Perfect Game USA is announcing its national Top 25 preseason rankings this week. We introduced the East Cobb Astros as the No.1 team in the 14U rankings on Monday, and today we profile the Dulin Dodgers as the No.1 team in the 15U field. We’ll follow with the 16U rankings on Wednesday, the 17U rankings on Thursday and the 18U rankings on Friday. We’ll announce the teams that received honorable mention in all five age groups next week.
15U National Rankings
The Dulin Dodgers don’t believe in having a big roster for their 15-&-under ballclub. Twelve or 13 players are enough, unlike some teams that have 18 or 20 guys. Everyone on the team is comfortable that way, and it’s proven to be a formula for success.
The Dodgers had only 12 players on their roster in 2009 when Perfect Game USA named them the top 14U team in the country in the final rankings, and they list only 12 guys on their roster this season (or maybe 13) as they start the 2010 campaign as the No. 1 team in our new 15U ratings.
The Dodgers are lean and mean.
“They pitch and they play positions and they rest,” Dulin Dodgers Manager Curtis Copeland said. “Everybody gets to play and everybody is happy.”
Some teams have 15 players. Some have 18 or 20, some even 25. Not the Dodgers. They don’t think they need them.
The Dodgers have seven primary pitchers, but just about everybody on the team can throw. Two of their pitchers have already hit 82 mph on the radar gun, two more have reached 84, and two more have hit the 87-88 range. These young arms can throw the ball, and they throw it well and hard.
Copeland passes the credit to David West, the Director of Pitching for the Dulin Dodgers organization and a former major league hurler himself. West helps the pitchers get ready, and the players do the rest.
“They’re all good,” Copeland said. “They’ve all got good mound presence. You pretty much have to point them in the right direction and they take it from there.”
The Dodgers won the 14U WWBA championship last year, led by tournament MVPs Chase Hamilton and Brett Hanewich. They also won the 14U BCS title, led by MVP Josh Cooley. And they won the NABF Classic World Series, which is why Perfect Game crowned them the best 14-&-under team in the country for 2009.
Dalton Dulin, Garrett Copeland, Ross Adams, Jordan Barnes, Blake Hennessey, Ryan Garner, Hamilton, Hanewich and Cooley are back from last year’s squad. Chyene Bickel, Caleb Powell and Austin Sexton have joined them this season, and they’ll probably add a 13th
player before the season begins in late May.
The Dulin Dodgers program, located in Tennessee, began fielding teams in 2000. Tim Dulin, the owner and operator of the program, and Copeland, the manager of the 15U team, have known each other for about 20 years, even before they began working together in the baseball program. They added a 14U team to the program last year – a team that included their own sons – and immediately struck gold. Now they’re back for more.
Dulin and Copeland have known many of the players on the team since they were 9 years old. Some of the players practice at the Dulin Dodgers facility in Memphis, but it’s not possible to hold regular practices because the 15U team has players from Tennessee, Florida, Arkansas and Alabama.
They try to have a few practices before the season begins, with as many players as possible. “Other than that,” Copeland said, “we go out and play.”
Their season will begin in late May, then accelerate during the summer. Many of the guys are currently playing for their high school varsity teams as freshmen, so they’ll be ready to go when the summer travel season begins. There’s one 8th
grader on the club and one sophomore, but the rest are freshmen. And even though it’s a 15-&-under club, they’ll routinely compete against older competition. And succeed.
“They’re all gifted athletes already,” Copeland remarked.
Gifted, and No.1 in the country.