When Rob Rollans helped create the Houston Crush youth baseball team in July 2015, he wanted to give inner-city kids, many of whom are underpriviledged, an opportunity to play the game that they loved at an elite level without having to travel to the suburbs to do so.
“To be on a good team, you had to go to Katy or Spring or Pearland or wherever,” Rollans said. “We knew we had some good players inside the loop and in (Independence Heights), so we put a team together.”
The Crush started with just four players, including Rollans’ son Ethan, but they quickly strung together a nine-man roster and were playing games by late September.
It took a mere four months for the team to become a cohesive unit, and the Crush and its coaches began to recognize their potential.
“In January of last year, we traveled to Beaumont and were in a tournament and were undefeated throughout the whole tournament going into the finals and then we lost to some gigantic team from Louisiana, a really good team,” Rollans said. “Then we realized, ‘wow, these boys are pretty good.’”
After that second-place finish, the team went on to win its next tournament, and before long, they started rising up through the Texas ranks and continued adding to the win column.
By June, the Crush were on the list of teams to beat in the Houston area, and by extension, the country, as they persisted to build a reputation in the nine-and-under select baseball world.
“Houston is one of the best baseball cities in the country by far,” Rollans said. “If you look at the nationally ranked teams in the top 20, four, five, six or seven may be from Houston.”
In fact, that spring, seven of the top 20 teams actually were from the Houston area, including the Crush at No. 15, according to Nations Baseball.
With their freshly minted image as one of the premiere teams in the state, the ball club traveled to Spring to compete in the Texas South Zone State Tournament in mid-June where they crushed all five of their opponents, outscoring them by 28 combined runs on their way to the state title.
The team was then invited to compete in the Mid-South 9, 10 World Series where they were one of the favorites to win it all.
Despite being favored, the Crush finished the tournament 2-3-1 and fell short of an even bigger title.
Although the shortcoming was tough for the team, they managed to go 49-11-1 in just their first full baseball season after coming together less than a year before.
The Crush entered this year with a few new faces, in a new division, 10U Elite, and with a revamped practice field in Independence Heights, which was something that was hard to come by in the earlier days.
“We have six original members from our team last year, and we’ve got a little bit of a different team, but we’re hoping that we can replicate the success of last year,” Rollans said.
While the achievements that the team has been able to rack up have been nice, Rollans said that finding a home for the ball club and being welcomed by the community has been a much larger feat.
“A bigger accomplishment really was being accepted into that neighborhood in that area and having them look at us as a source of pride for the neighborhood,” he said. “Independence Heights and the Independence Heights redevelopment district, they really embraced us and took us in and made us one of their own.”
To find out how the Crush made Independence Heights their home and what they are doing to help renovate the area check out next week’s issue.