FUQUAY-VARINA — An organization part of Fuquay-Varina for more than 85 years still seems unnoticed.
The Fuquay-Varina Twins are a collegiate summer baseball team that carried the town’s name even before the local high school was built.
The squad’s home has changed since; it now plays outside Fuquay-Varina at Holly Springs High School.
The leagues have changed, too: The team started in the Old Tobacco Road State League, then moved to the semi-pro ranks for a time.
But since 2006, under head coach Bill Hauser, the team has been a member of the Carolina-Virginia Collegiate League, a summer league for college players who pay $500 to play a 46-game schedule.
“Not every college kid is lucky enough to get an invite from the Cape Cod (League) or the (Coastal Plain League),” Hauser said. “I wanted to provide them a place where they can play when they come home from school. … the CVCL finally gives some local kids from this area an opportunity at summer ball.”
The league has been recognized since by the NCAA and has helped players like J.T. Bunce, a former Middle Creek outfielder and rising junior at Barton, a chance to improve.
“I was upset when I didn’t make one of the leagues like the CPL,” Bunce said, “so I went to one of the practices for the Twins, and I got on the team and I’ve loved it ever since.
“To be honest, I’ve never played this well on a team and I think it’s because I can just focus on getting better at baseball.”
For players like former Athens Drive and Barton infielder Dillon Rudio, who in his third year made the all-star team for the second straight season, Hauser is the reason he continues returns.
“He’s really laid back, and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to baseball,” Rudio said.
“I keep coming back to the Twins because it’s fun, and coach Hauser knows how to make us better.”
One of the biggest reasons college baseball players join a summer league is to hone their skills, show they are worthy of a starting position and, in some cases, earn scholarships.
While scouts don’t always swarm to Holly Springs, Hauser said he knows major league scouts notice how much players improve after a summer with the Twins.
“All I want from my kids is for them to sharpen their skills and have fun doing it,” he said. “And generally when they leave my league, they grade out better in the fall than what they did in the spring.
“Major League Baseball has told me that our league does a really good job at that.”
Two years ago, Rudio was playing for Guilford Tech Community College and looking to move to a different school. After last summer, he was offered a scholarship at Barton.
“I had some offers in high school, but I got injured and had to earn my scholarships back,” Rudio said.
This season, the Twins are 10-11 (9-10 in the CVCL) and have gone 3-4 over their last seven games, but Hauser, 63, isn’t concerned. He has used a system of marshalling players that helped win a conference tournament title last season.
Hauser uses two different lineups during doubleheaders. By the time the CVCL tournament begins at the end of July, Hauser has a team of nine players comprised of the two different lineups that played best throughout the summer. “My mission is to play kids as much as possible,” Hauser said.
“During the summer, my job is to provide these kids a place to improve on the field and enjoy their summer, too.”
For Bunce, the system has worked well. “I’ve never had this much fun on a team before,” Bunce said. “It’s just a relaxed atmosphere, and guys aren’t selfish on this team.”
“We all want to make the tournament team. … Hopefully I’m on that team,” he said.
The big stage
Midway through the schedule, the all-star teams were announced, and both Rudio and Bunce made the team.
This year’s all-stars will travel to Hickory to play at Lenoir-Rhyne University’s stadium against the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Facing top prospects like North Carolina’s Skye Bolt and N.C. State’s Trea Turner and Carlos Rodon, Rudio said, he knows there will be scouts watching.
“It’s a huge opportunity to play against the best guys out there at your level,” he said. “I definitely feel like there will be a lot more scouts than we usually see.”
The Collegiate National Team is touring each CPL stadium before heading to Japan, something Bunce believes could eventually happen for the CVBL.
While the Twins are still trying to get recognized in their own state, Hauser said he hopes that with time and effort, the Twins will be seen as a thriving organization.
“We aren’t filled with a bunch of Division I guys, but with the talent that’s in our league we should be getting more attention,” Bunce said.
Smith: 919-829-4841; Twitter: @RCorySmith