JUPITER, FL - By the end of the first round of the Sunday games at the World Finals East tournament, the crowd at the ballpark had its attention on one game – the only game played by 14 year olds.
With 18U teams engulfing most the fields, the younger teams tend to get overlooked. Most players at tournaments are playing for potential scholarships or exposure to professional scouts. Most are in their last year of high school, or have already graduated. With hope of a near future in baseball, the older kids usually stand out.
For the Charlotte Stealth 14U team, of Charlotte, N.C., this isn’t the case.
Head coach Reed Eastley, who has been coaching the Stealth for two years, said that his team stands out for doing the little things right.
“We do the little things better than the other teams we play,” he said. “Our team is very good about learning from their mistakes and controlling things mentally, like knowing the game well. The physical errors will happen, but our team does a great job of understanding the game the right way.”
As a coach for the youngest team in the tournament, Eastley is aware that playing around professional scouts and college coaches may be a little unusual for his players. But, these tournaments are still important to Eastley and his team.
“We don’t need to be too concerned with the scouting, but it’s good to be experienced in these types of tournaments,” he said. “This is just for gaining experience and being ready, so that when they are 16 and 17 years old and going into college, they’ve ‘been there, done that’ and they’re able to excel.”
So, does age change the game of baseball? Maybe.
For this 14U team, with some players not even in high school yet, the team’s overall success takes precedent over individual statistics.
The 6-foot-3-inch, 200-pound third baseman, Henry Ryan, 14, said his goal is to play at a higher level. To succeed, he said he focuses on winning and the individual stats will follow.
“We have to prove ourselves and show people what we can do,” Ryan said. “For us, individual stats don’t count – we’re a team. It’s a team effort to win.”
And Eastley agrees.
“The team win is pretty much all we talk about,” he said. “I have experience in these situations and it’s an empty game when you only focus on personal stats. When you focus on the team win, people notice that. That’s what we’ve been preaching.”
At the end of their time in Florida, Ryan of the Stealth took the extra time to find the Prospect Wire team and personally thank them before he left for home.
“In my seven years running tournaments, I’ve never had a player come up to me of any age group to thank me. To think that a 14-year-old player did that is very special,” said the President/Founder of Prospect Wire, Matt Bomeisl.
Maybe we can all learn something from the youth.
The team of PW scouts recognized some standout ball players from the Charlotte Stealth this weekend in Jupiter, Fla.:
1B Allen Bunton: Bunton went 2-for-2 on Sunday with two RBI. He pulls the ball and shows natural power at the plate.
RHP/CF Tucker Jones: Besides excelling on the mound, (he bumped 77 mph), Jones went 2-for-3 with two RBI on Sunday afternoon.
SS Dirk Masters: This infielder also had two RBI for the Stealth. He swings aggressively in the strike zone and he’s quick on the field with a wide range at shortstop.