Thursday, March 20, 2008

Making The Grade

We were browsing the web and checking up on travel team sites, when we came across a commentary from the founder of NORCAL Baseball, the powerhouse travel organization from The Bay Area. They address the age cut-offs of youth and teen baseball and make a great point They state...

"that the organizers came up with an arbitrary birth date cutoff of August 1 to separate the age levels. In 2000, Little League, in conjunction with USA Baseball, decided to change the cutoff date to May 1 to be closer to the international baseball birth date cutoff (which is January 1) without going too far away from the previous date. Soon after, all youth baseball organizations followed suit: USSSA, Super Series, Triple Crown... The landscape of youth baseball as we know it changed dramatically. The best players have gravitated toward "travel" or "select" teams in search of the best competition."

With that change in age cut-off come big problems according to NORCAL.

"This "happy medium", new cutoff date has created a competitive unbalance for the lower levels and made an absolute mess at the upper age, elite level. For now, this commentary will address the upper age, elite level (14U-18U).

The new May 1 cutoff has changed the grade composition of aged-based teams. A 14 year old team previously consisted of 80% 8th graders and 20% freshmen. The present ratio is closer to 50-50. The obvious problem is half your team is playing high school baseball in the spring and your team is depleted. The bigger challenge is those 14 year old high school players are going to have to "play down" with kids a grade below during the summer months. They are not being challenged- therefore, they are not progressing."

As it relates to this blog, we couldn't agree more with the following statement.

"The other age group being affected most is the 16's. To reiterate, most 16 year old teams are now made up of half sophomores and half juniors. The college recruiting timeline has been moved up (for better or worse) almost a full year. It is not uncommon for juniors to verbally commit before they have played an inning of their junior year. Baseball Organizations are now asking a large group of juniors to "play down" with sophomores (and some freshmen). These juniors need to be playing with other juniors and seniors in venues will challenge their abilities and showcase their talents. Playing down is doing those kids a disservice."

Norcals solution is to make their program grade based...what a concept America! Hat's off to NORCAL for doing something that makes sense. That's exactly what recruiters want to see too! They want their job to less confusing. When they go to a tournament and see a bunch of players that they like, they shouldn't have to sift through the roster to see who's a prospect and who's a two year follow. They want to know up front that the team they are watching are all incoming sophomores, incoming juniors or uncommitted incoming seniors...period. Here's what NORCAL is doing and what the rest of the travel ball community should emulate...

"NorCal Baseball has decided to go to a grade-based classification for our teams. We made the change in our program for many reasons:

1. The first reason is that we felt our players needed to be challenged. They need to compete against players in the same grade or above. Those same players that they were competing against on the field were the same ones that they were being measured up to by the college coaches and pro scouts. Coaches and scouts don't recruit or draft by age. They do it by grade. In short; it is best for the player.

2. Norcal Baseball’s program has always been about helping our players get to the next level. When a college coach or pro scout watches one of our teams, the players are easily identified by their grade- thus, making the scout’s job easier.

Act or Re-act, what should we do? The older players need a change. The age classification currently in place does not work for what these players are trying to accomplish. Select Teams who want to change to the grade based teams feel they might be at a competitive disadvantage because they will be playing against “older” teams to a certain extent. The answer to that is simple- Is your program in it to win plastic trophies or to develop players to help get them to the next level? This will be NorCal Baseball’s, first full year of grade-based teams. The results in the fall were very promising. There is no question that the elite programs in the country will evolve to grade-based classifications. This is what is best for the student-athletes and this is what the college coaches and pro scouts want to see. The sooner we accomplish this, the better for the sake of the player."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We agree with NorCal's approach as we do the same thing most of the time. There are expections but for the most part follow the same scenario. We have spoken to Rob about this issue in the past and has even been debated on message boards.