Youth Sports 12U Cullman Cats win world series title; players look to be part of tradition | The Cullman Tribune

Youth Sports

12U Cullman Cats win world series title; players look to be part of tradition

The 12U Cullman Cats won the 2018 Playmaker World Series in Hoover last weekend. (Photos courtesy of Cresha Bradley)

CULLMAN - The 12U Cullman Cats Baseball took home the title over the weekend after finishing first in the 2018 Playmaker World Series in Hoover. The Cullman Cats defeated the Central Alabama Baseball Academy (CABA) Jays, the Alabama Elite, the Spain Park Jaguars, HBC 12UB and tied Top Gun on their way to the championship. Cullman was set to take on Top Gun again in the semifinal round, but wet weather cut the tournament short, and as the highest remaining seed with the best record, Cullman claimed the top spot in the bracket.

Cullman Cats Head Coach Jeff Burgess knew he had a talented group at the start of the year but watched them work through rough patches early on before the bats got hot toward the end of the season.

“We were really gritty and really tough but really raw, and we had some new guys join the team this year that we didn’t have last year. So, there was a period of time where they had to learn a whole lot in a short amount of time, sort of on the fly in live games. We struggled with focus and concentration. We would show flashes of brilliance and then have a breakdown inning and it would cost us. There was a point in the season when we were actually 10-13 and I was just kind of wondering ‘How are we going to get this thing turned around quickly,’” Burgess said.

“That was about five or six weeks ago and since then we had a really strong showing at a tournament at Field of Miracles, we won the B bracket, and then the following weekend we won the global state championship for USSSA (United States Specialty Sports Association) in Athens. The following week after that was the state tournament up here at Heritage Park and I think we finished third or fourth there, but we only lost two games in last month and a half,” said Burgess. “We can really hit; our team can really hit, and I don’t have the most updated stats but going into the world series we hit .335 as a team and I know that probably went up 10 points because we went on a tear through the series.”

Hitting well over .300 as a team can help win a lot of games, but Burgess credits a lot of his team’s success to the high baseball IQ his players displayed on the field.

“Our guys are really smart. They understand what they’re supposed to do, how it’s supposed to be done and why, and how it affects the other team when we execute. A lot of people when they hear 12U think of cute little 12-year-old boys, but these guys are not average in any way,” Burgess said. “If anybody ever saw us they would think that we’re very advanced just based on baseball IQ, and the things that we execute, we never really see done to us. We were really able to get to a point where we would never let up, we never had a lapse in focus and that made all the difference.”

Sticking to his point about intelligence on the field, Burgess said the community as a whole can take credit for that; he said he has seen the community embrace baseball at all levels in Cullman.

“The community has caught on to that and they support it. They genuinely care about the next generation, the next class coming through, and so a lot of these travel ball teams start getting put together at 7 or 8 years old,” Burgess said. “They come in with that high baseball IQ already and then (Cullman High School) Coach (Brent) Patterson is able to mold them and take them up another level. The parents deserve a lot of credit because, like I said, over the last 15 or 20 years people have taken notice and they want to get behind it and they’re willing to spend the money and the time.”

Burgess is excited to play a role in Cullman’s baseball tradition and believes excitement around the high school program only leads to more success at all levels. 

“I think that what has been established here over the last 20 years now is an anomaly. You just don’t see a city or town with as small a population as Cullman produce elite talent year after year. Something like that might be expected in a city once every seven or eight years, and every year we’ve got four or five scholarship players coming out of Coach Patterson’s program. These kids idolize those guys you know: Ben Moore, Keegan Thompson, Caleb Clay, Michael Rutledge, Josh Rutledge, I mean we could go on forever,” Burgess said. “They love to watch those games, when Cullman plays Hartselle, all my kids are there, and I didn’t even have to tell them to come. They want to see them, and they idolize them, and they want to put that uniform on and be part of that when the time comes. I think that is probably what sets Cullman apart and it’s a pretty special thing to even indirectly be a part of.”

Their wins in Hoover over the weekend bring the 12U Cullman Cats’ final record to 23-15-1 and builds high expectations for next year’s squad to make another title run.

2018 team members:

  • John David Cochran
  • Trenton Clemmons
  • Tanner Gaines
  • Kase Nixon
  • Jackson Bentley
  • Samuel Mayhair
  • Isaac Jones
  • Landon Blackwood
  • Peyton Bradley
  • Jacob Cornelius
  • Reid Bradberry
  • Brooks Clark
  • Colton Bales

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