MARIETTA, Ga. - When the Perfect Game program shows the roster of a team that has a bunch of players from all around the state of Texas, and then a few from Colorado, people may question how that is possible. In the past, many travel teams have used players from different states to help their teams win at big tournaments. Many people might criticize this tactic because, to them, it looks like there would be no way a team atmosphere could be present when there are guys flying in just to play four or five games each week before heading back to their home states. When it comes to the Prospects National Team, though, a team atmosphere is what you see the most.
The mood that fills the dugout for this team is a direct reflection of the man that leads them into battle at every tournament: their head coach Trev Sanford. Sanford is the type of person that gets just as excited for his player’s success as he would for his own success. This attitude has trickled down from him, to the other coaches, and finally to the players. Assistant coach Jake Rowell understands Sandord’s vision when it comes to running this organization.
“We just want to watch them [the players] succeed,” Rowell said. “Watch them succeed, get the scholarship or get the draft position they want, and see them move on to successful careers. That’s what the whole foundation and basis of the program is.”
The Prospects National Team organization was started in 2008 in Kyle, Texas. After finishing up playing college baseball, Sanford was still hungry to be involved with baseball. So, along with his friend Lance Lofton, they created the organization.
“I think the very first mindset was, I knew Jupiter was a big deal, I enjoy recruiting and scouting players, and I saw strength in Perfect Game that provided a platform for us to get our guys in front of Big 12, SEC, Pac 12, ACC; the biggest teams in the country,” Sanford commented.
“I just had so much fun in college playing baseball, I wanted to provide that opportunity to other guys. I just enjoy being around it so much.”
His passion for the game was something that led him to do everything he could to become a scout and be able to find talent to play for his team. His time as a ballplayer was key in getting him a jumpstart into the mindset a scout needs, and the ins and outs involved with the art of tracking players.
“I was very blessed to be around Skip Johnson who’s a recruiting coordinator at the University of Texas, and then Texas State with Ty Harrington, [Jeremy] Fikac, and coach [Mike] Silva. I was able to learn a lot from those guys. I tried to condition my eyeballs to the best players in the country.”
Being around guys in the business was monumental for Sanford, and it strengthened his ability to be able to judge talent. Not to mention the fact that he played college baseball with Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis at Navarro Junior College, and he played with Arizona Diamondbacks’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt at Texas State University. Having seen the caliber of player like these two day in and day out added to his ability to scout ballplayers.
One does not have to look too far to see if all that Sanford learned about judging talent paid off. His 17u Prospects National Team is a team with a great deal of talent starting with their standout shortstop Nicholas Shumpert. Shumpert was recruited to play for the team out of his home state of Colorado. For Shumpert, he was drawn to the team simply because of the way the team plays the game. He saw, “the intensity that everybody brings to the game. Everybody is intense the whole game. Everybody is focused the whole game. And, that’s how you get wins.”
Shumpert is the son of former major leaguer Terry Shumpert, who played 14 seasons with the Royals, Red Sox, Cubs, Padres, Rockies, and Devil Rays. He is also one of the coaches for the Prospect National Team. Shumpert feels blessed having his father as a coach and a former major league player.
“It’s a great advantage to have because he was already where I want to be. He tells me everything I need to do.”
The advice seems to be paying off so far as Shumpert is currently the number four overall player nationally in the 2015 class. He has also already committed to play college baseball at the University of Kentucky. Following in his parent’s footsteps, there was never any doubt where he would play baseball at the next level.
“That’s where I’ve always wanted to go because that’s where my mom and dad went. So, it was a pretty easy choice.”
Terry has been a vital part of the organization in his time involved with it. Sanford has taken this opportunity to have an ex-major leaguer on his staff as another learning tool to gain even more knowledge of the game.
“Just the knowledge, the wealth of knowledge that he [Terry Shumpert] has in his brain, and the network that he has; if there is something that we need, he knows somebody out there that has got it,” raved Sanford. “If something happens out here, he’s got the right answer.”
“For me personally and for these kids, it’s almost like you gain three [or] four seasons of work of experience just by being around the man because he saves you so many missed opportunities.”
When watching Jordan Stephens play, he definitely seems to have gained some experience by being a part of this team. Stephens, who is also from Colorado, came to the team in an effort to play more competitive baseball and be around other top players.
“This type of organization is more competitive, and it’s more professional. For me, being out in Colorado, we don’t have club teams like this. So, this type of club, the Prospects organization, really helps us get seen by scouts.”
Stephens ranks in the top 200 prospects nationally in the 2015 class, and along with his teammate Shumpert, he will be attending the 2014 National Showcase in Fort Myers, Florida next week. As an uncommitted player, he is anxious to show his skills and receive more recognition.
“[I want to] get a higher ranking and get more offers than the ones that I have. So I’m looking forward to it, and it should be fun.”
With the leadership of Shumpert and Stephens, the Prospect National Team has posted a 3-0-1 record thus far in the 17u PG/EC Invitational, including an impressive 9-2 win in the first round of bracket play this morning. As they prepare for their quarterfinal game tonight, the team understands that a strong showing at Perfect Game events like this one will bring them into consideration for some of Perfect Game’s most exclusive events.
“It’s the drive to Jupiter is what it is. I wasn’t able to get in the first four seasons, and I think this year we got a good shot.”
Maybe a championship this weekend is exactly what the team needs to get over the hump and finally be considered as one of the nation’s top travel teams. Regardless, the attitude of the coaches and players in the organization are what will continue to drive this team to the success they strive for.