Photos provide by Mavericks Baseball.
This article is part of a series highlighting different organizations within NVTBL. Click here to read past feature articles. We will be posting new articles each week.
Dedicated ball players growing up in Fort Hunt aspire to play at West Potomac from the first time they see the varsity squad line up in uniform to shake hands during opening day for Fort Hunt Little League (FHLL).
The Mount Vernon Mavericks organization provides players from 8-15u looking to play at the next level a vehicle to reach that goal by offering a year-round and long-term approach to player development without leaving the neighborhood.
The tight-knit community of Fort Hunt runs along the Potomac River in Alexandria and is located a mile east of Mount Vernon, the home and plantation of George and Martha Washington. Even though their jerseys say Mount Vernon, almost all of the players reside in Fort Hunt and play in the local little league.
“We have maintained and intend to maintain a Fort Hunt first posture for the Mavericks,” said Mike Sheedy, who manages the 8-10u Mavericks teams. “We have very few kids in our program who live outside of Fort Hunt and that is by design.”
The foundation of the Mavericks began with the vision to develop players in the community outside of house league play to better prepare for Little League All-Star competition while also establishing a feeder program to supplement the local high school with talent. The first Mavericks team would go on to win three consecutive Little League District 9 titles and a state championship while many members of that team would later help restore a winning culture at West Potomac.
Over a decade and a half later, the program continues with the same goal in mind and banners to prove the plan is still working. FHLL has won nine District 9 titles across five different age divisions, including recent championship wins at 10u and Intermediate, just in the last three years. In 2017, FHLL competed in two regional tournaments after clinching the Majors and Seniors Virginia State Championships.
Sheedy and several Mavericks coaches understand the value of their program to the community and maintain board positions in FHLL to help ensure a symbiotic relationship with both organizations.
The Mavericks have also implemented policies to continue to develop players for the high school level, resulting in three out of every four players at West Potomac originating from the program. The Wolverines have had winning seasons four out of the last five years and have clinched consecutive Gunston District titles after not winning a championship since 1994.
“Being able to unify the community, not only behind the All-Star teams but also a travel program, is what creates the synthesis and synergy that has brought success,” Sheedy said.
Jayme Murray played on the inaugural Mavericks team and grew up playing in FHLL, helping clinch the league’s first district and state titles. After developing into a standout first baseman at West Potomac, Murray became the first Mavericks player to earn a Division I baseball scholarship to play at George Mason. Since then, several Mavericks alumni have followed in his footsteps to play collegiately and even professionally, including Billy Lescher (Detroit Tigers) and Jamie Sara (Philadelphia Phillies).
Murray has returned to his alma-mater at West Potomac as an assistant coach while also coaching Mavericks teams in the fall and summer. By having a hand in both programs, Murray is able to work with players throughout the year, over a longer period of time, while also providing players insight into the high school program.
“Regardless of what age the kids are at, the focus and priority is always surrounded around player development. You can’t take wins and losses to the next year. The one thing that carries over from season to season is that development,” Murray said. “One of the luxuries of being a high school coach is you have that insight and can provide kids the proper expectations.”
Mavericks coaches facilitate an environment where players can learn the game and improve at their own pace while also exposing players to higher levels of competition with challenging schedules through the NVTBL and various tournaments. Despite the weekly practices and games, coaches stress flexibility and allow for families to make plans during the season and play other sports in the off-season.
“We are taking the long-term approach, developing kids through fundamentals and making sure these kids are never burned out with baseball by providing balance and teaching these kids there are other things in life besides baseball,“ Sheedy said. “Our mission statement is to develop healthy, elite high school baseball players who still love to play the game.”
With the priority focused on the community and long-term player development, the Mavericks continue to have success impacting players beyond wins and losses and helping the next generation of Fort Hunt kids become neighborhood legends.