|2009 9U Florida Pokers (FL)|
Baseball is our name…Life Education is our Game
When you hear the words Florida Pokers, you immediately think back to the tradition rich 18u program that in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s was considered one of the top 10 Amateur Baseball Programs in the country and basically changed the landscape of travel baseball in South Florida forever.
Since it’s inception in 1990, The Coral Springs based program has had over 350 student-athletes pass through this program, most have gone on to college to play baseball and earn a degree but at least 2 dozen have been drafted and made it to the Major League level. Currently, there are 5 Pokers on Major League rosters (Zach Miner, Sean Gallagher, Sean Burnett, Josh Fogg and Kason Gabbard). There are a few others such as Brian Jeroloman and Jeff Fiorentino who are in Triple A and many others still working their way up the minors. Past coaches have also achieved national excellence, such as Todd Fitzgerald, who won the USA Today High School National Championship at American Heritage in Plantation, FL in 2008.
The Storied program was founded by Mike Roberts in 1990 with a clear Mission Statement:
The program is more than playing baseball; it is a program that uses baseball as its platform to teach life skills. Kids are required during the year to do 3 different projects and present them in front of the team. In addition, after each game, a different team member is selected to talk to the parents and say whatever is on their minds.
For 15 seasons, 1990-2005, the Pokers became one of the countries elite teams. In 2006, Lenny Roberts, a former college basketball coach at The Ohio State University and the University of Miami, Fl., brought the team back to the field in the 8u division with a group of 6 and 7 year olds. After struggling through the first year and a half playing against kids twice their size, the Pokers began having success late in 2007 and it carried over into 2008.
In 2008 the Pokers went 34-14 and won the Regular Season and Post Season AABC Roberto Clemente Florida State Championship advancing to the Southeast Regional in McDonough, Ga. where they finished third.
After taking the fall of 2008 off to play other sports, the Pokers began working out 5 days a month for 10 consecutive weeks with focus individual defensive fundamentals and on the biggest transition to the 9u rules of holding runners on.
When the 2009 season began for the Pokers in February they jumped in head first to play some of their toughest competitors from South Florida. After a disappointing 10-8 start, things began to click and since that start the Pokers are 32-5 advancing to the last 4 tournament Championship games they have been in and come away with the last 2 major championships in the USSSA Ft. Pierce Super NIT and the Florida Premier Baseball League.
The Pokers have been invited and will play in the USSSA Florida Elite 8 in late June and then will back in Orlando in August for the USSSA Elite 32 World Series.
The Pokers are a team that can match up against anyone as they have speed, size, strength, depth, knowledge of the game and are a well disciplined, well coached team. This team is deep in talent and the talent is spread out all over the field. In addition they have tremendous gloves and most importantly, have clicked as a group. The Program Motto “Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime … Bring it on!”
The kids come from 6 different cities in NW Broward and Palm Beach Counties and not one player knew another player on the team before coming to play. It has become its own little family. The players come from Coral Springs, Tamarac, Parkland, Coconut Creek, North Lauderdale and now Wellington.
The Pokers still have 3 tournaments left to play this year and are quickly returning to the Elite Status the 18u team used to hold despite the team only playing February through July.. They are already entertaining offers to go play next summer in the Michigan Major Elite and the Cincinnati Flames Summer Classic July 4th weekend.
The Team Members are: Riley Allison, Eddie Ayala, Jarrett Hall, Jake Herskowitz, Andrew Jenner, Robert Joy, Shane Magrann, Jacob Mercado, Luke Reidy, Caleb Roberts, Christian Scott and Earl Semper.
The program is planning on filling behind this talented group with a new 8u team this fall and there is no reason to expect anything less than excellence.
There are literally thousands of travel teams around the country but there is not one as unique at this organization. They are first class on and off the field. You only need to ask any former Florida Poker player.