Tucson-area college athletes

Baseball’s Next Level Conquistador Summer Classic at Kino Sports Complex Takes Local High School Baseball Talent Up a Notch or Two


Bryan Huie’s extensive use of a golf cart at the Kino Sports Complex in the last week was like a joy ride going from one field to the next checking on all the diamonds full of aspiring baseball talent.

The tireless founder, executive director and player development director of Baseball’s Next Level — recognized for its high level of baseball instruction locally by college coaches and pro scouts — had 40 teams to check on from Southern Arizona, Phoenix, Texas, Hawaii, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico participating in the Third Annual BNL Conquistador Summer Classic.

“This tournament has gotten better and better every year,” Huie said, managing to stay in a dugout at Kino Stadium for a few minutes while doing this interview before having to check on something else. “The facilities are phenomenal. The Kino Sports Complex is just amazing on how well it’s kept.

“All the teams here from all over just continue to talk about what great facilities we have here. It’s the best tournament we’ve played in all summer. We had 16 colleges here and two professional scouts.”

BNL founder and executive director Bryan Huie talks to his BNL Rockets team (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson)

One of the colleges looking at the talent was Arizona, specifically coach Jay Johnson, who observed games Sunday at the complex.

Among the schools other than Arizona that used the opportunity to recruit talent at the event included Grand Canyon, New Mexico, New Mexico State and practically all the junior college programs in the state including Pima.

“I was talking to Jay Johnson on one of the back fields over there and he’s like, ‘Hey, man, you BNL guys, we need to have you guys host even more tournaments because this is just phenomenal,'” Huie said. “So it’s been really good.”

Huie, a former coach at Sahuarita who is the principal at Mission Manor Elementary School, has operated BNL since 2014. The former left-hander at Mountain View High School has a minor-league background after persevering through college stops at Westark Community College in Fort Smith, Ark., and Lubbock Christian University.

Cienega senior outfielder Wyatt Wingstad came on strong for the BNL 17U Black team earning the MVP honor of the Conquistadors Summer Classic. His college options are wide open. Many colleges took notice of how he batted and played the field in the tournament, including reportedly Grand Canyon University.

He can see himself in a lot of the players he helps groom for a similar journeys in baseball. He has assisted more than 300 high school players to play in college or pro ball. Almost all of the major-league teams have drafted his alums. More than 50 four-year programs have signed his players to scholarships and plenty of junior college programs have used BNL to sign players and give them a chance to continue their education and their baseball dreams.

He created the Conquistadors Summer Classic (sponsored by the Tucson Conquistadors) so parents of the kids can stay home and avoid additional travel costs (BNL participates in four tournaments each summer). The exposure for the players is the most essential element of creating the regional tournament.

“The first year we had about eight colleges here and I think we had about 10 last year,” Huie said. “This year, like I said, we had 16 colleges and two pro scouts, so it’s gotten better and better. That’s what it’s all about — continuing to get kids out here to see our local kids and that’s the bottom line.”

An indication of how BNL’s young talent is progressing: Its 17U Black Team (players entering their senior years in high school) won the 18U title on Sunday over the BNL Rockets, a team comprised of high school grads who are entering college or have completed their freshman season in college.

Bryan Huie (far right) takes note of the talent he has helped from his BNL Black 17U and BNL Rockets teams (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Huie’s long list of BNL graduates includes form Arizona catcher Cesar Salazar from Sahuaro and New Mexico State First Team All-American Nick Gonzales from Cienega who led the nation with a phenomenal .432 batting average.

Canyon del Oro products Max Smith and Nick Ames, both of whom excelled at UNLV, were recently drafted by MLB clubs. Smith, an outfielder, was taken by the Minnesota Twins in the 31st round this year. Ames, a first baseman, was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 15th round in 2018.

Most recently, Sahuarita alum Jose Dicochea, a right-hander who signed with Johnson at Arizona, signed with the Oakland A’S after getting drafted in the eighth round.

This summer, one of Huie’s standouts, Sabino outfielder Preston Clifford, committed to Washington State. Left-hander Trevor Rogers, who took part in Huie’s BNL program out of Carlsbad (N.M.) High School, was a first-round selection of the Miami Marlins in 2017 (the 13th pick overall) who had a signing bonus of $3.4 million.

Sahuarita senior Cedric Jimenez looks on from on-deck circle during the 18U championship of the Third Annual BNL Conquistadors Summer Classic (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

This is just a sampling of the opportunities Huie has created working in conjunction with high schools and coaches at that level to get young players recognized.

“We’ve got great high school coaches here in Southern Arizona,” Huie said. “I am a huge, huge high school advocate. They’ve allowed me to keep coaching those kids in the summer. It’s just be a great partnership and it’s been super exciting.”

Huie’s zest for baseball and knowledge of the game is paying obvious dividends for local talent. He is an area scout for the New York Yankees and he runs a fall team locally that plays a schedule and hones their baseball skills in preparation for the spring and next summer.

The fruits of his labor, other than the impressive amount of former players reaching the college and pro ranks, is the success of his teams in the Conquistadors Summer Classic and another tournament held in Phoenix this summer.

Sunnyside senior RHP/2B Juan Antonio Garcia of BNL 17U Black throws 86 to 90 mph. Cochise College offered him a scholarship Saturday after watching him in the Conquistadors Summer Classic. Grand Canyon is also showing interest among others.

His 14U, 16U and 18U teams swept the titles on Sunday at Kino Stadium after achieving the same feat in Phoenix.

“For the amount of teams here, for us to win at every level, is just phenomenal and it tells you how great our BNL program has become,” Huie said. “To sweep a huge tournament like this that has some of the best on the West coast, definitely in the state with T-Rex (Phoenix), with Sandlot (Phoenix) and also with the Lubbock (Texas) Baseball Academy, Team Hawaii and Stars N’ Spikes (Riverside, Calif.) — we’ve got some legitimate teams that came into this — and for us to win it in the 14U, the 16U and the 18U, it’s just amazing.”

Here’s a rundown of those championship teams from Sunday’s action:

14U

BNL Red 14U captured the title over Stars N’ Spikes Grey

(BNL photo)

SS Derick Montijo of Rio Rico earned MVP honors

(BNL photo)

16U

BNL Black 16U defeated Hawaii Elite for the title

(BNL photo)

OF Isaiah Roebuck of Marana won the MVP award

(BNL photo)

BNL 17U Black beat the BNL Rockets for the 18U title

(BNL photo)

OF Wyatt Wingstad of Cienega took home MVP honors

(Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)


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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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