After winning the Class 3A state title in 2008 and finishing as one of the nation's top teams, the American Heritage (Plantation)
baseball team has managed to remain a contender within its respective classification. Since then, the Patriots made deep runs in the postseason before losing to Bolles (Jacksonville), 14-4, in the 2009 state final and Gulliver Prep (Miami) 6-4 in last year's regional final.
Led by 6-foot-2, 210-pound senior catcher Brandon Sedell
, the Patriots are again a favorite to compete for the state crown this season. Despite being comprised of mostly underclassmen, Sedell, a University of Florida commit, feels that this year's team has all the tools they need to accomplish its goal.
"We're young right now, but we have some really good players who can help us win," he said. "We already proved we can beat good teams by beating Gulliver earlier this year so everything else is possible."
The Patriots (2-3) got off to a slow start this season, but Sedell, along with veterans Jimmy Nesselt
(Sr./P) and Michael Klement (Jr./DH), proved their worth after defeating national power Gulliver Prep 11-5 in a rematch of last year's regional final.
Sedell, last year's Sun-Sentinel Class 3A Player of the Year, was a freshman on the team that won the state title in 2008 (he hit seven home runs) and has since earned a reputation as one of the country's most dangerous hitters.
Last season, he posted a .628 batting average with 43 RBIs, 39 runs and nine home runs while leading the Patriots to a 24-6 record. The standout catcher posted better numbers then teammate Nick Castellanos, last year's Gatorade Florida Baseball Player of the Year, who batted .542 with 41 RBIs, 34 runs and six home runs. Castellanos was selected by the Detroit Tigers with the 44th pick in last year's Major League Baseball Draft.
"Brandon just wants to get better every day and help make everyone else better," said Patriot Head Coach Todd Fitzgerald.
As a result of his stellar play last season, his efforts landed him in last summer's AFLAC All-American game. When asked how it felt to play against some of the nation's top players, Sedell replied, "It was awesome."
"I was honored to play with that caliber of players," he added. "It was also great to represent American Heritage nationally."
Sedell, who is slated to go early in the first round in this year's draft, understands that he must continue to work hard in order for his team to reach its goal and admits that "blocking, footwork, throws to second and catching" are some areas that he would like to improve in.
The possibility of getting drafted to the majors isn't something that Sedell is concerned with at the moment.
"I'm not worried about that stuff right now," he said. "Right now I'm attending UF in the fall and working hard to help our team win state."
Sedell chose Florida over Miami, Georgia and Florida International University stating that "staying in state" was a big part of his decision. If history has shown anything about the future Gator, it's that his work ethic and dedication produces major results.
After hitting .420 as a sophomore, Sedell wasn't satisfied with his average and spent the offseason working to improve his skills. The time he put in helped him increase his batting average by more than 200 points the following season.
"I totally believe that hard work pays off," he said. "I wanted to improve in any way that I could after that year and I'm glad to see it paid off. There are still some things that I want to get better at, but, as long as I stay focused, I'll be on the right track."
Playing in the Aflac game last year was a great experience for him but Sedell has since continued his journey toward reaching his full potential. Aside from helping his team win a state championship this season, the standout catcher has some personal metrics that he'd also like to meet along the way.
"I'd like to bat .500 with 10 home runs and have no errors this season," he said.
His work ethic and dedication are some things that coach Fitzgerald has seen him develop over the last few years, which gives him confidence that his team is being guided by the right people.
"He's stronger then he was last year and a lot more focused," he said. "His leadership skills are something that I admire in him. Many of the younger players look up to him and he knows that."
So far, the standout slugger is accomplishing one of his goals in batting .500 along with six RBIs, three doubles, one triple and one home run. Despite being walked four times this season, Sedell understands his role as a leader and is ready for the challenge.
"I know I'll be singled out most of the time but our coaches do a great job of preparing us for these situations," he said. "I've been playing varsity since the eighth grade and have learned so much at this school. It helped me become a man and the last thing I'd like to do before I graduate is help them win another state championship."