Chandler Bats establishes foothold in local travel baseball scene

The locally-based travel baseball program, which works with youth and high-school age players, has grown to include 11 teams, with a focus on continued player development.

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  • | 1:30 p.m. July 15, 2016
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WINDERMERE Sometimes, the right introduction can make all the difference.

For Jason Slattery, a local resident and former college baseball player, that introduction was to David Chandler, and it came about three years ago.

At the time, Slattery operated two youth travel baseball teams under the fledgling mantle of Orlando Hard Knocks. David Chandler, the founder of Chandlers Bats — a wood-bat company based out of Pennsylvania — was looking to launch a youth travel ball program to compliment Chandler’s pre-existing high-school aged program, Chandler World.

The reasoning for launching a youth program was simple from David Chandler’s perspective: building brand awareness with youth players — who generally do not use wood bats — can be challenging. Also, Chandler Bats was founded recently, in 2010.

Catcher Adrian Delgado receives instruction from coach Jason Slattery.The success of the new partnership with Slattery was almost instant. Slattery’s two teams from the Hard Knocks days have grown into eight teams for Chandler under the umbrella of Team Chandler. 

Then, in 2015, David Chandler asked Slattery to add the Chandler World to his plate. Slattery agreed to add the high-school age travel program, but with the stipulation that it relocate its base of operations from the Pennsylvania area down to West Orange County.

It was a bold move, considering the presence of several travel ball programs locally — including a few juggernauts such as the Orlando Scorpions, known for winning national titles and producing consistent Division I talent — but Slattery says he recognized an opportunity to serve players who may require more development.

“I don’t think there was a need for more (travel baseball programs) — I think there’s a need for, what I call, ‘different is better,’” Slattery said. “Our philosophy, in general, is trophies don’t matter. Player development is supreme in our philosophy. We will never sacrifice development for winning.”

Slattery’s focus on continued development has led to a growing program that has roughly 150 players. In addition to a growing interest from local families in joining Chandler’s program in West Orange, Slattery has been able to bring over a number of coaches with professional experience. 

Gordie Hershiser, the brother of Orel Hershiser and a former standout pitcher for University the University of Alabama, came aboard from the beginning, and Clyde Williams, a former star for Seminole High in Sanford who was drafted in the third round of the 1998 Major League Baseball Draft by the Montreal Expos, joined later.

For Williams, who had previously been working with a more established youth travel program in the area, the move to join Team Chandler was rooted in wanting to build something special.

“I like ‘from the ground up’ type stuff and (Chandler) gave me a chance to grow with the organization,” Williams said.

That players from Team Chandler, which encompasses ages 10 through 13, can transition into Chandler World (ages 14 through 17) and remain under the same umbrella is somewhat unique as many larger travel organizations tend to focus on either youth or high-school age.

“We have an opportunity as an organization to train players — the same way — from the time they’re 10 years old to the time they graduate high school,” Slattery said.

Chandler World, which held its first tryout last December at Windermere Prep — the main facility the team practices at — is playing its first season locally this summer with three teams (17U, 16U and 15U). The high-school age program has attracted players from schools including West Orange, Windermere Prep and The First Academy.

“I found out about Chandler through my hitting coach, John Denny,” West Orange catcher Adrian Delgado said. “I like the atmosphere around the coaches — they’re all friendly and they choose to work one-on-one with you.”

The atmosphere is something that the coaches at Chandler hope set the program apart, also. Though the focus of travel ball is the development of players as individuals and, later, the marketing of individual players to college programs, Slattery hopes to cultivate a team-first culture by holding more team practices than is the norm for travel ball and having the program’s indoor facility in Winter Garden widely available to players.

“If I were to put one word on (the difference), and it is cliche, but it’s passion,” said Hershiser. “It’s all about having people who truly care about the kid and it’s not about them promoting themselves as a coach and as an adult.”

The youth branch, Team Chandler, will have tryouts at the end of the month on July 30 for the fall season and the high-school program, Chandler World, will conduct tryouts again in December. Though Slattery says he will not grow the program just for the sake of growing it, he does believe the Chandler brand has found the right base of operations — and niche — here in West Orange County.

“The concentration of serious, passionate baseball players is extremely high here,” Slattery said. “I personally believe that West Orange county has, in my view, some of the deepest talent pools in Central Florida.”


Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected]


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