E.A. Sports Today

A new arrival

Versatile Ben Reiland becomes latest California player to find a summer home with Top Gun Baseball

Top Gun’s newest Californian, Ben Reiland, enjoys a local lunch with fellow California players Peter Rodriguez, Braden Zickuhr and Brady Lachemann, and Oxford coach Wes Brooks on his first full day in the Alabama baseball program.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
OXFORD – Alabama really is becoming the go-to destination for California baseball players wanting to escape the coronavirus sports shutdown in their own state.


Top Gun Baseball landed another accomplished California prospect – perhaps the most accomplished of their bunch – looking for a place to play to keep their game sharp.
Fourteen-year-old Ben Reiland arrived in the Southeast from Villa Park, Cal., Sunday night and immediately started getting used to his surroundings. He’ll play for Top Gun’s 14U club in its tournament this weekend at Choccolocco Park.
“Back in California none of the sports stuff is open,” said Reiland, a middle infielder/outfielder who bats left, throws right and hits at the top of the lineup. “So, my parents and I decided to come out here because you’re allowed to do stuff with baseball and I just needed to get work in for the 15U Trials this summer and get ready to go overall.”
If the start of his trip is any indication, he won’t be lacking something to do. In just the first 18 hours since his arrival he got a lay of this new land, got a peek at Choccolocco Park that will be his home park for the trip, went through a couple workouts and took a couple at-bats against a former major-league pitcher.
“I knew it was going to be pretty on top of it,” he said.
Reiland, who’ll be a freshman at national prep power Orange Lutheran when schools back home re-open, joins three 18U players from Arroyo Grande who came to Top Gun two weeks ago.
They’re not the only group from SoCal who came to the Southeast to play. There’s a group from his new high school based in Tuscaloosa and another in the Atlanta area. Oxford baseball coach Wes Brooks, who’s hosting Reiland before handing him off to his brother and Top Gun CEO Roby Brooks for the rest of the trip, estimated there are about 50 Californians in this part of the country looking for an open field after their state shut down youth sports for the summer.
Reiland’s arrival here wasn’t some happy coincidence. He’s had a relationship with Brooks going back to their days in the USA Baseball development program and the family reached out when Reiland’s opportunity to play in Texas didn’t work out.
Brooks was Reiland’s 12U Trials coach. Reiland hit .643 with a homer in helping Team USA win the 12U World Cup in Taiwan that year. He became one of the few 14-year-olds on the 15U team and hit a triple in the PanAm gold medal game in Mexico last year.
“To be honest with you, in my opinion, for his age, the level of talent in California is really up here, especially at 12,” Brooks said, raising his hand up to eye level. “You might have a guy from Texas and a guy from Georgia and a guy from Maryland and that’s it. Everybody else is from California – when you’re in 12s.
“When you’re 14 it starts to get about 50 percent from California and when you get to the 18s it’s a little more spread out. I think the benefit for him coming here, in a few weeks he’ll see a Vandy or an Alabama or an Auburn where out there it’s USC, UCLA, Arizona State. It’ll open up some more windows for him down the road.”
Reiland got to see what it might be like at the highest level of the game shortly after he arrived. He had two at-bats against former Oxford and Cincinnati Reds pitcher Jackson Stephens, striking out and grounding to short that could’ve been a hit depending on your perspective. He also had three at-bats against Birmingham Southern pitcher Andy Hammond with a strikeout, grounder to short and a walk.
It was the first time he’s ever stepped in against a big-league pitcher. He’ll remember the experience, just like Arroyo Grande catcher Peter Rodriguez will remember his first night here when he caught Stephens with Seattle Mariners’ second baseman Shed Long in the box.
“I’ve gone up against older kids, but never a pro guy,” he said. “I was just excited to see what they had, to compete against them. He was saying instantly he knew I was more of a middle-way hitter than and inside guy and then we talked about my approach and seeing pitches and everything like that. He talked about how pitchers work and everything so I could use that to my advantage.”

You must be logged in to post a comment Login