on day one which I will try to highlight. This is from memory and I didn’t see everything so please keep that in mind.
Dodgers Look Impressive
Is it a surprise that the Dodgers looked good in game one? Not to me as this team has been one of the better teams for a few years now. This year’s version looks just as impressive as they routed a roster depleted Mariners team. Luke Fleming got the starting nod for the Dodgers and went one scoreless inning before giving way to Jacob Smith and Brooks Langston. The trio held the Mariners at bay allowing the Dodgers to claim a convincing win. The bats looked strong with Jacob Smith, Luke Fleming and Preston Driver leading the charge. Big lefty John Luke Simmons also had a strong day and looks more than ready to make the jump to the major level in the box and on the mound. Owen El-Shishini had the highlight of the game with an inside the park grand slam homerun down the third base line. It was questionable whether the ball was fair or foul on the opposing side of the bleachers but it counted and it was a great moment for a great kid. Nice job Owen!
11 Year Old Catchers
I noticed many eleven year old catchers on the field yesterday as at least four caught for their team. Tyler Robertson (Reds) Tanner Jones (Red Sox) Braden Kelly (Brewers) and Justin “I ain’t scared of nobody” Brown (Braves) got behind the plate and all of them looked good for their team. I was impressed by the size of Braden Kelly. Kelly has hit a growth spurt and looked comfortable in the game bringing back memories of big brother Dylan who played during the 2010-11 season and was regarded as the best of his age group. Braden has some big shoes to fill but it looks like he’s on the right path. The Reds Robertson made several nice blocks of errant throws keeping the Red Sox runners in place and Jones and Brown kept the ball in front of them during the game helping their teams claim victory.
The twelve year old catcher of note was Kaleb Powell. Powell was on the eleven year old all- star team but wasn’t used in that capacity due to his pitching prowess and the fear he may get injured hurting the teams rotation but he more than made up for it playing multiple positions. This season he is back behind the plate for the Royals and looked as good as ever. I will make this prediction, there won’t be any teams trying to take second while he is receiving pitches. The throw gets down in around 1.5-2.0 seconds from catch to throw to catch and I don’t think we have anyone that fast anywhere. He runs pretty well too I believe. ;-)
Speaking of growth, has everyone noticed how big Peyton Carney has gotten this year? Oh my goodness! The Royals got a steal in the draft with this pick! Carney used that growth to launch a pitch into the night sky on opening day giving him the early lead in the homerun department. My guess is he will hit many more as big and strong as he has gotten. Have a great season Peyton!
We had some great pitching performances on day one as the Braves got off to a good start with Tyler Preston, Ethan Jackson and Ryan Oden getting a big win. Preston had total command of his breaking ball keeping the big hitters for the Brewers off balance. Jackson came on in middle relief holding them at bay with Oden closing the door securing the win in a very competitive contest. The Braves are looking good behind the tutelage of long time Goodlettsville pitching coach Bill King with Jonathan Jackson at the helm.
Eric Mitchell: This young man is as hard a worker as you will find in the league. Never one to complain or loaf he is always 100% every day which is a coaches’ dream. His hard work over the winter paid off on day one as he took the mound for the Red Sox limiting a very talented Reds team to no runs on four hits while striking out 8. Mitchell learned the breaking ball over the winter and used it to keep some serious offensive talent at bay for six full innings. He won’t beat you with speed but he gets the job done anyway. Nice job Eric!
Caleb Dyer: Man has this kid turned it on in year two! I knew coming in to the season that Caleb Dyer would be pretty good this year as he got a lot of innings last year but holy cow was he electric yesterday! Dyer opened the game versus the Red Sox striking out the first seven batters. One bad inning kept him from earning a victory but from what I saw he will get many with that powerful fastball. Dyer is another hard worker and his hard work is paying dividends. Good job Caleb.
Bradley Wheeler: Kanon Lewis asked me if I was a Padres fan now while we were on the field lining up during opening ceremonies. I was a little confused until he said I called Bradley Wheeler a "beast" on last weeks’ article. I responded nope, I’m still 100% for my team but Wheeler “is” a beast.
After a slow start against the Royals in the nightcap, Wheeler shook off the rust and went to work holding a powerful Royals team at bay for the rest of the game striking out 11 batters in a 3-0 losing effort. Wheeler is better known for his “beastly” batting but on this day Mr. Lewis; he was a beast on the mound even though you guys won the game. Nice job Bradley.
Kanon Lewis: Speaking of Kanon Lewis, how about that fastball last night? That thing was lightning in a bottle from my vantage point and the breaking ball was pristine! When you can see the ball slightly rise as it makes it way to home plate you know you’re throwing gas and Lewis was definitely doing that. I mentioned this Royals team had arguably the best 1-2 pitching combination in the league and I wasn’t kidding. Wait until Kaleb Powell takes the mound on Tuesday night. It’ll be more of the same, electricity!
Ryan Oden: My last pitcher of the day is Ryan Oden. I caught a little of him on the mound for the Braves as we were warming up for our game and from my vantage point he has increased his velocity big time! I watched him extensively last year. He was one of the best in the minor league but wasn’t overpowering with his velocity. Yesterday I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I asked one of the other coaches out there with me if that was Oden on the mound which they replied yes and I was awestruck. Oden has definitely put in the time over the winter to improve his game and I believe it is going to pay dividends this year and next. If you want to make a run at something worthwhile during your twelve year old season this is what it takes to get there. Mr. Oden is making it happen! I hope more follow his lead.
That’s all I have for this week. I hope to keep this going for another season but we will have to see. I don’t think I will be doing a player of the week article this year due to circumstances out of my control which takes a huge burden off my shoulders with my personal time but I know disappoints many who use this as a way to keep up with grandchildren from out of state and locally.
Until next week…………………………..Hopefully
And So It begins…….Again 2015
The Major League is balanced
A new season is upon us as the wet, snowy, icy cold days of March are almost behind us with sights set on opening day March 31st. The new season springs forth high hopes for many coaches in the ultra-competitive 11-12 division based on “paper stats.” Without a pre-season tournament to gauge the competition we are left to speculate on what “might be” in the division. With that said, we move to the teams in question going over each as best as possible.
The Dodgers are the reigning 2014 11-12 Major League champions finishing the season with a sparkling 16-2 record. Gone are the likes of Ethan Lyle and Ryan Tressler but the cupboard is far from empty. The Dodgers were loaded up with eleven year olds last season and those 7 are all back and ready to rumble. The Dodgers placed four eleven year old players on the all-star teams as Jacob Smith (12), Luke Fleming, Preston Driver and Brooks Langston all went through the post season on either the twelve year old team or the eleven year old state championship team. Brown Norton, Owen El-Shishini and Ryan Raines round out the twelve year old cast with Jon Luke Simmons coming on board as the top eleven year old. Blake Lawless, Carson Cochran, Jarrett Frazier and Braden Griswell join Simmons on the eleven year old roster. This team has pitching depth and power in the box making them one of the favorites to take the title in 2015. This team is deep.
The Braves will be without Coby Allison and Tristan Merithew but return all-star Devvan Darden from the eleven year old team. Mitchell Church had a solid season for the Braves in 2014 as well as Nick Moss and Tyler Preston. The Braves picked up Ian Taylor, Jacob Sheley and Goose Cobaugh to round out the 12’s and added Ethan Jackson, Ryan Oden, Justin Brown, Jacob Davis and Levi LeMay in the draft. The roster looks solid and the wins should follow when the games begin.
The Brewers have one of the most powerful hitters in the league at their disposal in Caden Cutrell as the big righty has grown by leaps and bounds over the winter. In addition to Cutrell, the Brewers added MJ Trotter to the mix in the draft giving them a powerful 1-2 punch. Trotter reminds me of Alex Junior from the 2009 all-star season. Junior was a hard throwing lefty that threw the second perfect game in Dixie Youth World Series history against Mississippi. Memories of those days come rushing back after watching him throw a baseball. The kid has potential. The Brewers aren’t left with just Cutrell and Trotter at their disposal as Nathan Frontz, Logan Galbreth, Jackson Brown and Will Sansom round out the twelve year old group. The Brewers added eleven year olds Braden Kelly, Wyatt Clements, the ever growing Fisher Donovan, Andrew Hood, Tanner Redmon and Maurice Greer to round out the roster and with that, the Brewers are another team with high expectations entering the season and for good reason.
The Mariners were the Astros last season. I have to say the choice of team names was a good one if the expectations for the MLB Mariners trickle down to the Goodlettsville version which I think it will. The Mariners have one of my favorite players in the league in big bad Jarrett Webb. Webb will be one of the most dangerous power hitters in the league. Add Peyton Oliphant to the mix with Bryce Miller and Colton Cutrell and you have the makings of another dangerous team on the schedule. Miller has worked tirelessly in the offseason working on his craft and from the videos I’ve seen, the work is paying off. The Mariners cap off their twelve year old roster with Carter Flatt, speedster Jamison Wilbanks and newcomer Sam Wisner. The Mariners will most likely be the biggest and most intimidating team in the league as Mr. Webb will be joined in the lineup by huge eleven year old “Mt.” Zion Robb. Robb is one big dude! Brock Duffer (another big dude) will give the Mariners depth on the mound as well as in the box with a powerful bat. The roster is capped off with Nicholas Smith, Gerald Davis and Tyler Coombs. This is an exciting cast of players!
The Padres took a hit in the pre-season losing one of their top twelve year old players and weren’t allowed to fill the void putting them in the hole to start the season but with the likes of Bradley Wheeler, Mason Standefer, Matthew Sykes, Braden Edwards and my man, Zach LaLumondier providing twelve year old leadership, the Padres should be just fine. Wheeler is a beast by the way. The Padres added eleven year olds John Henry Knotts, Isiah “Boogie” Page, Harrison Cline, Jake Staton and Titus Suggs giving them a solid core of players to work with. Standefer will most likely be counted on to carry a larger role on the mound with Wheeler, Knotts, Page and Suggs backing him up. If the big righty comes through, the pain of losing a star player will be softened………some.
The Red Sox entered the season needing to replace 99% of their starting pitching as only Zach McWilliams had any innings (1) on the mound in the 2014 season. The twelve year old roster returns Eric Mitchell, Ethan Choate, Cam McClanahan and Walker Sipe with Dalton Warren and Dylan Suter joining the league this season with Zach McWilliams, Tyler Jones, Tanner Jones, Jackson Garrett, Kody Rabon and Jake Bell rounding out the roster as eleven year olds. The Red Sox story will be written on the mound as the pitching will be inexperienced. Zach McWilliams, the Jones twins, Tyler and Tanner, Eric Mitchell, Dylan Suter and Ethan Choate step to the mound in 2015. If all goes well in this area the Red Sox will contend if not……. they had fun. My guess is they will be fine and the Red Sox will be in the mix again this season.
The Reds were the Marlins last season and they may be the most intriguing team in the league. Three players returned from last season as big Ty Reeves leads the way with big gun Caleb Dyer and Erion Jordan providing leadership. The Reds added new crafty pitcher Cooper Pennington as well as Steve Simerka, Adam Urquhart and Hunter Hamilton. These additions make the Reds a certain contender as Urquhart and Pennington will provide pitching depth giving the reds four twelve year old arms entering the season. That is a good problem to have. Tyler Robertson, Jonathan “Cody” Mooney, Martin “The Smurf” Gomez, Andrew Gomez and Cordell Griggs join the team as eleven year olds with every player having plenty of skill to make this team a contender.
The Royals made a late season run in the second half scoring huge wins over the Dodgers and the Red Sox in back to back games but couldn’t hold on for the second half championship. Returning to make another run at the title are Kannon Lewis and Kaleb Powell, arguably the best 1-2 combination in the league at the plate and on the mound. Kayden Angell, Blake Brown Chandler Crowley, Jacob Patterson and Peyton Carney, who’s grown a ton, round out the twelve year old roster with JoJo Brown, Cody Craig, Blake Dolan, Bryson Merrill and ten year old Carsen “The Cannon” Rucker rounding out the list. The talent is deep on this team which will translate into wins on the field.
The list is finished with only the games remaining to be played. I usually pick a favorite but this season it is way too close to call. I can see as many as six teams with a legitimate shot to take the crown but every team realistically has an argument as to why they can win the league. It will not be a two or three team race this season which will make the league the strongest it’s been in many years.
Let the games begin!!