Leon baseball coach Robbie Zimmerman has had many good summer teams come through his Tallahassee Baseball Club during his years at the helm.
Sometimes things pan out and TBC wins a national title, as was the case in 2003, 2006 and 2011. Sometimes a team with all the bells and whistles incurs a surprising loss— baseball being baseball— despite evidence to suggest it wasn’t otherwise possible.
The latter was the case of his 2002 team, loaded with former FSU players Michael Hyde (Lincoln) and Brandon Reichert (Godby). TBC went “something like 40-4,” according to Zimmerman.
“They had the best record we ever had and they just whooped everybody, but we happened to match up with a kid in the national tournament who was just a stud,” Zimmerman said. “He was an LSU signee that was throwing 95, had a slider that he could put on the black. We lost 3-2. We just got beat by a guy that was really on that day. But that was the best offensive club I’ve ever had.”
The next year, former Seminoles pitchers Bryan Henry (Florida High) led TBC to its first national title. Many years later, when Reichert was getting married, the issue was brought up how good the ’02 team was. Henry could quickly extinguish that and subsequent conversations simply by showing the ring he won.
“Those two groups argue all the time,” Zimmerman said. “(2002) had the best record we ever had, but got shot down. The year we won, we had six guys that were all their respective No. 1s at their high schools. Five went on to play college ball. We were always in every game. When we got to nationals, we had good pitching and we got it done each game.”
Zimmerman is hoping to do it all again with this year’s crop of kids, who will play about 50 games this summer. Coming off its second tournament, TBC is preparing for the national tournament in Kissimmee, July 11-17.
In a 3-0 win over Tampa in the tournament’s opener, Wakulla rising senior pitcher Greysen Rudd threw a complete game, three-hit shutout with six strikeouts. Recent Rickards grad Adam Asker went 2 for 3 with a double and a triple. Aucilla Christian grad Shawn Blue went 2 for 3, as did Jefferson County grad Denijay Maxwell.
Overcoming a 10-2 second-game loss, one in which Lincoln grad Willis McDaniel, Leon rising junior Justin Logan and Aucilla grad Nick Roberts had hits, TBC came back with a 3-0 win over Freshwater Black. Wakulla rising senior pitcher Aaron Ginn threw a complete-game, two-hit shutout with nine strikeouts, while Blue went 2 for 4 with an RBI.
Landing in the gold bracket championship, TBC manhandled Gainesville 12-2 in five innings. Blue again had two hits while Leon grad Jonathan Logan went 3 for 3 and Leon grad J.T. Stalnaker went 2 for 3, backing up the pitching of Leon rising junior Matthew Hicks, who tossed a complete-game three-hitter.
Who goes on to have success at the next level, Zimmerman doesn’t know the answer to that yet. He has to reflect on history. One player from his 2011 national title team, former Rickards outfielder Mallex Smith, is now in AA in the Atlanta Braves organization, just a stone’s throw away from the Majors.
“It’s one of the most fun things I do,” Zimmerman said. “It’s a privilege to coach them and just be a part of these players’ lives, and be able to see them go on and have success in college and the pros. I’ve had over 200 kids go on to college. There’s probably another 20 that went to pro ball. David Ross is a kid that played for me and he’s still in the big leagues now.”