LONGMONT — When he took over the Mead High School baseball program for this past spring season, head coach Wes Sells had a vision for the Mavericks.
In Sells’ vision, his players would continue to hone their skills during the summer. More than that, they would all do it together on one team under the Mavericks banner.
With the program entering its fifth prep season, Sells’ first season with the Mavericks marks the inaugural summer with a Legion A squad.
“This is my first year here at Mead High School and one of the things they talked about when I got the job was improving the summer program and things like that,” Sells said. “We are going to have two teams this year and we’re getting to a level at Mead High School where we don’t quite have the enrollment (as) some schools we’re playing against but I think our talent level is high enough to compete.”
A Division I pitching coach at St. Louis University for four years and at the University of Northern Colorado for three, Sells coached college baseball for a total of 12 years. He believes that players don’t have to play for a high-profile club team to get looks from college scouts and scholarship opportunities.
Sells also believes that the chemistry and camaraderie formed during summer is invaluable to a program’s growth and a team’s success.
“My ultimate goal is to have all of our kids competing for Mead High School,” Sells said. “There will always be a few kids who will want to venture out and play club. I firmly believe that our program is going to grow but we want to keep them together in the summer time.”
By the time Sells was named head coach in November, seven Mavericks players had already committed to other club teams.
The Mavericks went 7-12 last season and are 28-45 in their four years with a varsity program. In 2011, they finished 10-9 for their only winning season to date.
On top of adding a 14-player Legion A team, the Mavericks will also field a 14-player Legion B team. If he can get a few more younger commits, Sells intends to field a third team to play Legion C as early as next summer.
“Last year, all of our seniors went off and played with other teams,” returning senior center fielder Dillon Buckendorf said. “We had a lot of our underclassmen on our Legion B team and we did pretty well despite not having a ton of talent. Staying together and building that chemistry really helped and doing it this summer will really help.”
So far, the Mavericks are 4-3 in their first Legion A season with wins over Denver East and Fort Collins. Sells said he fully expects the competition to get tougher at this week’s Cherry Creek Classic, where the Mavericks will face Slammers Pennington, Highlands Ranch and Lewis-Palmer. But then, the whole point of putting the team together was to improve by facing tougher 5A varsity and club all-star programs while still familiarizing themselves with a first-year coach and his system.
“The competition is good for us to see teams that are better than us,” returning senior Jordan Miyake said. “We see bigger, stronger, faster, older guys than we saw last year. This year it feels more like we’re seeing varsity competition.”
The Mavericks are trying to replace seven graduated seniors by next spring and the bulk of this year’s summer Legion A team will be returning seniors. The younger Legion B group will compete against 5A summer program B teams and 4A varsity programs.
Follow Brad on Twitter: twitter.com/BradCochi