The McDonough Elite Gamers were the fourth host team to win the AABC Roberto Clemente World Series. They beat Puerto Rico, 8-7, in the championship game last year.
Despite all the forces in front of teams and the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) Roberto Clemente World Series trophy — the marathon of games over four days and the unpredictability of competition from other states and Puerto Rico — Dwane Williams has always known when McDonough has a winner.
A summer’s worth of watching the local talent gives Williams, the director of baseball for the McDonough Youth Association, and the Roberto Clemente event director, a keen eye.
“Every time the host team has won it, we’ve expected that team to win,” Williams said. “But it’s always a battle.”
And this year’s team?
“The team is good this year,” Williams said. “I expect them to do very well.”
This year, it’s another McDonough Elite Gamers’ turn, a team that hasn’t lost all summer.
The Gamers play out of the Elite Sporting Event organization, which produced last year’s Roberto Clemente World Series winner. That team needed an 8-7 victory over Puerto Rico in the championship game to give McDonough its fourth host victor in 12 years.
Those players and coaches have moved on. They’re a year too old to participate in the event. But they’ve helped coach Kevin Phillips and his team of 7- and 8-year-olds get ready.
Two coaches from last year’s Elite Gamers team have spent time with Phillips and his group the past two weeks helping with strategy and talking about what to expect.
“I know Steve Long really well, who was the head coach, and Chad Scroggins ... Not only are they giving me a hard time, but they have also given me some advice on what to expect from these teams and how they play ball,” Phillips said. “Especially the teams out of Puerto Rico and the middle part of the country.”
Indeed, Puerto Rico has often impressed. According to Williams, only one championship game didn’t feature Puerto Rico and a team from Georgia. That year, Puerto Rico instead faced the Knoxville Stars.
And Puerto Rico has come with star power. Carlos Carrera, who recently was the No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball draft by the Houston Astros, played in two Roberto Clemente World Series.
But this year’s Elite Gamers are ready. Phillips said much of the team has been playing together since they were 6 years old.
They’ve seen Elite Gamers teams before them perform at the Roberto Clemente World Series, and perform well.
They’re ready to do the same.
“I think this year the significance to them is a lot great, because they’re playing for it and being older,” Phillips said.
It helps having taken a geography class, too.
“When they’re 6 and 7, they think Michigan is 30 minutes away,” Phillips said. “But now that they’re older they understand.”