The high school baseball equivalent of Gigantes features a starting second baseman who is a senior but looks like he just turned 12.
I came to Colleyville to see if the rumors about the Colleyville Heritage baseball team are true; that Godzilla is the shortstop, King Kong plays third base, and a Transformer is the catcher.
“If this thing was played on paper, we’d be sizing some rings. But athletics is not played on paper. I have to rely on that; it’s a struggle,” coach Alan McDougal said. “It would be more of a struggle if Bobby Witt was not fully bought in, or the other guys.”
I wanted to see for myself if this is the best high school team in America; that this is the most talented high school baseball team ever assembled.
This is what I found: This great high school team is not a de facto “select” team or AAU squad. Despite the nauseating amount of wealth that has flooded, and partially ruined, youth sports, this particular team is still a high school team that happens to have a brilliant roster.
During a practice on Wednesday, after a pitcher gave up a home run to a teammate he said, “Yeah, you owe me five bucks.”
I have no idea how you possibly quantify, let alone prove, a high school team is the best in the nation, but if there is a better high school baseball team at the 5A level, be it in Texas, California or Florida, prove it.
Six of these Colleyville Heritage players are scheduled to play major Division I college baseball next year. One player is scheduled to pitch in junior college. The shortstop, Bobby Witt Jr., is projected as the top pick in the 2019 MLB amateur draft.
Two of these kids, Witt Jr. and Mason Greer, are the sons of former Texas Rangers. Greer is scheduled to attend and play for Auburn.
The coach is a former assistant to one of the best high school baseball coaches in the history of Texas, the great Tommy Elliott, formerly of Arlington Heights.
Colleyville Heritage is currently ranked third in the latest USA Today poll, behind Class 4A Argyle and the IMG Academy “semi-pro” team out of Bradenton, Florida.
The Panthers are 33-2, with losses to L.D. Bell and Oak Ridge.
Colleyville will play Mansfield Legacy in a best-of-three series in the Class 5A UIL regional quarterfinals beginning Thursday at Dallas Baptist.
As good as this team is, they’re just a bunch of kids, with that second baseman who was not a member of the varsity team last year and has no aspirations to play beyond this, his senior season.
Joey Koetting is 18, and he admits he was once pulled over by a police officer because the cop was sure he was 15. He is maybe 5-foot-10, so of course his favorite player is Jose Altuve of the Astros.
“I think I weigh 155 pounds,” Koetting said as one of his teammates looks over to suggest both figures are not quite accurate.
Koetting is now a starting player on a lineup loaded with college players, and a top pick.
Koetting could not do this on some select team.
In high school, he’s in a lineup with Mason Greer, Bobby Witt Jr., Nicolas Balsano, who plans to play at Baylor; pitcher/first baseman Chandler Freeman, who plans to play at Dallas Baptist along with teammate Jakob Berger, as well as Texas A&M-bound Logan Britt. Pitcher Austin Glaze intends to play at Navarro College.
On this team, with all of this talent, a guy like Joey Koetting who has no post-high school playing aspirations, is still a good player who contributes to a great team.
Koetting grew up with most of his teammates, and has played with a lot of them since as long as he can remember.
“I didn’t come into this thinking I was going to get a minute on the field and this is just a shock,” he said. “I like high school baseball better mostly because you are playing for your school. Your teachers. Your classmates. Your friends. Every guy out there is trying to get the same goal, the same championship. You only get four years to do that. “
Hard not to love that answer.
This guy gave up select ball before his junior year to focus on school, and to get a job.
These kids cannot duplicate this experience on a high-priced select team.
“I like high school better,” Witt Jr. said. “Select teams you play more for yourself. In high school, you play for your school.”
Despite all of this talent, and all of these wins, a Texas state title is the one item this collection of players has not yet achieved.
“We’ve been close,” McDougal said of a team that finished in the area around as a 6A team in 2016; in 2017, they finished in the 5A regional finals, and in 2018 they made it to the regional semifinals.
The rumors about the Colleyville Heritage high school baseball team are, of course, not true; King Kong, Godzilla and a Transformer are not in the lineup.
Who is in the lineup are just kids, some of whom are just better than others, each of them hanging on to the essence of what it’s like to play ball as a kid, where you can still do that in high school.