Chase Taylor, Colin Brown and Tommy Mikell know a thing or two about travel baseball. And winning.
The trio attend Bryan County High School — Taylor is a rising freshman while Brown and Mikell are rising sophomores — and play travel baseball for Miner League Bluffton. Their 14U team has won nine of the 11 tournaments they’ve played in so far this year, most recently the Top Gun Summer World Series in North Carolina two weeks ago. The team will be in Spartanburg, S.C., this weekend at the Top Gun Summer Nationals. (They are eligible to play 14U because the cutoff date for turning 15 is May 1. As of Aug. 1 they’ll move up to the 15U level for the fall season.)
“You couldn’t ask for three better kids and their parents are just phenomenal people,” said Ryan Mingin, head coach and owner of Miner League Bluffton, a travel program and training facility which on Aug. 1 will become LoCo (as in Low Country) Baseball Academy.
“Loco is also a good way to describe the way we coach,” Mingin laughed. “Not to go out and play crazy, but just to give it 100 percent and play as hard as you can every time you step on the field.”
Aside from Taylor, Brown and Mikell, the team includes two players from Effingham County and one from Virginia, with the rest coming from the Bluffton and Hilton Head area.
“It’s a big commitment to come here twice a week for practice and then to tournaments almost every weekend, but this is how you develop the skills and get seen by college and pro scouts,” Mingin said.
Aside from longer trips, which will include tournaments in New Jersey and Tennessee in the fall, the team has also played a bit closer to home with games in Pooler, Garden City and Savannah.
The program features several age-based teams and started with tryouts in February.
“This is only our second year, so I reached out to a lot of the high school coaches in the area and things kind of spread by word of mouth,” Mingin said. “I’ve developed a relationship with Jason Roundtree, the Bryan County coach, and he is just so passionate and knowledgeable about the game. I’m hoping more of his guys will want to play for us next year.”
Mingin said Taylor, Brown and Mikell have been very instrumental to the team’s success this year.
“Chase is our centerfielder and he runs like a deer,” Mingin said. “You can’t teach that. He’s just a terror on the base paths.”
Mikell is the team’s utility player.
“He can play any position we need him to,” Mingin said. “He’s a quiet kid but when he steps on the field he flips a switch and becomes an animal. As a coach, you wish you had a team full of Tommy Mikells.”
Brown is the catcher and relief pitcher who Mingin describes as the team leader.
“It doesn’t matter if we’re up five or down five, everyone looks to Colin to see what we’re going to do,” he added. “As soon as he learns how to embrace that leadership, he’s going to take his game to another level.”
Once the season is over, players will continue to train at the facility during the winter.
“We run it just like a college program so these guys know what to expect when they get to that level,” said Mingin, who played and coached collegiately and professionally. “We shut their arms down from November to January and work on strength and conditioning and hitting technique.
“It’s tough but we make it enjoyable,” Mingin added. “We want them to be better players and better young men. We hold them accountable but also have fun. If you don’t want to go to practice, if it becomes a job, then what’s the point?”