FORT MYERS, Fla. – What happens in Memphis stays in Memphis. Unless, of course, the same methods of operation can be applied successfully in Dallas, and then all bets are off.
Tim Dulin established the Dulins Dodgers organization in the Memphis area two decades ago and it has grown into one of the top programs in the country. The organization branched out into the Dallas area two years ago and now the teams from both Tennessee and Texas are rising to national prominence.
The Dulins Dodgers-Godwin, one of those teams based in Dallas, won five of their six pool-play games over the last five days and earned a spot in the Championship Bracket of the playoffs at this week’s Perfect Game 16u BCS National Championship.
The Dodgers (5-1-0) will play the Florida Burn-Horrath (4-1-1) in a first-round game at 10:15 a.m. Friday on Field 3 at the jetBlue Park Player Development Complex.
This Dodgers team is coached by Chris Godwin, who was a member of Tim Dulin’s first Dodgers team back in the summer of 2000 while he was also starring at Christian Brothers High School in Memphis. Godwin later played collegiately at the University of Memphis and was briefly a Minnesota Twins farmhand before a shoulder injury ended his career.
After a brief respite, he got back into coaching 11 years ago, doing some work with the Dallas Tigers organization, among others.
“It just worked out that Tim and I re-joined forces,” Godwin told PG on Thursday, speaking from the Lee County Player Development 5-Plex. “Who’d a thought that I would ever be running a program out of Dallas for the guy who kind of brought me up in baseball; I’ve been hitting with Tim since I was 9, 10 years old.”
The Dodgers finished 2-1-0 in their first three-game set of pool-play along with two other teams in the pool and were named the champs on tie-breaker criteria by outscoring its three opponents 25-6. They went 3-0-0 in the second set and won the pool championship outright with a 16-6 run differential.
They clinched that pool title with a come-from-behind, 4-3 victory over the Scorpions 2021 Select-Kelly Thursday morning. Tennessean Lane Forsythe drilled a pair of triples in the win and scored twice, Texan David Jeon singled and doubled and scored a run and Mississippian Braden Montgomery singled and drove in a pair.
Godwin credited pitching and defense for the team’s success here, adding that all of the Texas-based Dulins teams work “religiously” on those two aspects of the game.
The organization invested a lot of money building an indoor facility and two turf fields in Dallas, and Godwin believes that all the hours the players put in is what allows them to stand a cut above some of the other clubs competing for the championship at the 16u BCS.
“We go through instructional league in the fall and we have winter workouts, getting these guys ramped-up for high school,” he said. “We spend a week to 10 days before we even start (in the summer); it’s almost like a mini-spring training where we work on all the little things.”
High-end prospects appear on this Dulins Dodgers roster at every turn but it starts with top 2021 right-hander Rawley Hector. The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Texas A&M commit from Van Alstyne, Texas, has climbed to No. 11 in the PG national prospect rankings in the class of 2021, and pitched six solid innings of one-run, five-hit ball earlier in the week.
He is was no longer with the team as of Thursday but his departure was for all the right reasons. Hector had to fly back home to Texas before joining the USA Baseball 17u National Team this weekend; he’s scheduled to pitch at Wrigley Field on Sunday.
“That’s pretty cool for him, and next guy up, right?” Godwin said. “Everybody supports him and that’s the thing: nobody’s selfish on this team. Everybody is happy for him and I think that’s a big deal. … With this team, we’re all rooting for each other and we understand the team concept and we really drill that into these guys.”
2021 outfielder/middle-infielder Braden Montgomery is ranked No. 148 nationally with fellow 2021s Dylan Leach (No, 383, Arkansas commit), Jaxon Weber (No. 468, TCU), David Jeon (top-500) and Conner McGinnis (top-500) following suit. 2020 infielder Lane Forsythe is a Mississippi State commit ranked No. 443 nationally in his class.
“It’s been fun to watch these guys grow, and now they’re getting recruited and some of them have committed already,” Godwin said.
The bats have been loud and the arms strong for the Dodgers-Godwin through six games. Forsythe and Jeon both have 10 hits – Forsythe has doubled and tripled twice; Jeon has three doubles – and have driven in five and four runs respectively (Jeon has scored seven).
Leach and McGinnis have seven hits apiece and have combined for five extra-base hits; Leach has eight RBI and eight runs scored while McGinnis checks in at 5-7. Jeon (.684), Forsythe (.524) and McGinnis (.476) boast video game-like on-base percentages.
2021 righty Cade Vestal has thrown 10 innings so far, allowing three earned runs (2.10 ERA) on seven hits with 10 strikeouts and three walks; 2021 right-hander Tanner Reaves didn’t allow an earned run in five innings pitched, giving up just three hits, striking out four and walking two.
The Dulins Dodgers-Godwin are coming off a very good run at last week’s PG 16u WWBA National Championship up in the Atlanta area, breezing through pool-play undefeated and finishing 8-1-0 after a loss in the third round of the playoffs.
The team lost a couple of key players to injury going into the 16u WWBA, but the coaches were able to add other players to the roster to fill the void.
That’s the value in being a part of an organization with a large umbrella, because if that option didn’t exist – if this was a one-team program – the Dodgers probably wouldn’t have been competitive at either the WWBA last week or the BCS this week.
“It really shows how culturally we all fit together,” within the organization, Godwin said. “That’s a big deal for us as we continue to grow our brand and continue to be recognized at a national level.”
Forsythe is one of those players who stepped in for an injured comrade. He’s from Humboldt,
Tenn., and usually plays for the Memphis-based Dodgers but he was welcomed with open arms and is doing all he can to help this Dodgers-Godwin team win the 16u BCS National Championship title.
“Coming out the WWBA, we’re coming in here to get some reps in and get ready for the PG World Series,” he said. “But, of course, we’re looking to do the best that we can and make it as far as we can (into the playoffs). … It’s been a good fit; I’ve played with them a couple of times (before) and I like it.”
Godwin’s father was a Drill Sargent in the Marine Corp and he’s proud that he’s been able to bring the sense of structure he learned from his dad to the Dulins Dodgers’ Dallas operation. He’s also very appreciative of the fact that he was able to learn the game under Dulin’s tutelage from a young age, and that they were able to stay in contact over the last 20 years.
“He’s a very big part of our program in Texas,” Godwin said. “He’s in Dallas probably every three weeks, meeting with families, talking to players, working out with guys; he’s very much a part of our program in the big picture.”
McGinnis is from Frisco, Texas, and playing in his second season with the Dallas-based Dodgers. He enjoys the structure the program provides and all the benefits derived from it.
“You have to be a good leader and you have to be able to hold yourself accountable for a lot of the things that you do,” he said Thursday. “But we’re kind of a loose group and when we play together we all get along really well.”
Godwin views that “we all get along really well” statement as one of the most important his players can make. When you have kids who are very supportive of one another, players who put the team before themselves in every circumstance, the rewards reaped during bracket-play can be grand, indeed.
“You’ve got to be clicking on all cylinders to beat (those teams), and that’s the biggest difference – these guys really root for each other,” he said.
The Dulins Dodgers will have a team at next week’s 16u PG World Series in Sanford, Fla. That roster will be made up of a mix of players from both the Memphis and Dallas teams which will make it a formidable group, to be sure. The program did the same thing last year and both its 14u and 15u teams won PG World Series championships.
But there’s still a lot of baseball to be played here at the PG 16u BCS National Championship, and this team with its Texas roots is moving forward trying to do the same thing that their Tennessee brothers have been doing all along.
“We’re just going to have to be a lot sharper,” McGinnis said of the playoff push. “Coming out of the WWBA and being a little tired and stuff like that you just have to stay focused a little bit more. … It’s a little bit of a grind but we’re still having fun.”