The Dragon’s Own T-Rex

The Dongguan Dragons’ captain has been awarded a scholarship to chase his baseball dream…

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Say it quietly, but Dongguan might have its very own baseball star in the making. Just weeks away from his high school graduation ceremony, QSI honor student Ty Rex Higginbotham, 18, was awarded a scholarship to play baseball at Belmont Abby, North Carolina. The school has a proud baseball history and is currently ranked 8th in the nation in Division-2, and was the alma mater of former St. Louis, pitcher, Hal Haid.

T-Rex as he is known amongst team mates, was trained by the Dongguan Dragons, plays the position of catcher and is the team captain. Dragons founder and Head Coach Jim Mann is as proud as anyone regarding Ty’s success. “Ty never picked up a baseball until he was 13. I started at two and half. A lot of kids start at five with T-ball. He has just four and half years on this and now he has a scholarship,” he said. “Some of these college players are drafted into the Minor leagues and then even go on into the Major leagues, but it’s not about that; we are so proud of him right now; it doesn’t matter if he goes on to play at a higher level.”

“If it wasn’t for people like Jim, he would just be going to a regular college and not playing baseball. So I know for Ty, any accolades go firmly to the Dragons.”

The chance of high school baseball players going on to play in college are small; the chances of them getting into the minors is smaller, and the funnel continues up until the major leagues.

“Ty has a chance to make it to the big leagues, and if he didn’t I wouldn’t say that,” says Mann. “He has a professional body, he is smart, and he listens. Ty is aware of the odds and for the past two years he’s been training four to five hours every single day trying to give himself an advantage over other players. That’s a lot of work for a 17 old, now 18.”

Ty’s father, Scott Higginbotham is, as one might imagine as excited as a father can be. “It was very emotional for us when he got the offer. He’s worked hard and he’s earned it and I’m very proud of him,” he said. “Ty’s currently training in the Dominican Republic, but if he were here he would tell you that it has taken a lot of hard work and training to get to where he is today and that he appreciates all the hard work that others have put into training him.”

Perhaps what is most remarkable about Ty’s journey is just how few years he’s been playing baseball. Most players at his level have been playing since they were five years old, some even earlier then that. By the time they are 18 they could easily have been playing for 15 years. They develop muscle memory and mental awareness. Ty’s only been playing for four and a half years.

” I remember the exact day it started. The St. Louis Cardinals had just won game seven of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers and became the World Campions. That’s when he said, ‘Dad, I want to be a baseball player.’ So, that is when it all started, ” says Scott.

Though he hasn’t been playing as long as many other kids his age, there’s few that can match his appetite for the game. Committing to an intense training regime that rarely lets up, he has an obsession about the game that reaches comedic level. Darren Quon helps the Dragons with their marketing and has watched Ty train from the start. “Ty’s a catcher so they have really heavy bulky padding, a huge helmet and face mask, serious equipment. It’s important they wear it a lot, so they get used to it, like a second skin,” he says. “When Ty got his, he wouldn’t take it off; he would wear it around the house and neighbourhood all day to get used to it. He would scare the life out of his mom, his sister, and even the neighbours.”

It’s great for any kid in America to play baseball and get a scholarship, but to do this growing up in a country where the majority of the people have never heard of the game is incredible. And that is solely down to the Dongguan Dragons organization and coaching staff. The Dragons is a team solely run by volunteers. Any child in the region, of any age, gender, nationality, and ability can play for the Dragons, and all at no charge.

“I teach baseball the way I learned it, which is if you want to learn then I’m going to teach you, but there’s no screwing around. Are we difficult? Yes. But we have a lot of fun too,” says Mann. “Baseball teaches kids teamwork, to be responsible, and it builds character. It’s a great thing for kids to do.”

If you, or somome you know, would like to get involved with the Dongguan Dragons, either as a player or volunteer, please feel free to contact them at nastycurve00@hotmail.com

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