RAPIDS, Iowa – The WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship for the
most part is a regional tournament, in which 44 teams from 12 states
from the upper Midwest and Canada assemble in and around the Cedar
Rapids, Iowa area to compete for a paid invitation to participate in
the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. Naturally, the players
that makes up the rosters of the 44 teams also, for the most part,
are from those 12 states.
are two notable, and very obvious exceptions to this.
Woods, a 6-foot-9, 210-pound righthander from Madera, Calif., and
6-foot-4, 180-pound third baseman McCarthy Tatum of Clovis have made
the trip cross-country to play with the Illinois Indians–TRIBE team
to not only help the Indians win the paid invite to Jupiter, but also
in an attempt to help themselves gain exposure in front of the
scouting community on hand.
coach Terance Frazier was talking to Coach Gord,” Woods said of his
decision to attend the Kernels Foundation Championship. “He asked
me if I wanted to come, and I thought it would be a good experience.
I'd never been here before, and I love the Perfect Game tournaments
so I decided to come out.
just want to try to help this team win when I can pitch, try to
further myself and get my name out there.”
Indians, with a strong group of underclassmen on their younger age
group teams, were looking to bolster their roster not only for this
weekend's Kernels Foundation Championship, but also for the
PG/EvoShield Upperclass National Championship conducted last weekend
in Arizona. When the program opted not to attend the Upperclass event
after going 3-1 at the PG/EvoShield National Championship the week
prior, Head Coach Nelson Gord opted to bring some of the players he
secured to Iowa.
I knew we were going to do the Arizona events I reached out to a lot
of my contacts out on the West Coast that I'd either played with in
pro ball or coached against, asking for some direction to fill some
roster spots,” Gord said. “A couple of people pointed me in the
direction of Terance Frazier who runs Central Cal Baseball. A lot of
the things that he said about the approach with his program resonated
didn't end up doing (the PG/EvoShield Upperclass National
Championship). McCarthy and Stetson were going to come down to that.
When we decided that we didn't have the quality team to bring down
there I asked if they would be interested in coming out to Iowa (for
the Kernels Championship). They both have aspirations of playing
professional baseball, and we knew most if not all of the Major
League teams would be represented here, so we felt it would be a
great opportunity for them.”
the exception of one player from Iowa, the rest of Gord's Illinois
Indians roster is made up of players from Illinois. Gord's
organization, Play Ball Baseball, is part of his newest venture,
Players U, which is based in Mount Prospect, Ill., a suburb northwest
started the Indians program in the winter of 2007,” Gord said. “It
was just a youth program, we just had 11, 12 and 13-year old teams.
It quickly transitioned into the high school age, and that's where I
found I was best suited because I really enjoyed going through that
recruiting process with the kids. More importantly, just the ability
to teach them just how to be young men was a lot more impactful at
the past 5-6 years we've really grown not only the quantity but the
quality of the kids that are coming through. We're seeing more and
more talented kids come through and out of our program, so we're
really excited about the direction its going.”
they didn't participate in the Upperclass edition of the PG/EvoShield
National Championships, they did field a team at the Underclass, and
played quite well. They finished 2-1 in pool play, holding a 3-1
lead in their game against eventual pool winner Trombly Baseball in
the bottom of the sixth before things unraveled.
knew defensively we would be pretty solid–we had about six kids
that are high school shortstops–so I knew we would pick up the
baseball,” Gord recalled. “The big question mark was going to be
how we were going to pitch, and it ends up that every starter on our
staff ended up being on the all-tournament team. The key thing
especially with wood bat events is throwing strikes. I feel we do a
good enough job training the kids with defensive fundamentals that
we'll be solid behind them, and that's what those guys did.
you look at the one game we loss to Trombly, we were up 3-1 and then
we had a couple of walks, one miscommunication in the outfield and
that's the ballgame.”
Indians did win their consolation game against the powerful ABD
Bulldogs to end their experience on a high note, but it left Gord and
his team hungry for more.
addition to the Kernels Foundation Championship, the Indians are
scheduled to participate in both the WWBA Underclass World
Championship as well as the inaugural WWBA Freshman World
Championship, both of which will be held in Fort Myers, Fla. on
back-to-back weekends in mid-October.
was telling our assistant coach Anthony (Concialdi)–this
is his first experience with a Perfect Game event–you'll never see
anything like it,” Gord said of his experience competing at WWBA
and Perfect Game tournament events. “From having the official
scorekeepers, to the amount of colleges, the publicity, to getting
the colleges (the player's) contact information–a lot of people
keep that close to their chest–that's why we're all in this, to
help them get to the next level.
also knew bringing these two guys from California would help draw
attention to the players in our program , and I think they deserve
that. It's a nice benefit to them and a great opportunity that not
isn't anything new to Woods, currently ranked 102nd in PG's high school class of 2014 rankings,
who participated at numerous Perfect Game events over the course of
travels began with a trip to Minneapolis, Minn. for the National
Showcase in mid-June, where the lanky righty took the mound in the
very first game of the showcase. That game was notable in that three
eventual Perfect Game All-Americans, Brandon Murray, Kodi Medeiros
and fellow Northern California native Luis Ortiz (Fresno), also
definitely opened your eyes,” Woods said of the added attention he
received at the National. “But I grew up playing against a lot of
lot of older players. I've known Luis (Ortiz) for a while. Now he's
one of my friends, so I don't really look at him like a superstar
that a lot of people do.
in the Metrodome was kind of crazy to go in there and see it with the
history that's been there. But once you step on the mound it's like
any other mound.”
the roof of the Metrodome Woods displayed his usual, free and easy
delivery getting pronounced downhill leverage thanks to his
skyscraper build. He pitched consistently in the upper-80s at the
event, peaking at 90 mph.
weeks later, pitching for the San Diego Show at the 18u WWBA National
Championship in Marietta, Ga., Woods peaked at 92 mph playing on a
talent-laden squad that included Ortiz and two other PG
All-Americans, first baseman Rowdy Tellez (2012) and shortstop Jacob
week later Woods participated in the 17u WWBA National Championship,
peaking at 91 mph while striking out eight batters in his six innings
of work. One more PG All-American joined the Show that week, catcher
Game draws a lot of scouts, and they're known to have the best
athletes come to their showcases,” Woods said of his experiences in
both Minneapolis and Marietta. “The atmosphere with all of the
coaches and pro scouts is pretty special. Playing with people like
Alex Jackson, who was ranked No. 1, that was definitely cool.”
trip to Iowa proved to be a productive one for Woods, who waited to
take his turn pitching until Sunday against the talented Team
DeMarini-Koutnik squad in Iowa City. With both teams sitting at 2-0
in their pool, the winner would move on to the Kernels Foundation
worked the first 4 2/3 innings for the Indians, sitting in his usual
87-90 mph range while peaking at 91. He also mixed in both an
upper-60s curveball and a low-80s slider, striking out five and
allowing only one run on two hits and two walks. The best news about
it was that the Indians won the game to advance.
Woods has gained plenty of his travels, the same isn't true for his
Illinois Indians teammate McCarthy Tatum, with whom Woods traveled
with to Cedar Rapids.
Kernels Foundation Championship marked Tatum's first taste of Perfect
Game, an opportunity he was excited to experience.
McCarthy Tatum played in his first PG event at the 2013 WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship.
just trying to get my name out there a little bit, get some looks,
show people what I can do,” McCarthy said. “(I want to) try and
help this team win so they can get a spot in Jupiter, whatever I have
to do to do that.”
not quite as towering as Woods, Tatum also stands out on the baseball
field thanks to his 6-foot-4 frame. He is teammates with Gatewood at
Clovis High School and is quick to point out the impressive talent
Northern California has to offer.
like Woods, has committed to play for Fresno State, along with yet
another PG All-American, outfielder Trenton Kemp, who is also from
unbelievable, there are some great players out there,” Tatum said
of the players he gets to play with and against on a regular basis.
“I've never played anywhere else, really, besides when I was
little. I haven't really travelled much, but I know the competition
is great in Northern California.”
he hasn't travelled, despite his commitment to play for Fresno State
locally, Tatum recognizes the importance of playing with and against
the best players in competitive events with hopes of being drafted to
play professional baseball.
would really be fortunate to be drafted,” Tatum said of his future
aspirations. “But I always have to think about my education, so I'm
just going to do whatever I have to do to get my name out there.”
also made the most of time spent in Iowa. Through the team's three
pool play games the young slugger was 5-for-8 (.625) with two runs
scored, including a 2-for-2 effort in the Illinois Indians-TRIBE 3-1
win over Team DeMarini-Koutnik on Sunday.
the main goal of many to most travel teams is to provide that
platform for their players to be recognized by both the college and
professional scouting community, Gord is quick to recognize the
ultimate goal playing in the WWBA Kernels Foundation Championship.
year since we started doing
the high school team, Jupiter, Jupiter Jupiter. That's the goal
behind this, that's the place to be. As long as we don't have a spot
in that tournament we're going to continue to do everything we can to
earn that berth. Hopefully with those two guys, in addition to the
talent we brought out here from our usual summer program, I think we
have a legitimate shot, I'm excited.”