Perfect Game USA has been announcing its preseason national Top 25 rankings this week. We unveiled the 14U, 15U, 16U and 17U rankings earlier this week, and today we’re announcing the ABD Bulldogs as the top 18-&-under club in the country. The teams that received Honorable Mention in all five age groups will be announced next week.
18U Travel Team Rankings
The ABD Bulldogs could have the best 18-&-under baseball team in the country this summer, stocked with Aflac All-Americans and high draft picks, but that’s the problem. They might be too good.
The Bulldogs might have a ghost team. Now you see them, now you don’t.
Perfect Game USA has tabbed the ABD Bulldogs as the No.1 team in our 18U preseason rankings, knowing they might not be at full strength this summer.
“We have an 18U roster, but I think they’re all going to be playing professional baseball,” said Mike Spiers, the program director of ABD baseball. “They’re technically on the roster, but there’s a pretty good chance they won’t be when the draft comes along.”
The Bulldogs have a long list of top prospects for the June draft with Tony Wolters, Austin Wilson, Peter Tago, Tyler Shreve, Stefan Sabol and Michael Lorenzen, all of whom were Aflac All-Americans last August. There are many other top players in the program as well, and most of them will be headed to top Division I colleges if they don’t turn pro.
“It’s a special group,” Spiers remarked.
Spiers credits Wolters, an outstanding shortstop, as the guy who helped lift this group to another level. The Bulldogs won the 17U WWBA National Championship last year as high school juniors.
“Tony was the leader of this group,” he said. “He was the guy who kept everybody together, kept everybody going. Guys want to play with Tony.”
The Bulldogs love to take raw kids and help turn them into draft picks, even if it means their team is weakened a little – or a lot.
“When you see things like that happen, you feel good for them. That’s really an awesome feeling,” Spiers said. “They have a dream, and they want to do things.”
Spiers had a dream, too. He played college baseball in California and had a chance to turn pro, but hurt his arm. That led to a career in coaching.
Spiers, 48, worked as an assistant coach at the collegiate level in California for several years and gave private lessons. He started the ABD Baseball Academy in 1992 in order to create more opportunities for young players and to teach the game, making him a pioneer in travel-team baseball on the West Coast.
“There really wasn’t any club baseball in our area. It was really by accident,” he said.
That “accident” has developed into a dynasty.
“When I first started it, we knew we had something,” he said. “We thought if we implemented it right, we’d be OK.”
The ABD Baseball Academy is recognized as one of the top programs in the country. They have 38 teams in the program now and approximately 800 players. Most of the teams are located in California, but they also have clubs in Hawaii and Nevada.
The overall success has been impressive, with a string of national titles and a long list of outstanding players. “Sometimes it’s mind-boggling,” Spiers said.
Spiers had an interesting day in early April when Major League organizations finalized their rosters, both for the big leagues and minor leagues. There were former ABD Bulldogs all over the place. “I spent three hours trying to text-message with 30 guys,” he said.
There are currently four ABD products in the major leagues with Tommy Hanson (Braves), Greg Dobbs (Phils), Reed Johnson (Dodgers) and Xavier Paul (Dodgers), and there are dozens of other ABD players in the minors. The Bulldogs have produced 18 Aflac All-Americans since 2005, and they had a pair of first-round draft picks last year with Jiovanni Mieer (Astros) and Matt Davidson (Diamondbacks).
Spiers is the executive director of the ABD staff. He’s also a scout for the Red Sox, the West Coast Director for Perfect Game USA and has served as head coach of the Ecuador National Team.
Randy Curtis, who played Triple-A baseball, is the president of the ABD program. He graduated from high school in 1989, before the advent of travel-team baseball and programs like the one he works for now.
“I’ve really seen a change,” Curtis said. “Our only option at the time, during the summer time, was American Legion. I tell the players this a lot. When I was growing up, I didn’t even have a hitting lesson.”
Spiers credits his staff for the success of the ABD program. “We have good people involved who make sure things get done,” he said.