Todd Sedlar has a different approach to building a travel baseball team – go local.
According to Sedlar, head coach of the State Line Stars 13U program, this is not a radical approach. But it stands out.
“The competition that we play and the teams that we play, some really make kids play,” Sedlar said. “They are dragged from hundreds of kilometers to find children.”
Sedlar, a Temperance resident, prefers what’s in his own backyard.
State Line Stars was built with kids from southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio.
“We draw from a 35-mile radius,” Sedlar said. “This is where we were born. And most of them have been together for 3-4 years.”
This does not affect the team’s ability to compete with the best.
Sedlar’s team recently closed out the winter travel season with a 48-7-1 overall record and eighth straight season. July 12-15 in Destin, Florida at the Perfect Game Gulf Coast World Series Championship.
The State Line Stars won races in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio this summer, collecting eight championship rings and finishing in second place for ninth.
“We’re local kids making some waves nationally and making a name for ourselves,” Sedlar said. “The teams we compete with and how they run their organizations – what we did was very unique in comparison.”
There were 13 kids on the State Line All-Star roster this year, most of whom have been playing ball together since they were 9 years old – Bryce Besgrove, Ray Campos, Keegan Dixon, Landon Eichelberry, Trey Etnier, Owen Lloyd, Landin Malley, Brady Maxwell, Corbin Miller, Cashton Sedlar, Jett Smith, Brayden Toneff and Nate Trunk.
State Line’s stars are young for their ranks. The group consists mostly of seventh graders with a pair of sixth graders. Every player on the team gets a chance to move up the ranks – another oddity for travel teams.
“A lot of teams have P.O.O.O., which is just the sound that plays, so kids are only seen when they’re playing,” Sedlar said. “We beat our roster all year. That’s unheard of.”
The Perfect Game Gulf Coast World Series in Florida was the biggest tournament of the season for the Stars.
The holiday week also included skill shows where the players performed a combination of drills. The boys were tested on their run speed, bat speed, field speed, infield and outfield throws and pitch. Sedlar said Perfect Game uses the data to build a profile on each athlete.
“When you go to these demos, everything gets added to your profile,” he said. “A lot of times, college recruiting is done like this … The perfect game is in youth and high schools, like the mecca of baseball.”
The Stars went 5-0 in the tournament, beating the nation’s 29th-ranked team twice in the semifinals and finals. The Stars outscored their opponents 42-14.
In a highly competitive tournament, the pressure and atmosphere of Sedlar made a big difference.
“We wanted to push them,” Sedlar said. “We always want to play in the playoffs and we felt like we had a team that could go down there and compete and make some waves.”
Sedlar, who played baseball at the University of Toledo, said he likes to see how the team responds to that kind of pressure. Win or lose, it’s an opportunity for growth.
“Development, development, development is what youth baseball should be,” he said. “If you win championships, it’s great, but at the end of the day, my goal as a head coach is to get them as ready as possible for the next level. Now, that’s high school, but I played college baseball and I want to. To give them a clue as well.”
Training the mental part of being an athlete is important to every saddler.
Team practice begins in November, but players spend very little time throwing baseballs until January.
Sedlar bought two books for his team to read and distribute: “Continuing” and “Winning” by Tim Grover. Grover was the personal trainer of Michael Jordan and later Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.
“I think that really helped them work on the mental aspects of the game,” Sedlar said. “This game is 90 percent mental. We try to focus on reality and many kids like it.”
Sedlar and assistant coach Chad Smith set out to figure out the State Line Stars’ travel schedule. There are four groups in the organization with plans to expand to seven next year.
Sedlar has coached the same team since he was 9 years old.
“I knew a couple of years ago that we were building something special,” he said. “I wasn’t sure about the timing. When I was 13, I didn’t say we were going to win this and that, but the development and maturity got to us. I knew we could do it at the end of the season. It’s going to be a great year with the kids we have and how hard they’ve worked.
State Line Stars are currently unranked nationally, but that could change. Along with the team’s tournament success this summer, they won four against nationally ranked teams and eight against state ranked teams. That includes wins over No. 1-ranked teams in both Ohio and West Virginia and over No. 3 Indiana.
“I saw our growth year and it just continued,” Sedlar said. “We had our problems. We had seven losses, but out of the seven losses, I don’t think there is a better team than us. But they are 13 years old and sometimes it doesn’t go your way. It happens that a little problem helps you grow.”
Most of the star players will be back next year. The team hopes to win more rings, but Sedlar hopes they take time to enjoy the experience.
“Expectations are high, but there’s a fine line in setting high expectations and believing in them, but not putting too much pressure on them,” he said. “We have to go out there and compete, but have fun doing it.”