Feeding off the fun factor

July 28th, 2017

GOODYEAR, Ariz. – Every one of the 98 teams in attendance at this weekend’s Perfect Game/EvoShield National Championship (Upperclass) tournament feels like there is something in the makeup – their basic baseball DNA – that sets them apart from the other 97.

The Trosky Baseball operation has two teams in the field, an underclass squad with a roster made up almost entirely of class of 2017 prospects with two or three 2016s thrown in, and an upperclass outfit with an opposite roster – a large number of 2016s with a smattering of 2017s in the mix.

The underclass team – called Trosky Baseball – identifies Los Angeles as its base of operations and won the only pool-play game on its schedule Friday. The older group – playing under the name Trosky Mizuno – calls Monterey on California’s Central Coast home and won both its pool-play games on Friday and positioned itself nicely to contend for a pool championship.

The players and coaches on Trosky Mizuno – with five roster spots filled by prospects with commitments to prominent NCAA Division I universities – already know what sets them apart from the thundering herd behind them. If it needs a name, call it the “fun factor.”

“This should be exciting with the great group of guys that we have,” 2016 shortstop Tyler Prichard said Friday afternoon from the Cleveland Indians side of the Goodyear BallPark MLB spring training complex. “We just all like to have fun … and no one gets mad at each other and we all try to pick each other up when we’re having a rough time.”

2016 right-hander Shea Barry echoed the words of his teammate: “It’s always fun; I love being with this team,” he said. “Every team here has the same mindset as us and (the players) want to go on and play college baseball, and I think everyone that’s here can do that; that’s what makes it so fun. … It’s a perfect way to finish out the fall.”

Nate Trosky is the founder and owner of Trosky Baseball and serves as an associate scout with the Milwaukee Brewers. The organization specializes in presenting college showcase camps up and down the West Coast and the teams Trosky Baseball assembles for events like the PG/EvoShield Upper National Championship and the annual Area Code Games in Long Beach consist of players that attend those camps. The group now has formed teams in both Central and Southern California, and also has one in Hawaii.

Trosky Mizuno head coach Ryan Thompson calls the assembled rosters “developmental teams.” He uses the term in the context that the kids out on the field are interested in learning the game and not just rolling out the balls and playing it with a win-at-all-costs attitude.

“We kind of take pride in that,” he said. “… It’s not a ‘win-or-go-home’ mentality for us, so when we find ourselves in tournaments like this it’s a little bit different because this will be one of the rare times when we carry less kids. It’s a different beast for us but it’s still fun because these kids are awesome.”

While Thompson may have tightened his roster this weekend, he didn’t hesitate at all about going to his bullpen in a 3-1 win over Wildfire Baseball Black from Queen Creek, Ariz., and a 5-1 victory over the SBG Wahoos out of Encino, Calif., Friday afternoon.

He marched-out seven pitchers to throw the 14 innings and they responded by allowing only one earned run on four hits, with 16 strikeouts and 11 walks. Unheralded 2016 righty Tyler Hazlett was the workhorse, being allowed to work four innings of one-hit, shutout ball with four strikeouts and no walks.

The Mizunos managed 13 hits in the pair of wins – 10 singles – with Jacob Odenkirk, Jake Moberg, Jason Dicochea and Nathan Cirtchett each collecting a pair; Odenkirk drove in a pair of runs.

The top prospects on the roster, per PG rankings, include Moberg, a 2018 right-hander/shortstop from Murrieta, Calif., ranked No. 94 in his class. The top 2016s are Prichard, a U. of Southern Cal commit from Lake Elsinore, Calif., ranked in the top-500; and shortstop/first baseman Zach Weller, a Cal State Fullerton recruit from Coronado, Calif., also ranked in the top-500.

There are also a pair of 2016 top-1,000s: the right-handed Barry who has committed to UC Santa Barbara – and who watched as his fastball reached 92 mph during two innings of work Friday – and left-hander Mac Larnder, a Gonzaga recruit.

The top 2017s on the roster are catcher Aaron Roose from Fremont, Calif. – ranked in the top-600 – and left-hander Holden Christian, a top-1,000 who has committed to the U. of San Diego.

“You always want to show the best things that you have, whatever it is you’ve got,” Barry said. “Being committed is a weight off your shoulders but it makes it a ton more fun to come out here and just participate with these guys; it makes it all the better.”

The group spent the summer learning how to compete while also learning first-hand how to handle a heapin’ helpin’ of adversity. It participated in the Phil Singer Summer Series in San Diego and finished as runner-up after battling through the loser’s bracket and playing 11 games in four days; 16 games in seven days, total. That can bring a group of young men together like nothing else.

“It got to the point where there was such a big trust factor and a ‘liking’ factor among these kids that moms and dads were letting them stay (in San Diego) and these kids were bunking-up in hotel rooms four and five deep – and having the times of their lives,” Thompson said. “… With these guys it’s much more than just camaraderie, it’s a true friendship.”

The reasons Thompson likes having this team at this event are numerous but most of those reasons have their origin in the recruiting part of what is really an uncomplicated puzzle. College coaches show up in droves because they know they’re going to see a high level of baseball being played, and while a lot of the kids at an upperclass event have already committed, an equal number have not.

The prospects are excited because they know playing against the best will bring out the best in themselves which makes them all the more eager to show their talents off to the college coaches.

“They’re here to be seen and get better,” Thompson said. “We’re not here to win a tournament, per se – we’d like to win because then we’d play more games – but our job is to get them in front of the right (college) coaches and provide the right opportunities for them to showcase themselves. If it’s not the right fit, then we’ll keep working and try to find the school that might fit their level, and that’s really what it’s all about.”

Barry, Hazlett and Moberg were the Trosky Mizuno hurlers who threw in the 3-1 tournament-opening victory over Wildfire Baseball Black, and at least a couple of dozen college coaches were on hand to watch. The trio combined on a complete-game three-hitter, striking out nine and walking four; Barry allowed the only earned run.

The recruiters watched as Barry’s fastball reached 92 mph (as previously noted), Moberg’s touched 88 and Hazlett’s 85. It’s important to remember that Moberg is an uncommitted high school sophomore so his outing might have had the biggest impact. But then, impactful performances are what Trosky Mizuno team members have come to expect.

“We definitely feed off each other,” Prichard said. “We’re all trying to be at our best when we’re out here, and it’s a good competitive atmosphere because we’re all playing around people that are better than us and we all try to get up to each other’s levels.

“We have to be excited to play up to this level,” he continued. “We have to be excited to have the opportunity to play against such good players and get our skill level up.”

Trosky Mizuno (2-0-0) will play for a pool championship on Saturday when it faces Slammers Black Holzemer (2-0-0) out of the Denver area; Slammers Black outscored Wildfire Baseball Black and SBG Wahoo by a combined 21-0 on Friday. Trosky players like Barry feel like they’ll be ready for anything, and if all else fails, he knows he and his teammates will have fun.

“I’ve never had coaching like this before,” Barry said. “The motivational speeches and everything like that, and just everything they know about baseball, from my experience, I’ve never had a team like this where I don’t have to worry about plays being made behind me because these guys are making them no matter what.”

“It’s so competitive and that’s what makes it so much fun,” he concluded. “Nobody wants to lose, and the winning mindset is always there for everyone; it’s just much fun all around.”

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