ANNA — The saying goes, “If you build it they will come,” — from the classic 1989 film Field of Dreams — and for Anna, that creed still holds. June 8 through 10, the community hosted a prestigious Five Tool Showcase baseball tournament at its still-new ball park at the Anna Sports Complex. These events, now in their fifth year, attract some of country’s top young baseball talent — all gathered in hopes of catching the seasoned eye of a college recruiter or pro scout.
For this particular tourney — the Five Tool DFW Kickoff — Anna was one of four venues chosen, along with McKinney’s Ballfields at Craig Ranch, John Paul II High School in Dallas and Lewisville High School. Coyotes head coach Joey Hector, a day before hosting the first game, said Anna being included is a big “W” for the school and the community.
“For me, it gives our school some positive image, where (fans and players) come out here and they see what Anna’s about now. So many people, when you tell them you’re from Anna, they don’t know what Anna is, compared to what it used to be back in the day,” Hector said. “They come out here expecting some podunk little place, and it’s a pretty impressive school building and facilities. Everything out here is top-notch. It gets us on the map as far as, ‘Hey, here’s a growing community.’”
Seventy-eight teams participated in the DFW Kickoff and over 120 college recruiters and scouts were estimated to have witnessed games at the four venues. The tourney was a qualifier for the DFW Five Tool Show, June 21-25, to be held in part at TCU, UTA and Dallas Baptist University. Anna’s schedule featured three games on Thursday, four on Friday and four on Saturday. Numerous Friday games, tournament-wide, were cancelled due to rain. Championship Day was held at Craig Ranch, where pool play also opened on Wednesday, June 7.
Showcase tournaments started in 2013 as a means for young players to display their talent against high-caliber competition. These events, joint endeavors between recruiters and Select baseball clubs, are held across Texas in June and July. Top players not only from Texas, but Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico and Mississippi participate.
The games are played with wood bats, like in the big leagues.
“Really, what you’re doing is showcasing your talents, your abilities to play at the highest level, not necessarily college,” Hector said. “So they’ve got to see the wood bats and how the pitchers pitch against a wood bat, how the hitters hit.”
“It’s a pretty big deal,” he said, adding that some 17-and-under kids can throw a baseball in the low 90s and are projected pro draft picks. As for the 14-and-under teams, “loaded” is how Hector described them.
“They’re some of the best kids in the nation,” he said, “right here in the state of Texas. You don’t have to go very far in this state to find great baseball players. Texas is a football state, but I can tell you, baseball is not far behind.”
Two local players competed in this tournament: Anna’s Rawley Hector, 14, and Melissa’s Tate Whittington, 17. Rawley, son of Coach Hector, is already getting Division I interest. He’s a member of the Dallas Tigers 14U Godwin club that played two games at Anna on Thursday. The team won the first contest, 9-4, then dropped a squeaker, 1-0, on a walk-off double.
On Saturday, Rawley played with the 17U Dallas Tigers team, as some of its members were involved with state playoffs in Round Rock. Recruiters from the University of Arkansas and Navy were on hand for the contest.
“They made me better,” Rawley said of the experience. “They made me realize how much I need to progress. And I thanked them for letting me come out here and play the sport I love. … There is definitely a difference between 17U and 14U (pitching). I took it as a challenge. It was definitely fun to face them, with them not knowing I was 14. Anytime I got on base it felt pretty good.”
On the mound Sunday, Rawley struck out nine in four innings and allowed no runs in a 1-1 tie with Dallas Tigers 14U Polk. The outing earned Rawley a Player of the Game nod.
Whittington, an incoming senior, is a member of the Dallas Tigers 17U Johnson squad. In his team’s 7-1 win over DBAT 17U Self at Craig Ranch on Wednesday, Whittington blasted a grand slam home run to left and was named Player of the Game. At John Paul II High, his team was edged 3-1 and 3-2 in their final two games. Whittington’s lone scheduled appearance at the Anna venue was dropped after weather-related slate changes.
Over this same weekend, Whittington was named Second-Team All-State as a first baseman by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association.
After two days of tourney play, Whittington was the RBI leader with 7, and both Rawley and Whittington were on the leader board in Quality At Bats — Rawley second with 8 and Whittington fifth with 6. (Quality At Bats are when a batter produces as needed for a particular situation, including, in part, bunts, sac flys, hard-hit balls, forcing high pitch counts — even advancing a runner with a ground-out.)
Results from the Anna venue are below, as well as Sunday’s games and championship results from Craig Ranch.
Dallas Tigers 14U Godwin* 9
Dallas Mustangs 14U Haugen 4
AS Sundevils 14U Ingram 1
Dallas Tigers 14U Godwin* 0
DBAT Strike Elite 14U 6
Dallas Tigers 14U Polk 4
Clutch Athletics 15U 16
Dallas Tigers 16U Peterson 6
Dallas Tigers 17U Durham* 5
C3 Futures 17U Capps 3
Houston A’s 16U Everett 12
LBA 16U Walker 3
Houston A’s 17U Santiago 2
Team Rawlings 17U Moulton 1
Cavemen 16U Harvard 8
Frozen Ropes 16U Martin 8
AS Sundevils 16U Hayes 6
Marucci Elite Texas 16U 1
DBAT 17U Self 6
Marucci Elite Texas 17U Lynch 5
Dallas Tigers 16U Ahearne 11
AS Sundevils 16U Redding 2
Sunday games @ Craig Ranch plus championship results
Dallas Tigers 14U Godwin* 14
DBAT Strike Elite 14U 4
Dallas Tigers 14U Godwin* 1
Dallas Tigers 14U Polk 1
16U Championship – Div. I
Lubbock Raiders 16U 9
Phenom Texas 16U Harvey 3
16U Championship – Div. II
Marucci Elite Texas 16U 2
Dallas Tigers 16U Ahearne 1
Marucci Elite Texas 17U Dunn 3
Marucci Elite Texas 17U 1