The Puma Baseball Academy (PBA) isn't only one of Program 15's fastest growing partners, it's also quickly becoming one of their most successful.
Started just five years ago about Mike Medel, they began as a one-team program and have quickly grown to nine teams, with players ranging from age 12 to 18, with four main instructors overseeing player development.
“It's hard for me to get just any instructor, our instructors need to have a good, strong background and have the same philosophies that we have and I have, which is being all about the kids,” Medel explained. “We work out of an 18,000 square foot facility, which helps a lot. We practice two to three times a week during the winter, then travel all summer to Perfect Game tournaments and Future Stars Series tournaments and those sorts of things.”
Medel's PBA program has sent countless kids to college programs, with many from this year waiting to commit until getting seen at the upcoming Program 15 New Balance Future Stars Series national events down in Houston.
“Our first group we had that was going to graduate was 2016, and they were all committed into college,” Medel said. “2017, they're all committed into college. Now we have 2018 that have a bunch offers; one that's committed and a bunch that are holding out. They're telling me they're waiting until after Houston.”
Those Houston events are critical for Medel's program and the players within it, and also speak volumes to just how quickly PBA has grown.
“It's very important,” he said. “I think with what (P15/NBFSS CEO) Jeremy Booth has put in place and with his belief system, it's exactly what we believe with the development of the kids and finding them the right fit for college. It's not just trying to put a square peg in a round hole, but trying to be a part of something so large that believes the same way we do with the people that are involved; Trenidad Hubbard, Benji Gil, Roberto Kelly, you could go on and on. It's a passion that he has that we truly believe in. That's why I started what I did with PBA, and now being a part of something like this, it's a dream come true. Really quickly, we've got something that is going to be a national program.”
PBA getting involved with P15 happened on something of a whim to begin with, with Medel noticing some social media interactions with fellow Wisconsin program Rhino Baseball that intrigued him about what Booth and company were trying to do.
“I saw Future Stars Series followed Rhino on Twitter, and I called Rhino Baseball Academy and Greg (Blaesing) from there and asked him for more info about it, and he called me and said they were looking for one more academy in Wisconsin, but only an academy that cares about the kids where it's all about development, and not about stealing kids,” Medel said.
“Develop your kids, get them to learn at the highest level so they can play at the highest level they're capable of and that's exactly the same passion we shared. We talked to Jeremy, and he said to include PBA. We're so excited to be a part of this. The kids are excited, we're excited. As instructors and as an owner, we're excited and think huge things are going to happen in the future for the Future Stars Series.”
And, with that budding partnership, big things are ahead for PBA as well, which continues to grow.
“Mike's attention to detail, his energy, integrity, and willingness to work together for the good of the game and his players are separators,” Booth said. “The vision he has is to do it right and make a difference, and everything I've seen proves he's on a mission and successful at it. It's a perfect fit for the change the game movement, and we look forward to a long future together.”
It's a future that continues to grow…
“What I'm the most proud of isn't just how fast we've grown, but why we've grown,” Medel said. “We've grown because we care all about each individual player. I don't want to sound cliche, but it really is true. We're getting these kids who are major program Division 1 guys scholarship offers, but it's the second and third tier kids who are probably Division 3, NAIA, Division 2…we work just as hard to get them and make sure they're all in the right fit for college. That's really why I do it. After four years of college, they can walk out saying I had a phenomenal education and had a phenomenal four-year baseball career, and hopefully they learned a lot that they can take into the regular world.”
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