Reality TV has covered just about everything—toddler beauty pageants, lumberjacks, dancing celebrities and people who build aquariums.
Soon, the world of travel baseball will be put in the spotlight. A new reality show featuring Ray DeLeon and his Houston Banditos program—tentatively titled “Ball Busters”—is in development for truTV with a likely release sometime this summer.
The Banditos have been around for nearly 20 years and have teams ranging from 7-and-under all the way up to 18-and-under. According to the Banditos’ web site, the team has at least 31 players committed to Division I schools for 2014. The team’s recent alumni includes Orioles lefthander Troy Patton, 2012 draft picks like outfielders Courtney Hawkins (White Sox, first round), Austin Dean (Marlins, fourth round), and Nick Williams (Rangers, sixth round), Texas shortstop C.J. Hinojosa, and the top high school pitching prospect for the 2013 draft, righthander Kohl Stewart.
DeLeon has a gregarious personality on and off the field and could become a hit with viewers.
“One thing about Ray is he’s always going to keep it real with you,” said Hawkins, who played in the Banditos program from the time he was 12 years old through his senior year of high school. “Ray is Ray, Banditos is Banditos, and they’re not really going to change for anybody, no matter what.”
DeLeon can be tough on his players, but at the end of the day most wind up loving him.
“It’s a love-hate thing playing for him,” Hawkins said. “You can ask anybody that was on that team with us—guys had ups and downs with him, but as many times as we said, ‘We’re done with you,’ we always came back just because he’d take care of us and stuff. You’d hate him one day, but you always love him because he has your back.
“He’s always tough, but he’s a good one to play for because he knows baseball and he knows what he’s talking about.”
Reality show personalities often have catch phrases they become known for, and DeLeon should fit into that niche nicely.
“The biggest things he always says are, ‘If you hit, you don’t sit,’ and ‘Go hard, or go home,’ “ Hawkins said. “Another one is, ‘You’re not as good as your dad thinks you are,’ That’s stuff you always hear.”
With skepticism surrounding reality TV, DeLeon says he will keep it authentic, and there will be plenty of action to satisfy fans of the game.
“I’m going to be me,” DeLeon said. “I told them I’m not going to act. I know truTV, they’re trying to clean it up—95 percent of that stuff is fake, you know? Well, I’m not going to act. I’m not an actor, I’m a coach.”
But there will be plenty of drama, too.
“We had a kid walk in the other day that asked me what’s my advice on steroids,” DeLeon said. “He’s got some and he doesn’t know if he wants to do ‘em or not, and I had to tell him, ‘Hey look, I can’t tell you what to do or what not to do, but I think you’re making a big mistake.’ And he told me not to call his dad, and I had to, and now they’re dealing with it.
“There’s a lot of issues like that, and I guess this reality show wants to cover a lot of that—the pressures of starting, the pressures of getting cut . . . the pros and cons of kids that age who go through a lot of things. A lot of stuff goes on, and there’s a lot of drama, and I guess the reality shows want to pick up on it.
“I guess they want to see me get on a kid for getting kicked out of a hotel in Marietta, Georgia, or a kid that went out and got drunk all night and we had to bail him out of jail in Jupiter (Fla.).”