By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Writer
The Frozen Ropes Titans will be the host team at the AABC Mickey Mantle World Series in McKinney for the seventh straight year. The host team is determined through the Mickey Mantle League, where the local team with the best record gets the honor of participating in the tournament.
This 16-year-old and under baseball tournament offers some of the best talent from around North America, with Ontario and Puerto Rico coming to town to compete for the title. But for the local boys of Frozen Ropes, this will be some of the best competition they have seen up to this point in their careers, even if they have a year of varsity under their belts.
Cory Thornton, head coach of the Titans, admits that it has been tough in recent years for the host team because they do not go out and get talent from other states like other squads do, but expects to do well in the tournament in 2012.
“Over the years it has been tough for the host team because we’ve had to have so many local kids,” said Thornton during a team workout on Tuesday. “I think most years we’ve been either 1-2 or 2-2, but we have the talent to get into the draw round, and hopefully we can. My expectation is to get to the draw round and see what happens.”
Frozen Ropes does know who will toe the rubber Wednesday night in game one versus the Ohio Thunder. The honor will go to Remey Reed, a varsity pitcher at Frisco Centennial, who Thornton says has the guts and grit to go out there and compete against the very best.
“He’s got a really good fastball in the 86-88 MPH range,” Thornton said. “He generally spots the ball really good and not afraid to throw the ball inside. He’s got a good slider and his breaking ball has improved quite a bit. He competed at the varsity level all spring with metal bats, so he has guts and he goes out there and competes.”
When asked what his approach was in facing hitters he didn’t know much about, Reed says he plans to keep it simple on the mound.
“Just throw strikes and don’t try to go out there and strikeout everyone,” he said. “Just pitch to contact. My defense will do the rest.”
Despite the game time being at 8 p.m., Thornton still acknowledges the battle the kids will have with Mother Nature and the blistering heat sweeping through the state. He says he has rarely ever extended a pitcher past 100 pitches this summer. Instead, he goes into games with two pitchers in mind and tries to throw them both for three innings.
This strategy has kept his pitching staff healthy and rested all summer long and is just one of the many reasons why his players have shown great strides this year on the field. Nolan Withrow, a varsity pitcher at Lucas Christian, says he bought into a mindset Thornton told him about early on in the season and that has stuck with him the whole time.
“He told me to take everything personally out there. Every at bat and every game. When I’m out on the mound it is just the pitcher and I. When he told me that I took it to heart and it kind of just stuck with me.”
All season the Titans have played in 18 and under tournaments around the state, allowing them to face competition that would help them out come Mickey Mantle time. In fact, the team used wood bats even in metal bat tournaments, causing them to adjust to the way they hit the baseball and score runs as an offense. Despite that, Thornton states that his offense is the strongest facet of his team heading into the World Series, but is confident in the other two areas of his squad’s game.
“Overall I think our offense is probably the strongest part of our game, but we’ve pitched pretty good all season long. We have had days we haven’t pitched very good and days that we haven’t played defense well, but for the most part in the games that we have played with wood bats, we’ve done a good job of controlling the other teams offense.”
As someone who has seen many Mickey Mantle World Series games, the winner of the tournament isn’t always the best team but the team that is the hottest and gets lucky along the way. Thornton shared this sentiment and he specifically spoke about the bye that occurs in round four of the bracket.
“You can’t just be good; you have to have luck on your side as well. You get into that last day or two you need the bye. The team with the bye wins almost every time,” said Thornton.
The Frozen Ropes Titans will play the Ohio Thunder at 8 p.m. at Al Alford Field in McKinney. If you can’t make it out to the games this week, Town Square Buzz is your home for MMWS coverage. From scores and recaps every morning, you can follow me on Twitter @TSBSportsBruu for scores and updates from the ballpark throughout the week. Also, tune into CCIR.us for exclusive webcasts of the Frozen Ropes Titans games with Scott Powell and myself on the call.
From everyone at Town Square Buzz, we wish the Frozen Ropes Titans the best of luck this week at the Mickey Mantle World Series!
Wednesday’s Schedule of Games at the MMWS
12 PM: Ontario Blue Jays (North Atlantic) vs. SoCal Bombers (West)
2:30 PM: Puerto Rico Vaqueros (Puerto Rico) vs. Dallas Tigers Hernandez (South Plains)
5 PM: Dallas Tigers Vanlandingham (Texas Qualifier) vs. Michigan Bulls (North Central)
8 PM: Frozen Ropes Titans (Host) vs. Ohio Thunder (East Central)