The PBA Legends travel baseball team was put together a year ago with the goal of playing at the highest levels. In a short amount of time, mission accomplished.
Though still in its infancy, the program based out of Performance by Achievement in Inverness was at one point this year ranked first in the state in its USSSA class.
"I really believe that having this facility as part of our program and being able to condition these kids for the heat of Florida (has been key)," said R.J. Pollard, head coach of the PBA Legends 9U team that has quickly risen to prominence. "Our pitching has been absolutely dominant. We do so many core exercises.
"I think what separate us is our conditioning. Most teams start their conditioning program a little later. We start at 9U. The core exercises are what really helps and adding the right pieces."
PBA Legends has also started up 8U and 11U programs. However, the 9U team has produced most of the accolades thus far. That group has won seven championship tournaments and finished second in several more, most recently May 25-26 at the Stars and Stripes East Coast State Championship in Viera. That showing qualified the PBA Legends for the 9U AAA World Series starting July 16 in Alabama.
In April, the 9U club sat first in the USSSA AAA state rankings and third in the nation. It currently ranks third in the state and 36th in the country.
The 9U team pulls players from Inverness, Citrus Springs, Dunnellon, Weeki Wachee and even Dade City. The rosters consists of: Ryder Pollard (SS/P), Duke Costello (C/1B), Jayden Allen (1B/P), Justin Rautenkranz (P/2B), Luke Pitzer (SS/P), AJ O’Nolan (CF/P), Lucas LeClair (LF/P), Landon Sanders (RF), Bryce Davis (LF/1B) and Nathan Jeter (3B/P).
Coach Pollard found it difficult to single out anyone, saying, "We have 10 players who have all been really dynamic." So far the players seem to be enjoying the experience.
"Playing the game of baseball on an elite level," Landon Sanders said of why he joined the PBA Legends.
"I like the conditioning we do weekly and playing with quality players," Costello added.
"Because at my last team, I was not taken seriously as a player and I wanted to be a Legend," Rautenkranz said of why he came to the team.
"I choose to play for PBA because I wanted to play for championships and rings and I didn’t have that opportunity on my last travel team," Jeter said.
On June 19 the team travels to Destin for the Global World Series, and next year hopes to qualify for the Elite World Series. The team will also be moving up to 10U.
"Our long-term goal is to keep a dynamic product on the field," Coach Pollard said, "and to get them ready for college."