As the Louisiana Knights program has grown, so have their collective accomplishments.
The program has had at least one alum selected in each of the last nine Major League Baseball drafts, seen five players go in the top five rounds over the past four years and had Blake Anderson picked in the first round by the Miami Marlins in 2014.
But, if you ask Knights' director of baseball operations and tournament logistics Chris Pool what he's most proud of, it's never breaking from their initial mission statement of always putting player development first.
We're constantly looking to help these guys improve no matter what their baseball goals are,” Pool said. “For some of our younger guys, it might be to just make the varsity team. For some of our older guys, being able to play at the next level; whether it's junior college, Division 2, NAIA, obviously Division 1 and then there's occasional guys that have the tools to make an impact at the professional level at an early age.”
The Knights were first established back in 2007, and only had two teams at the time, a U-18 and a mix of 17 and 18-year-olds. Former major-leaguer Jack Cressend reached out to Pool, himself a former player, if he was interested in joining the program, and the answer was easy: Absolutely.
Since then, he's watched the program grow ten-fold.
“Just the size of it has increased,” Pool said.
“We've always looked at it as if you're going to put a premium on player development, wins and losses will come as a result, so we've been able to put together some talented teams and have played a role in helping those guys develop. As we've continued on, we've obviously spread out a little bit as far as where our players come from and have become a known name and known program that guys want to play for and take pride in playing for. With that, we want to have coaches that know the game really well, can teach it and coaches that are invested in helping a player develop not only as a baseball player, but as a person too. Just the relationship side of things is vital to any group of people, let alone a team, and we've been successful in having teams that have wonderful chemistry with the coaching staff and the players. It translates well into the win column.”
The Knights have become a leading program in their area, which is always a competitive one.
“Being in the location we're in, baseball doesn't ever really stop, because it's always warm enough to get on a field somewhere and work on something…football and baseball really are the dominant sports here, so guys are always working on their different skill sets and trying to get better,” Pool said. “We're trying to help them with anything we can with our program to get them to their goals.”
Program 15 is committed to doing the same, trying to “Change The Game,” as the New Balance slogan goes. But for those who see the reality of that tag line and realize it's far more than just three words, a partnership was almost a must.
“Obviously, the Program 15 (New Balance) Future Stars Series has phenomenal people involved with (P15/NBFSS CEO) Jeremy (Booth) and the rest of the staff, and we enjoy working with like-minded people and people who want to be a part of baseball, but want to help others in their journey in the game and whatever that may bring,” Pool said. “The guys they've assembled, they've been very successful in the game, and we see it as a valuable and beneficial partnership for everyone involved.”
“Jack, Chris, and the Knights are one of my longest relationships since I moved to Houston and the South,” Booth said.
“When we began this movement, they were one of the first calls I made. They have continually done the right thing again and again and proven themselves to be about players and leaving a positive impact on the young men they come across. You never know what spiral effect your actions will have on others and who they come in contact with, and the people leading Knights are committed to excellence in all areas they can reach. True ambassadors for the game and I cannot respect anyone more highly than I do them.”
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