Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Making Baseball Better in the Northeast
RT Staff Note: This year, there will be over a dozen new college stadiums making their debut. Colleges realize that there is an increased interest in playing college ball by today's youth and must compete to bring in those recruits. More and more players are seeking out teams and leagues to help them play at the next level beyond the traditional summer ball offerings. Some are good, some aren't. One area that has shown exponential interest in an extended season is the New England Area. We have written about the New England Ruffnecks in past posts, but there are other leagues and personalities in the Northeast that are also on the right path to helping young players reach their goal to play at the next level. Here's an article that ran in the Boston Herald that shows how baseball in cold weather climates CAN work.
By Mike Sullivan
September 23, 2008
The Seacoast Fall Baseball League is growing up fast.
Not so long ago — nine years in fact — the league was a mere five teams, all of the high school variety. Newmarket, Marshwood, Rochester, Oyster River and Suncook all had entries in the league, which was founded by Newmarket High School assistant baseball coach Gary Pomeroy.
The knock on New England in national baseball circles has always been that many of the players are weaker because they can't play baseball year-round; kinda tough in the snow, really. But if it was available, you could certainly play baseball into the fall season.
Based on that premise, it seemed obvious that Pomeroy was onto something.
Fast forward to 2008 and it's hard to recognize the league thanks in large part to David Adam.
Adam, the owner of Strike Three Baseball School and a former, longtime minor league pitcher, took over as the league's head honcho in 2003. "Head honcho" isn't his official title, mind you. In fact, he doesn't have one. Adam is just a guy who is trying to make baseball better in this area. Seems like he's doing a pretty good job of it, too. In just five years, the SFBL has expanded to a whopping 36 teams broken up into middle school (10 teams), junior varsity (12 teams) and varsity (14 teams) divisions.
Adam played professionally for 10 years and is a Connecticut native, so he knew of the reputation New England baseball has always had. And he, like Pomeroy, recognized that extending the season could help dispel this notion.
"The whole concept of this league has caught on because kids weren't playing and people were kind of seeing that," Adam said. "Baseball up here was getting a bum rap down south because they play year-round and around here kids were only playing a couple months."
It was that same principle that attracted longtime Dover resident and coach Dave Rouleau to the league.
"In the Seacoast area, there's a bunch of very, very good ballplayers and in the fall, those young men did nothing because they're not football players, they're not soccer players," said Rouleau, who coaches the Dover high school division team and has been involved with the league since its inception. "We got together and recognized there's a certain group that had interest in this. We wanted to give those kids an opportunity to play."
So now Seacoast-area kids are playing baseball longer, and a whole bunch of them are doing it.
All told, there are more than 400 players in the league this fall, up from about 55 nine years ago. One of Adam's prime objectives when he took the reins of the league was growth, while maintaining the league's mantra of ensuring that everybody plays and everybody improves their skills.
No problems there. The league has not only grown, but it has developed a reputation for being, well, more than just a pick-up league.
Pitchers are limited to three innings per game day. On a typical game day, Dover and Portsmouth, for example, will play two five-inning games. The regular season, which began over the weekend for high school and middle school, is four weeks long and playoffs begin after that.
"We try to take the competitive edge off during the regular season, but come playoff time, the kids want something to play for a little bit," Adam said.
The high school division's games are played mostly on Sundays to allow soccer and football players to participate if they choose. The league isn't just for kids who play on their high school teams, either. Any kid in middle or high school can play, and everyone actually plays in every game. It's far from watered down ball, though.
"We've tried to steadily improve the quality over the years and I think we've done that," Adam said.
"The commitment is not as demanding as Legion baseball or high school baseball," Rouleau said. "But there's a lot of kids who enjoy playing and there's a lot of kids who want to play college ball, so this helps them."
Adam described the league as a "melting pot" of Seacoast baseball talent. The SFBL even hosts a showcase game each year — this year's is Oct. 26 — for college coaches. All the coaches submit a list of players who are interested in playing college ball, and the showcase team is made from that list. It plays another All-Star team of sorts from somewhere else in the state.
"It's important to these kids, a lot of them want to play in college," said Adam, who used to coach the baseball team at Hesser College in Manchester. "Any kid who's interested in playing college baseball, we're going to help them."
Help is something Adam has had a lot of. Each of the towns has people who not only coach, but do all the dirty work to help keep a league this size running smoothly.
"This could never happen if I didn't have all the people in the towns," Adam said.
What a difference five years makes. And sure, he's had help, but the better way of putting it is: what a difference David Adam makes.
If you're interested in learning more about the Seacoast Fall Baseball League, visit www.sfbl.us or call David Adam at (203) 668-7649.
Mike Sullivan is a Herald columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.