Monday, June 30, 2008

Play The Best

We were at a tournament recently where a coach complained that their team was in the toughest bracket. Honestly, if you are a coach of a travel team with legitimate prospects and there are scouts at your tourney you should be very happy that you were placed in the tough bracket. How else are recruiters going to get a good gauge on the true talent of your players if they aren't playing against the best competition. As a coach, you should be requesting the toughest teams...At the 2010 graduating class level and above, it's not about just winning...it's about getting better and getting seen.

BTW, you should not be entering tournaments if there are not at least some scouts and recruiters there. If your team has a warm-up tourney to get ready for a big showcase event...fine...but if your team is consistently entering tournaments for the purpose of winning that $5.00 piece of plastic...shame on you.

Your players deserve to compete against the best players at any tournament you are playing in. Recruiters would rather see the best teams play each other as well. That way, they can scout and assess more promising prospects at one game. Economy of scale...everyone wins.

This is a short post today...I am on vacation and typing this on the beach. Don't you just love technology?

RT Staff

Friday, June 27, 2008

Fresno State title shows parity alive and well


The Associated Press
Published: June 27, 2008

OMAHA, Neb.: Brandon Burke knew exactly how to describe Fresno State's surprising run to its first national championship in baseball.

While others debated whether the Bulldogs overachieved in the NCAA tournament or underachieved in the regular season, the Fresno State closer paraphrased Harry Truman.

"It's amazing what a group of guys can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit," Burke said. "I thought that was an amazing quote, and it pretty much sums up our team, too."

Burke worked the ninth inning of Fresno State's 6-1 victory over Georgia on Wednesday night, wrapping up an improbable title that set the standard for NCAA underdogs in every sport.

The Bulldogs were 33-27 in the regular season, had to win the Western Athletic Conference tournament to gain a spot in the NCAA tournament and then became the first No. 4 regional seed to make it to Omaha since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1999.

They finished 47-31, becoming the first team to win a national title with more than 23 losses.

Fresno State's achievement, in theory, equates to a No. 13 seed or lower winning the NCAA basketball tournament.

"The parity in college baseball gives teams hope that they can get here, they can live the dream and make it special," Georgia coach David Perno said. "They did it, and they did it without their ace, and that sends a stronger message."

Fresno State lost second-round draft pick Tanner Scheppers and his 95 mph fastball to a rotator cuff tear in May, putting pressure on the rest of the staff in the postseason. Ten Fresno pitchers appeared in the College World Series.

Justin Wilson, the winner Wednesday night, posted a 2.21 ERA in a CWS-high 20 1-3 innings. He allowed one run and five hits over eight innings in the Game 3 title-clinching victory.

Right fielder Steve Detwiler, who went into the CWS finals batting .103 (4-for-39) in the NCAA tournament and playing with a torn ligament in his left thumb, backed Wilson with two homers and six RBIs in the last game. Third baseman Tommy Mendonca was voted the CWS' most outstanding player.

It took a while for Fresno State to get into championship form.

The Bulldogs were in the top 25 in most preseason polls, but were nowhere to be found after they started 8-12.

"We were talking about Omaha in March," coach Mike Batesole said. "We should have been talking about March in March. We got a little bit ahead of ourselves."

Fresno State beat only two nationally ranked teams in the regular season — San Diego State and Long Beach State. In the postseason, the Bulldogs knocked off No. 3 national seed Arizona State in the super regionals and No. 2 North Carolina, No. 6 Rice and No. 8 Georgia in the CWS.

The Bulldogs' turning point, Batesole said, came in the first round of the regionals against host Long Beach. Fresno State beat Big West pitcher of the year Andrew Liebel and the 49ers 7-3.

"I didn't know we were going to do what we were going to do, but for me, that was satisfaction enough," Batesole said. "I could have ended the season right there. When I knew that was the type of baseball team we had become, that was good enough."

But the players weren't satisfied.

"I got out of the way and these eight seniors took control of this ballclub and decided we were going to do things right on and off the field, and they did it, and it was beautiful to be a part of," Batesole said. "It was a pretty good ride."

At a minimum, Fresno State's run was the greatest surprise in college baseball since another California school, Pepperdine, won the title in 1992.

Batesole said his players "emptied their tank" every step of the way.

"We haven't left anywhere the last five weekends that we weren't empty and done," he said. "The only thing I'm not feeling great about is that we don't get to play again next weekend."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Best in The West and The Rest...Congrats Fresno State


Were they really underdogs or just plain underestimated? Fresno State took a big bite out of the SEC's last chance to prove that they deserved 9 NCAA tourney bids by dominating Georgia 6-1 in the championship game. Conventional wisdom casts a vote for Fresno State being highly underestimated. These dogs were no bull. They had more heart, more talent, more gamers and seemed to have a huge edge in just about every offensive and defensive match-up the entire tournament. How the heck could anyone call them underdogs?

We have a few ideas. First, The NCAA and it's media lemmings think that Fresno State is not in a power conference...if there is such a thing outside of the Pac 10, Big West and West Coast Conference. What? The NCAA and the media don't consider anything west of the Mississippi a power conference? HMMMMM. Let's see. Four out of the last Five World Series have been won by West coast teams in the Pac 10, Big West and now the WAC. Seven, count em, seven straight World Series Champions reigned from west of the Mississippi. So how many teams fom the ACC and SEC will be picked next year we wonder?

Now, we do understand that there is some good ball being played in Florida, North Carolina and anything within 100 miles of East Cobb, GA, (ground zero for baseball talent in the east) but even that has to be put into perspective...and perspective is not the NCAA's strong suit. We just think that the East gets a little too much attention. Miami and LSU aside, the power is in the numbers guys. California and the West have more talented baseball players because between the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah and New Mexico, there are 47.4 million people all enjoying more warm weather, more sunshine and more playable baseball days than any where else on this planet. The more you play, the better you get. There aren't that many people in the entire southeastern states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Mississippi...and their weather is not nearly as predictable either.

Second, Fresno State doesn't have the tradition of an Arizona State, Texas or LSU. We understand that. Wichita State won in 1989 and had to live down its underdog status as well. In fact there are a lot of similarities between Wichita State and Fresno State. Both have a great fan base that draws well over 2,500 fans per game. Both were scrappy, but talented teams that peaked at the right time. Both are the first in their conference to win a national championship. Fresno States win was the first men's championship in any sport for the school.

Third, the media thinks that if you give a team an underdog image, then that will boost ratings if the underdog continues to win. ESPN's rating should have been through the roof then, because the "Wonderdogs" never lost.

The game was almost a one man show. Steve Detwiler went 4 for 4 with a HR and drove in all 6 Bulldog runs and did so with a torn ligament in his left thumb. "It's mind over matter," Detwiler said. "It's just a little pain. The pain is temporary. Pride is forever."

However, he did need some defensive support and Justin Wilson did his part and shut down this dangerous Georgia squad on 127 pitches of grit and determination.

The tournament MVP was no surprise. Tommy Mendonca was the heart and soul of this team. He epitomized the toughness and moxy that this team had throughout the series. Plus, he can play. He is as good a third baseman as you will ever see on a stage this big. His 4 HR's in the Series tied a record.

In the end, the team that won deserved to win. In a best of three series, and double elimination format to get to the finals, you can't argue that the best team did not win like you can in other single elimination formats. It's hard to sustain upest after upset agaist a team or teams when you have to beat them twice. Fresno beat FOUR top ten teams twice in San Diego, Arizona State, North Carolina and Georgia. Georgia head coach Dave Perno was asked if he for one minute thought that Fresno State was deserving of an underdog tag and he replied, "No way. They are a very good team".

So was Georgia. You have to be impressed with their All Americans in SS, Gordon Beckham and RHP, Joshua Fields. Beckham tried to do what he could to bring life back into the Georgia dugout, but it just wasn't enough. Perno would have liked the opportunity to use Fields in the last game, but they needed runs and Fresno States depleted pitching staff seemed to zap the energy right out of the Georgia bats with every out they recorded.

It was a truly great series...as it is every year...

Congrats Fresno State...thanks for bringing the trophy back to California.

RT Staff

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dog Fight


It's now down to one game. After spotting Georgia 5 runs, Fresno State first got even, then got mad as they piled on 19 runs en route to a 19-10 shellacking. WAC Player of the year Steve Susdorf and super stud Tommy Mendonca belted HR's and the lowest seeded team to ever play for a championship, gets a chance to be the champion in a winner takes all contest tomorrow at 7 EST.

That's what this series is all about. How nice to actually have an NCAA event that not only has a championship play-off, but makes each round a double elimination to get there and a best of three to win. How the heck did the NCAA get that right, yet can't seem to solve the obvious in football and fix that mess of a system? Goes to show you that baseball gurus are just plain smarter than the football dudes.

The baseball players have been out of school for over a month and yet they are still playing. What a concept. Come to think of it, many students are off for at least the first two-three weeks of January during the winter break...Wouldn't it be nice to use that time to have a NCAA football play-off? But, I digress.

I can't reiterate enough...This college World Series is the best run, most exciting NCAA championship of all of the college events. It's our national past time at its purest form. First, unlike footballs Bowl Championship Series, which is neither a championship or a series, the College World Series truly tests the strength of each team with a best of three real life "series". Second, as I stated before, there's some real pro material playing in Omaha...many top ten round guys that have a real good shot of making the home town bigs someday...some sooner than others.

I don't even mind the metal bats like I used to. It really doesn't seem to matter. Mendonca's blasts would be out of the park if he was swinging balsa wood...someone should check to see if there is a real Bulldog in a human suit playing third base for Fresno.

And, there's a human side to this series with the touching story of Erik Wetzel and the last moments with his mother, traveling around the country in a motor home with Erik's dad, so she could see him play during her bout with cancer.

Finally, Omaha couldn't be more gracious. It's a county fair atmosphere...a summer celebration...The towns bars and restaurants seem to be really alive and the talk of the town revolves around these games as it has for the past 50 years. This Midwestern River town never grows tired of this event. And it shouldn't...especially this year...a year that saw 7 first rounders, 2 supplemental round players, 2 second rounders and 2 third rounders play in Omaha. Overall, nearly 50 players that were drafted in the first three rounds played in this year NCAA tourney. That's some serious talent. This is no ordinary amateur tournament. We all will be reading a lot more about many of these players in years to come. Some may be coming to a pro park near you some day...and you can say you saw them play in the College World Series.

Go Bulldogs...Ok, You all should know which one by now!

RT Staff

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Why We Promote The College World Series


A majority of our readers have sons that either are going to college next year to play baseball or have aspirations in the next few years to play at the next level. That is really the new core audience of the Collegiate World Series...and it is growing. I was at a tournament last week and there were families of players Tivo-ing the World Series games. Many of us had listened to it on Satellite Radio and already knew the outcome, but many of these "new" fans didn't want us to spoil it. That's something you hear fans do during an NFL game, but rarely a sporting event like the CWS...until this year.

ESPN, the Internet, CBS Sports and Gametracker all have contributed to the popularity of College baseball this year. Alumni that used to limit their sports loyalties to their schools exploits in football and basketball are now looking in their local newspaper combing the collegiate box scores. Schools that poured all of their sports money into new football complexes and basketball arenas are adding minor league quality baseball stadiums to their mix of facilities.

Young, talented baseball players are no longer just longing for the day when they get drafted. They now can't wait for the day when they get their first recruitment letter from a desired college. In fact, many of the top recruiting and showcase services like Perfect Game exist mainly to assist the college ranks first and foremost. College is now the primary goal for most players. The reality is that the Tim Beckhams of the world are an exception and not the rule, and the golden rule is located where it has always been...in school.

Even MLB sent a message that the "smarter" choice was the college player when a majority of their top picks came from NCAA/draft eligible juniors. Bigger, stronger and more mentally mature players that have already proven that they can tackle the rigors and discipline of a full schedule of baseball.

So, you not only get audiences of alumni, the present student body and soon to be collegians and their families watching, but many high school underclassmen and their families testing the waters by watching and following games as well, to see if it's a place that they would like to play someday. While I still have loyalties to certain MLB teams, I find myself attending and watching many more college games these days, because in many cases, especially with the college freshman, many of our sons have played with or against many of those players in a tournament or two...and it's fun to see those same players making it on the national stage....and it makes you think that maybe someday that will be your kid too.

That's why we cover and love the College Wold Series...It's for all of the reasons you watch and love it too.

Monday, June 23, 2008

All Bulldog Final


We are not one to gloat, but is there any question which Bulldog team we are rooting for? Our own home state was calling the BullDogs, California's 10th best team at one point, but now they are in the Championship series...the only west team standing, ready to enter into the granddaddy of all dog fights at the Blatt.

Fresno State got its chance at the College World Series championship round after Tommy Mendonca drove in four runs and Clayton Allison overcame a shoulder ailment to shut down North Carolina in a 6-1 victory Sunday night. Gutsy performances fueled by the gutsiest player of them all...third baseman Tommy Mondonca. Is there anyone in recent College World Series history that plays with more passion, intensity and toughness than this guy? What a gamer. If he has an injured throwing hand, what was this guy like when he was healthy? Mendonca did it all for the Bulldogs, playing airtight defense at third base and supplying the bulk of the team's offense. He went 3-for-4 with a double, a walk and four RBIs.

Speaking of gutsy performances, Allison, a 6-foot-5 senior righthander, allowed just one run on six hits and three walks in his first CWS start after missing the first week with a biceps injury. Allison said in order to rehab his arm to the point he could pitch Sunday, he relied heavily upon electrode treatment from the team's trainers, prescription painkillers, and icing his shoulder six or seven times a day for the past 13 days.

As for his performance, Allison is a ground-ball pitcher, and he credited the stellar defense behind him with giving him the piece of mind to attack North Carolina's hitters without having to worry what would happen if the ball was put into play. Of course, he also missed plenty of bats with his split-finger, racking up six strikeouts in six innings.

The Bulldogs looked as loose and confident Sunday as they have since the start of the College World Series. Fresno simply wore down the Tar Heels in Sunday's rematch, a 6-1 Bulldogs victory that propelled them to the CWS Finals for the first time. Overall in the post season, Fresno State has beaten Florida State the nation's number two ranked team, the 3rd ranked Tarheels 3 times and Arizona State the number three ranked team twice. Anyone think that this team is an underdog? They never had any Mt. St Mary's or North Carolina Wilmington's on their road to the final....that proved to be a huge advantage. They'll face a good Georgia club in the best-of-three championship series starting Monday night. Good luck Bulldogs...the guys from the Golden State of course.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Don't Get Complacent


Ok, so your son is signed, and the pressure is off for his senior year right? Hardly. Expectations are high and the pressure to perform like a future collegian will transcend to all aspects of his game this summer. Coaches will expect him to be a team leader. Team mates will look for him to be the man in the clutch. Pitchers will alter their approach when he comes to bat.

All the more reason to not get complacent. The good news is that most of the players on our NLI list got to this point in their lives by having an incredible work ethic. But, it is human nature to relax after a big accomplishment. Just don't relax too much. Tell your son to go into this summer with the mind set that he will dominate and have a work-out plan the rest of this off-season that will give him the edge that he needs to achieve success. Just keep on working hard and make it a habit...because after this year is over it starts all over again.

College is like starting all over again. There will be 9 positions on the field at a given time, and not one of them is an automatic like it may have been at his high school. For each position, there are three players waiting in line with the same all-conference and all-metro honors waiting to take his turn. All it takes is a bad week of practice or a bad series and the depth chart is shuffled. Is it un-fair? NO! It's life! The only advice anyone can give a player in this situation is to work hard, smart and never give up. It's the perfect life lesson for what the real world will throw at him when he is handed his diploma.

RT Staff

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bulldogs Are No Underdogs


In Fresno State's first game vs. Rice, the announcers kept on referring to the Bulldogs as huge underdogs. "This is like a 14 seed in the NCAA basketball tournament upending a 3 seed," they said about a dozen times throughout the broadcast. Yeah, if that 14 seed was Rice and not Fresno State...which after watching Rice get fried, steamed and and tossed aside like some side dish at a buffet this week, a 14 seed reference would have been a little generous for the Owls...Or maybe...Rice is actually good, but Fresno State is better than the ludicrous 4 seed that was bestowed upon them in the first round of the regionals. Or maybe...Rice is dominant in one of the weakest baseball conferences on this planet and when they faced real competition, they just weren't ready.

Yet, despite the convincing win, all the media wanted to talk about was that Fresno State scored a huge upset...Then, the Bulldogs came out and handled the Tarheels as well...without their top two pitchers, and an injured starting catcher. Their third baseman's throwing hand had fingers that resembled ping pong balls a few days ago, but it didn't seem to matter...these guys are tough.

To us, it's really no surprise because their season prepared them for this moment. Fresno State and just about everyone else in the west gets hammered with one competitive series after another. The Bulldogs season started with NCAA tourney bound UC Davis, a very tough team that beat Stanford three times this year,(congrats Cardinal for eliminating #1 ranked Miami last night) and ended in the WAC tourney with a scrappy Nevada. In between they played three other teams that made this years NCAA tournament in Cal, Long Beach State and San Diego. Their league, other than Louisiana Tech, is tougher than most people give it credit for. There's a lot of talent at Nevada, San Jose State, Hawaii, New Mexico State and even newbie Sacramento State.

Again, we can't say enough, that most western and southern schools play baseball year round from an early age. Many players get anywhere from 85-100 games in per year. As we have stated in previous posts, the more quality competition players play with and against, the better overall those players will become. And, they do get better.

In California, the blue chips get drafted and the rest get divided up amongst the 23 division I schools in the state of California. The top tier college bound high school baseball players go to either the Pac 10 or Big West. But even then, many good prospects get away and there are some really great ballplayers that go to the West Coast Conference and WAC as well. Fresno State is the beneficiary of being in the Central Valley, an surprisingly populated area of nearly 8 million that a lot of college scouts don't travel to as frequently as they do in baseball rich Southern California and the increasingly fertile baseball talent that is in the Bay Area and Sacramento. The Central Valley's population base is as large or larger than a majority of entire states and Fresno State is the only Division I public school in this area. So, they get their pick of some pretty good talent, if the player decides to stay in the area.

So, you combine their top talent, a tough season schedule along with some pretty good coaching, conditioning and an avid fan base that draws nearly 3,000 per game and you get a team that knows how to win when they need to. And they are on a roll. They have won 13 out their last 15 and have impressive wins against Long Beach State (a re-match that no doubt helped the Bulldogs), San Diego (another re-match...took 2 of 3), Arizona State (won 2 of 3) and of course Rice and North Carolina.

And here they stand, in the drivers seat at 2-0. How far can they take it? Well, as long as the rest of the pack treats them like underdogs, they could just go all the way. If they treat them like the Bulldogs that they are, well, it will be tougher, but my bet is still on this scrappy, beat up and get dirty, Central Valley squad.

RT Staff

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tools of the Tigers


RT Staff Note: Much has been writtem about the first rounders that are part of this great World Series...We saw a story on one of LSU's players that shows that all of these players are huge contributors to their teams. On the heels of their huge come from behind win yesterday giving Rice it's 0 and 2 and barbecue status, we thought we'd give you readers a taste of what they write about in the Daily Iberian.

BY CHRIS LANDRY
The DAILY IBERIAN
Power. Speed. Fielding. Jared Mitchell may not be the prototypical 1- or 2-hole hitter, but he brings a lot to the table for LSU at this week’s College World Series in Omaha, Neb.

The Tigers play national No. 2 seed North Carolina at 6 p.m. today on ESPN2 in their first game at the CWS since 2004.

“Jared is a guy that’s a special blend of power and speed,” said head coach Paul Mainieri, making his second trip as a coach to the CWS, and his first at LSU. “What people don’t realize about him is he hits the ball as hard as anybody on the team.”

He’s also a baserunning threat, which helps the hitters behind him. With the speedy Mitchell on base, power hitters like Blake Dean (20 home runs) and Matt Clark (nation’s best 26 homers) see a lot more fastballs, since opposing pitchers are often afraid Mitchell will run on them.

“Any time he gets on base, he puts pressure on the defense,” said LSU assistant coach and hitting instructor Cliff Godwin. “Even though he’s not a great bunter, he’s getting better. We’re working on it. He’s able to put the ball in play. And he’s one of the strongest players on the team. Any time he gets on base, we can do a lot — hit and run, steal.”

Though he struggled early, as did much of the LSU lineup, Mitchell has improved his batting average to .307, one of six starters hitting above .300 for the Tigers heading into Omaha. LSU was only 23-16-1 overall and 6-11-1 in Southeastern Conference play on April 20 before going on a tear for the remainder of the season, winning a school-record 23 straight games and 25 of their next 26 to reach the CWS.

“Especially when we were 6-11-1, the thing we talked about most was this is the Southeastern Conference,” said Mitchell. “If you just keep on winning, everybody’s going to beat everyone else. If you keep winning, you’re going to catch those teams.”

Mitchell has six homers and 10 doubles with 29 RBIs and 41 runs scored in only 163 at-bats. His 45 strikeouts might seem high for a No. 2 hitter, but Mainieri said he wants the sophomore from New Iberia batting there because he likes the pressure Mitchell can put on a defense with his bat and his baserunning.

“I think he’s improving,” said Mainieri, who brought Notre Dame to the CWS in 2001. “He’s hitting to the opposite field well.”

Getting his confidence up was a key to getting better as the season went on. Mitchell was a spot starter early in the season but didn’t become a regular in the starting lineup until April 22 against Tulane, the first game of LSU’s school- and conference-record 23 game win streak.

“Every player struggles, and every team struggles at some point,” said Mitchell. “You just try to keep a positive attitude.”

Mitchell’s started 24 of the 26 games since April 22, including 22 starts in left field, and hit in the No. 9 hole the first seven games before moving up to second in the lineup on May 4 against Kentucky. He’s been in the 2 hole in every game but one since then, batting .356 (36-101) since getting back into the starting lineup to begin the Tigers’ win streak and .346 (27-78) since moving up to second in the batting order.

“We tweaked his swing a little, said Godwin. “But mainly it was just Jared beginning to believe in himself a little more.”

That confidence carries over to the field. Mitchell has started 39 of the 49 games he’s appeared in this season, mostly in left field after the emergence of freshman Leon Landry, who’s made several highlight-reel catches in center field. With Mitchell in left, Landry in center and Derek Helenihi in right, the Tigers have one of the best defensive groups of outfielders in the country, Mainieri said.

“I’m sure that given a choice, Jared would rather play center field,” said Mainieri, noting that Mitchell played there as a freshman last year. “But with Leon playing so well, we felt it would give us more options to put Jared in left field. Once Jared accepted that, he’s worked hard to become an exceptional left fielder, and he has.”

Mitchell is anxious to get started at the College World Series.

“I’m real excited about what’s going on. It’s what you dream about,” Mitchell said. “You want to go out there and have fun and don’t let the pressure get to you.”

Mitchell and his teammates have done a good job not letting pressure get to them. The Tigers have rallied from behind in 19 of their 25 wins since April 22 in building a 48-17-1 record.

“Everybody feels good about the way things are going,” Mitchell said. “For me, it still comes down to the same thing — we still have to play the same way.”

If the Tigers can do that, he said, they have a shot at winning LSU’s first CWS championship since 2000 and its sixth overall.

“We just need to be relaxed,” said Mitchell. “I think the biggest thing people are going to say about us is we’re not very experienced (in the CWS). But we’re good enough to play with anybody there. We’re good enough to beat anybody there.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sun Belt Belts It Out Of The Park


Stanford was rated the 5th best team in the West in the final season rankings prior to the NCAA selection and Fresno State wasn't even on anyones radar, yet there they were this past weekend in Omaha, outscoring their opponents 31 to practically nothing that really mattered. Now the Cardinal did finally meet their match in a scrappy Georgia team last night. Two more sunbelt teams heating up Husker town again.

Which poses the question...If the NCAA has any dreams of this tourney approaching just a fraction of the hype and audience ratings that the Final Four have, then the seedings need to be a bit more fair and spread out like basketball. Was it really fair to have Stanford pitted up against ranked Pepperdine, upstart UC Davis, and then another highly ranked Cal State Fullerton, while North Carolina gets Mount St. Mary's (snooze), North Carolina Wilmington(snore) and Coastal Carolina(zzzzzzzz)?

Meanwhile, Stanford and Fresno State battled a who's who of college powers to get to Omaha. Fresno's road was even more ominous as they had to survive nationally ranked Long Beach State, San Diego and #3 Arizona State to earn a spot in Rosenblatt.

In an effort to try to even the playing field, all the NCAA did was stack the west against each other and pitted the Illinois-Chicago's of the world (don't they play 16inch softball up there) in the rest (southeast) of the country.

And in the end...you still have all of the sun-belt teams fighting for supremacy. Parity? No. The sunbelt teams still play the best baseball on this planet. The sunshine boys are just more polished because they grew up playing baseball year round. It has been and always will be that way. The NCAA can do whatever it wants to do to make it seem more like parity...but the bottom line is that the sunbelt and west coast teams will always be in Omaha evey year for the most part. But partly because of geography, the southeastern and Texas powers get the week Midwest and northeast teams and the tough west teams play more tough west teams. We just wish that they would have spread the west coast teams around a bit more.

Let's put it this way...they did put Arizona, the PAC 10's #4 team with a .500 conference record in the Ann Arbor Regional and the Wildcats breezed through in three straight. #11 UC Irvine does get rewarded for it high ranking and goes to Lincoln and does the same. But they put UCLA, the PAC 10' 3rd place team in with the nations #8 team in Cal State Fullerton. Why does Cal State Fullerton get UCLA from this tough PAC 10 conference? It turned out OK for them, except then, they had to face yet another PAC 10 juggernaut in Stanford.

Now, the west did get some patsies shipped to the Tempe, Stanford and Fullerton Regionals in Stony Brook, Arkansas and Rider. All were easily dispensed of early. However, in the Long Beach Regional, four very good teams in Long Beach State, San Diego, Cal and World Series darling Fresno State had real scratch your head regional pairing. Who's idea was this. Why can't two of these teams switch with Mt. St Mary's or North Carolina Wilmington?

Not to single out California, but Miami get's no reward for being #1, and draws Missouri and Mississippi while while the Tarheels get the equivalent of American Legion Post 38.

We would just like to see more California teams spread out just so that they can see different national competition than the same teams they have played all year. In a state of 37 million people, and hundreds of other eager baseball players from all over the country wanting to play there, there is an insane amount of talented baseball players playing in over 23 NCAA D-I Schools spread out across the state...and incredibly, they are all very competitive teams. The Big West Conference is the only major conference in the country in which all the schools are in one state.

And to make it even more difficult, most of not all of these teams play each other in non-conference play too. So, when they have to play each other yet again in the regionals, it takes the luster out of the tourney a bit. Listen to this line-up of teams that are in California alone...

Cal State Fullerton, Stanford, Cal, UC Irvine, San Diego, UCLA, Long Beach State, USC, Fresno State, Cal Poly, Pepperdine, San Diego State, UC Riverside, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Cal State Northridge, Loyola Marymount, San Jose State, University of the Pacific, San Francisco (USF), St Mary’s, Sacramento State.

This group of teams have won 21 national championships and had 7 runner-ups. If you throw in the rest of the PAC 10 in there, there are a total of 31 championships in 60 years and 15 runner-ups in the western region of the US. Yet, where's the love guys? Give the west coast Elon, Lipscomb and Dallas Baptist. Let the rest of the country a chance to see the California teams play the East, South and Midwest in the regionals. I think it would translate into a much more exciting tourney and be a cause for some intense rivalries down the road...Then again, knowing how good these west coast teams really are...maybe not.

Monday, June 16, 2008

World Series Notes


As far as we are concerned, the best sporting event in all of college sports is the NCAA College World Series. Better than the NCAA Basketball tourney? Yes! Better than the Rose, Orange, Fiesta and Sugar Bowl? Yes! ARE WE CRAZY? Possibly, but hear us out.

Is there a better venue than Rosenblatt Stadium? First it's called Rosenblatt, not AT&T/Home Depot/Minute Maid/Mutual of Omaha Stadium. It's also named the NCAA College World Series, not the FedEx World Series and it's in Omaha every year, not some roving venue that civic leaders fight over every year. Omaha is the home of middle America, apple pie and where everyone probably drives a Chevrolet. It's a grand old structure...the kind that gives a person goosebumps when they enter. It's a college version of Wrigley or Fenway.

The tournament itself is well timed...right after the MLB draft. We get to see just how good first and supplemental round players: Buster Posey (Fl St.), Yonder Alonso/Jemile Weeks/Carlos Gutierrez(Miami), Gordan Beckham/Josh Fields (Georgia), Jason Castro/Jeremy Bleich (Stanford), Brian Price(Rice) really are in pressure cooked situations. No other NCAA championship has that kind of built-in pro city loyalty that fans can follow.

This past weekend, SF Giants fans were a bit torn by the fact that their local Stanford team destroyed what was billed to be the future franchise phenom at AT&T Park in Buster Posey. Actually, it just solidified the fact that this guy is a catching prospect and pitching may not be his future...just in case there were any doubts.

Astros fans are equally as interested in Stanfords Jason Castro while also rooting for Rice. Oakland, Minnesota and Cincinnati also had Hurricanes on their minds as Weeks, Gutierrez and Alonso battled for Miami. You get the picture.

And the fans of Omaha soak it all in. Ask anyone you see on what seems like the only street that matters in this town...Dodge...and they will all have stories of the greats that have passed through Rosenblatt. They will tell you they knew well before the rest of us that a scappy little shortstop for Florida in David Eckstein would win a World Series Ring...or that Tennessee's Todd Helton would be one of MLB's great hitters and Georgia Tech's Nomar Garciaparra, Cal's Jeff Kent and Miami's Pat Burrell would make their mark with their respective teams, well before we and their million dollar sponsors of today all knew it.

This town loves it's baseball too...and, the 58 year history with this tournament. And not much has changed in those 58 years in this semi small town that wants to be semi big metropolitan area. Look at the photo at the top of the page. That's Rosenblatt circa 1950, which is pretty much identical to Rosenblatt-2008.

Yes folks, the NCAA College World Series is the purest of pure competitions. No huge media build-ups, sappy Shiny Moment theme songs, or mega-corporate pre-fixes tarnishing the viability of the tournament itself. It's about a gang of nine getting dirty, sweaty and rooting fo the drama that is every pitch. It's what college sports should be about. It's what kept me glued to the TV this weekend. I hope you aren't missing out. It is truly a great sporting event.

Friday, June 13, 2008

College Or Pro


As many high school graduated players ponder whether or not to choose the pros or college, we came across an article written several years ago by retired Director of Team One Showcases, Jeff Spelman. It's a timeless article that holds true even in todays competitive recruiting environment...So with the permission of the staffers at Team One Baseball, we are reprinting his article...Enjoy...RT Staff.

College vs. Pro
By Jeff Spelman

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For many "blue chip" high school baseball players the most difficult decision to make is not which college to attend.

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Thousands of high school senior baseball players will be looking forward with great anticipation and hope to the Major League Amateur Free Agent Draft, held each June.Four or five seniors will become instant millionaires.Perhaps a hundred or so others will be very happy with the draft. All others will likely be disappointed because they were chosen late or not selected at all.

Major League teams can make as many selections as they want. In 1995, several teams bowed out after the 45th round while others went beyond 80 rounds. But the later a player is drafted, the less likely he is to sign. Of the 1,666 players drafted in 1995, approximately 780 were high school players. Of the number drafted, usually 225 to 250 high school players sign contracts.

WHAT'S BEST FOR YOUR SON? Be realistic and look at the numbers. Pro teams thrive on players that think they will overcome the long odds against becoming a major league player. Actually only 5 to 6 percent of drafted players ever play a day in the major leagues And about 40 percent of the first round draft picks never make it either.

If your son chooses a pro career, he is a least significantly delaying if not giving up a college education. Questions to consider; What's a degree worth, and how far will he be behind his peers if he enters the work force four years after they do?

If a high school player signs a bonus of $100,000 (roughly third round money), how long will it last? Uncle Sam claims 31%, for taxes, leaving your son with $69,000. He may use $10,000 for a down payment on a car. That leaves $59,000. His minor league salary will be about $850 per month - during the six month season only. So if he wants to live on $20,000 a year, he'll have to use his bonus money. At that rate, he'll use it up in four or five years. By then, he'll be out of baseball, still be making $15,000 a year in the minors, or possibly be in the Major Leagues.

On the other hand, major league teams do offer players entry into professional baseball at a younger age, which can translate into earlier higher earnings and additional benefits. And although many college coaches disagree, Major League Baseball says the best instructors in the world are available to your son.

WHEN DEALING WITH SCOUTS, always be honest and consistent. But remember, you do not have to give them direct answers to all of their questions. For example, scouts commonly ask if your son wants to sign out of high school and how much money it would take to sign him. Don't give a range or a figure. Many parents simply respond, "My son would definitely be interested in signing, if it's the right offer."

Teams not only draft for talent but also for signability. If you do not want your son to sign a pro contract, out of high school and you let the pro scouts know that, then be prepared for the fact that he probably won't be drafted at all. Players who have signed scholarships with to top academic universities often go undrafted or get chosen later than expected because teams are worried about their signability.

If your son may be a high draft pick, you'll notice large numbers of scouts at his games late in the high school season, and a major league team's top scouts - regional supervisors, cross checkers, and even scouting directors - will attend.

AS A PARENT OF A POTENTIAL draft pick, try to keep your son from being distracted by all the hype. The only way he can enhance his draft status is by performing well on the field -- and distractions can hurt his performance.

Prepare your son emotionally for what might happen in the draft. It's nice to dream, but you and your son need to be realistic.

Always consider not taking a team's first offer. Many players earn more by holding out a week than they would have earned in a whole season had they taken the first offer. However, this strategy may have diminishing returns if the hold out lasts too long.

Deciding between college and an immediate pro career can be a difficult decision. There's no magic formula. Look at all of your son's options, which may include a couple of years of college first, then discuss them with him.

And enjoy the attention your son receives. It's a "once in a lifetime" experience. So be sure you are prepared.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Another Perpective: The Beauty of Baseball


RT Staff Note: We will continue to showcase writings from fans that like to write about how baseball makes them feel and affects their lives. Here's another piece of prose from Kenneth Schonmeir.

By Kenneth Schonmeier

The sun, a golden globe up in the sky, caresses you with its warming touch. The breeze that brushes against your skin as it passes by, leaving in its wake the scent of fresh air. The constant buzz of the crowds along with the occasional vendor shouting out the word "Hot-dogs"! The distinct crack of the ball meeting the bat and the babble of the fans turning into a loud cheer. These are a few of the simple yet beautiful things about baseball that reminds us all that the harsh and freezing winter is gone to be replaced by the comfort of spring.

There are those who believe Baseball to be boring and slow. There are those who will try to say that baseball does not take enough talent and athleticism. For every one of those who say these things, I will show you someone who has no idea what they are talking about. Baseball may not have the rough, blood spitting image that football has. It may not have the stamina and athleticism of basketball. Baseball is still the most difficult sport to play well. No other sport is one considered to be a great player when successful only one third of the time. In baseball if one hits for a .333 average, they are having an all-star season. In no other sport does a player have a fraction of a second to decide if a ball is in the strike zone, whether it is a fastball or off-speed pitch and still swing the bat and hit it. There is a special grace to a shortstop reacting to a hard grounder and shuffling across to snag it before it gets by, then turn and throw a hard strike to the first-baseman. There is something special to seeing a fielder making a diving catch or turning to watch a ball sail over the wall.

If one is not at the game, there is still something special about being able to listen to the game on the radio. That first day when the weather is warm enough to drive with the window down and the game playing on the radio. There is a camaraderie that develops when another driver pulls up next to you and asks you what the score is.

Whether one is at the game, watching the game or listening to the game, there is so much beauty to soak in. Yet the most beautiful time is when one gets to play the game. To be out there in the field, waiting to react to the ball. The feel of the bat in your hands. The exhilaration of running down a fly ball and making a shoe string catch. Baseball is our national past time and there is a good reason for it. There is something special about the sport that can only be described so much and however much one tries, they can do it no true justice.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mailbag


RT Staff Note: We get a lot of e-mails and it just so happens that one reader sent us a question that we were going to write about anyway. Below is the question in bold and our answer is below.

Dear Rounding Third,
I am involved with a group of 14 year old players from RI that have had very good success this year in AAU baseball. We have a talented group of kids, great team chemistry, supportive parents and a great hired coach. 75% of the team are freshmen in HS and most played on there respective varsity teams. I am looking for information/articles to support my theory that these kids will be better off playing together in the summers over the next four years as opposed to playing for their respective HS summer programs ie. Legion or Connie Mack. I am convinced that they will get better exposure to college coaches/scouts in high profile summer ball tournaments. I am looking for information/articles that might shed some light on the subject.
J.S.


Dear J.S.,
Many of the supporting answers to this questions has been covered in many of our past posts. All of our sons will be playing D-1 college ball. We think that if they had taken the route that most of their friends took, and had relied on their high school coaches and the local leagues to get them to the next level, our sons would not have had the offers or the opportunities to play D-1. Now we know that there are exceptions. Some of our sons friends may get a chance to play JC ball and if they step up their routines and become more serious about the game, they could get a chance to play at the next level.

But the one thing our sons have that their other friends do not, is a passion, self discipline and serious attitude about baseball and the knowledge that the game requires a devoted work ethic both in the off season and in pre-game preparations that we have witnessed many rec ball athletes do not have. It's not their friends fault. That's the way they were taught. There are distinct philosophical differences in the way a travel ball coach develops his players and a Babe Ruth coach develops his.

Nevertheless, below we have listed some characteristics of a travel club to emulate as you lead this group of young players for the next four years...

Integrity
What is a good travel program? Our definition is a team that has it's total focus on the development of the players and not just on winning that $5 piece of plastic for the sake of the coaches egos. The costs of a good travel program can be daunting, but make sure that your team is going to the right tournaments and showcases that will:
1) Get exposure for the players first and foremost. Many of the top high school tournaments will have scouts in attendance and you want your team to be there. There are many so called travel teams that beat their chest because they win a lot of local and regional tournaments. While it's great that they are playing good ball that is probably a step up from the rec alternatives, when you weigh the costs versus benefits, what was accomplished by winning that trophy that's bound for an old box in the garage?
2) Works with the tournament organizers to make sure your team is playing against the best competition. While winning is great for the psyche of the team as a whole, it's not always going to benefit them if they are playing patsies to get to the championship round. Some people will disagree with us on this, but we strongly feel that your sons will gain more grit playing the good teams early. And, if your travel team has a great reputation, you'll get more scouts at those early games against the better competition.
3)Be Organized! Be wary of the travel programs that didn't have their summer of 2008 schedule completed by January...Yes that's right...January!!! Many of the top tournaments and showcases like the Junior Olympics are invitation only and if a newer organization wants in, they will have to campaign to get their team in the tournament early in the year. Other showcases tournaments have deadlines and they are usually very early. A lot of planning and logistics go into these national tournaments and they usually don't accept late entries unless there is a cancellation.
4)Have 90% of their roster in place by December prior to the summer they will be playing. Many of the top clubs have already had their try-outs last fall. It's important that a club knows it's roster so that it can have the spring to create their own player profiles to send out to college recruiters. This does not negate your sons efforts to send out letters and profiles however. Your son needs to do his own marketing on top of what his coaches are executing. (Refer to our post from October 22...I AM GETTING LETTERS FROM COLLEGE BASEBALL COACHES)
5) Has a reputation as a winning, professional organization with the college and pro scouts. Look at the travel clubs web site and look at their alumni page. Many of the better organizations will have a section of their web site dedicated to former players that have gone on to college or even the pros. That says volumes about their dedication to player development. Many college coaches look to these organizations for help and player profiles. Also, ask them if they are communicating with college coaches and where they feel your son fits in with the type of colleges they will be contacting.
6)A payment plan that precedes the season. It is our experience that if a club has a payment plan that is paid prior to the season, then that team gets 100% participation with its players. These payment plans are usually monthly and more reasonable to budget for. These clubs also have travel agencies that they work with and their web site is like a one stop shop. If you have a good, competitive club and they don't have this set-up...have the coaches get it done this way. It's easy and web site set-up costs are usually free or very inexpensive. There are other clubs that have a pay as you go policy and they are the ones that usually are scrambling for players before every tournament. Those type of clubs are usually very frustrating and costly experiences.
7)Coaches as teachers. The best organizations have coaches that work with each individual player to help make him a better player. They are also the teams that gather as a group every inning before their at bats, going over the decisions that the players made in the field, talking about adjustments that need to be made at the plate and getting them in the right frame of mind. Most of these coaches really know the game and love spreading that knowledge to their players. That's the type of added value that makes a good travel team worth the investment for your son.

Money
We have heard time and time again that travel ball is for rich dads that want to live vicariously through their kids. Not true! Yes, there may be a good number of parents that fall into this category and a good number of travel clubs that will accept any ones money to feed that parents desire. But, for the most part, good travel clubs are about developing and giving players the opportunity to take their game to the next level. And, those top travel clubs have a cost. And, we as parents are whipping out that check book like it was a sure stock tip.

The one thing we would have done differently, would have been to get our kids way more involved in the fund-raising aspect of their travel team. Many of these kids have it too easy and we as parents are guilty of making it easy for them. I know of several Georgia, Florida and Texas teams that raise 100% of their travel costs and coaches fees through candy drives, car washes, raffles and bake sales. Their kids are a part of that fund raising process. There's nothing wrong with parents bringing those candy bars to the office...that's usually pretty easy money...but so is a group of athletic looking kids in baseball caps going door to door or sitting up at the grocery store selling cookies, candy, and raffle tickets to help pay for that trip to East Cobb, Orlando or San Diego. This discipline also gives them ownership of their team and their accomplishments. It also keeps costs down for you, because depending on the organization, the total summer expenses for a high school travel team that is entered into all of the top tournaments and showcases can run in excess of $10,000.

That $10,000 is broken down as follows:
1) $1,500-$2,500 coaches fee/tourney fees. Fees vary by team and region.
2) $350 uniform and equipment costs
3) $3,000/Car Rental/Gas/Airfare for 2
4) $4,000+ (Two,1 Week Trips @ $85 a Night, Six 3 night Stays at $85 a Night) Plus../Food/Gate Fees/Entertainment For 2

These costs can be cut drastically if you room with another family and opt to go to the grocery store and barbeque by the hotel pool (much cheaper, healthier and more fun in our opinion)instead of eating out every night. Also, the advantage of having a travel team that plans ahead will allow you to shop for airfares and hotels well in advance and take advantage of discount rates.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Giving It The Old College Try


The draft is over and it is clear that the trend is moving towards drafting more college players than ever before. Unless the players were phenomenal and freakishly gifted like Beckam and Hosmer, MLB made a statement to go with the older, more mature player.

To us, it makes a lot of sense. From a maturity standpoint alone, it is practical to draft a player that is physically, mentally and developmentally mature. College is still getting 18-21 year old players just like the minor league clubs that take on high schoolers, but there is a huge difference in the way they are developed and mentored.

18-21 year old young men all are exposed to some sort of social vice in his journey to manhood. In college, that exposure is under a more controlled environment and a much smaller universe. Student athletes have to answer to coaches, strength and conditioning trainers, professors, counselors and their schools strict policy of mandatory study halls and time spent with tutors. Yes, they are exposed to wild college parties and keggers every once in a while, but they also have to get up and go to school early the next day in order to be done with their daily school labs and lectures before practices start in the early afternoon. It's a planned, disciplined routine that will pay dividends later on in their lives.

High school kids don't always have the luxury of a meticulously planned schedules...or the advantage of built in mentors and trainers pushing them on a daily basis. They just have baseball and their mentors are the young men a few years their senior who were mentored by ex-players a few years their senior. It's a tougher life for a lot of high school kids that just can't adjust to the social vices, because they don't have the controlled environment surrounding them and keeping them as busy. Attrition with this age group is high and is partially why baseball has an astounding 50 rounds. That said, there are still plenty of high school aged kids that have had huge success...Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. comes to mind...of course, they were first rounders and they are treated a bit differently than the guy that goes in the 19th round.

Risk assessment is a new buzz word in the bigs and many GM's are looking towards maturity to fill roster spots and lessen the attrition rates that many of their minor league clubs have. So, if many of you are on the fence about whether or not you should pick college or the pros, ask yourself which program will make you a better, stronger, smarter and more well rounded athlete in three years. Our bet is that your college will be more beneficial to your future in baseball and we suggest that you all also give it the good ol' college try.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Final Top Twenty Poll


1. American Heritage - Florida
We aleady named this team our national team of the year. They had the number three MLB overall pick in Eric Hosmer as well as two other in Adrian Nieto an Joey Belviso chosen in the later rounds. They compete in one of the toughest conferences in a baseball rich state. Congratulations American Heritage.

2. Don Bosco Prep H.S. - New Jersey
DBP won the New Jersey State Championship this weekend vs Christian Brothers Academy, beating them 5-4, Eric Pfisterer (Duke) got the win. The game was played in temperatures between 100 and 102 degrees. This caps off an undefeated season at 33-0! Last week DBP won the Bergen County Tournament for the 3rd consecutive year which has never occured before and the first Bergen County Team to win a NJ State Championship undefeated since 1950, when Hackensack went 17-0. Like American Heritage, Don Bosco Prep had 3 players drafted this past week, all 3 players choosing to attend college rather than sign and play minor league ball. Congrats DBP!

3. Bishop Gorman - Las Vegas 41-3
Season complete. Gaels won Class 4A state championship and played schedule that included numerous out-of-state opponents.

4. Owasso - Oklahoma 35-3
Season complete. Rams won Class 6A state title.

5. Brookwood - Georgia 34-3
The Broncos captured their first state title in 22 years by taking the first two against Walton. The Broncos deep line-up scored six-run second inning to support six solid pitching innings by Alex Beebe in the final game. Great job Brookwood.

6. Farragut - Tennessee 43-3
Season is over. They are State Class AAA champions.

7. Lake Brantley - Florida 30-4
Season complete. State Class 6A champion.

8. Poway - California 31-6
It took four wins in one week to earn the CIF San Diego Section Div. I title and that means a lot to us in this tough baseball town. They defeated La Costa Canyon of Carlsbad, 8-3, to win the championship.

9. George Washington - New York 42-2
GW has had as strong a showing of any Northeastern team we have seen with 42 strong wins.

10. St. Albans - Washington, D.C. 32-2
There were other teams in the DC area that got more pre-season publicity like St Johns, but St. Albans reigns supreme in the capital city. St. Albans defeated Wilson, 6-1, in the finals. Junior Matt Bowman struck out 12 vs. Wilson.

11. Bishop Kenny - Florida 28-4
Season's over and they're State Class 4A champion.

12. Dunedin High School – Florida – 26-5 (12)
STATE CHAMPS!

13. Notre Dame - California 27-4
There are no state titles in California. It would take months to play out all of the section winners. Nevertheless, there are so many incredibly talented teams in California and many of these separate section champs deserve national recognition. The Knights topped South Hills of Covina, 5-2, to win their title.

14. Pleasure Ridge Park - Kentucky 33-4
Zack Cox had it going both ways, on the mound and in the batter's box, as he sparked the host Pleasure Ridge Park baseball team to a 5-0 victory over Anderson County this weekend in Game 1 of their Semistate Four series. They are ranked number one in the state and a final number 14 in our polls. We will post their results later in the week. Cox, a senior right-hander, struck out 13 batters and pitched his second no-hitter of the season and the third of his career while pacing the Panthers to victory in the best-of three series.

15. Dunedin - Florida 27-6
Season complete. State Class 5A champion.

16. South Fork - Floida 27-6
Season complete. State Class 5A runnerup, but a geat team nevetheless.

17. Valley Christian HS - California 27-6
The Warriors of San Jose win another tough section in a final four of their own conference foes. Bay Area Player of the Year pitcher/outfielder Jonathon Hughes pitched the final two innings to secure the win and the second successive section title for VC.

18. Rose - North Carolina 28-3
The Rampants...what a name!!! Well these guys won another state title their fifth in the last 11 years. Patrick Roy was the star by tripling in the first run in the seventh and scored the winner on a Gray Garner single. Rose ended the season with a lucky 13 straight wins.

19. Bartlett - Tennessee 35-5
Season complete. State Class AAA runnerup.

20. Barbe Louisiana 35-7
Season complete. State Class 5A champion again.

Friday, June 6, 2008

College baseball shares many of college hoops' ills


By Jason Whitlock
Jason Whitlock brings his edgy and thought-provoking style to FOXSports.com. Columnist for the Kansas City Star, he has won the National Journalism Award for Commentary for "his ability to seamlessly integrate sports and social commentary and to challenge widely held assumptions along the racial divide."


Pedro Alvarez, according to the New York Times and the NCAA, is the anti-O.J. Mayo.

Alvarez, who is expected to be one of the top three picks in today's Major League Baseball draft, went to college for all the right reasons. And he's leaving Vanderbilt after three years to pursue a professional career without anyone objecting because that is the right thing to do.

I discovered Alvarez's story this week after hearing that my Kansas City Royals coveted the third baseman.

What struck me about Alvarez's tale is how idyllic it appeared told through the lens of the baseball world and how dramatically different it might be presented if he were a college basketball or football player instead.

The Times article mentioned that Alvarez has an agent who goes by the name of Scott Boras. Of course, baseball fans realize Boras is perhaps the most powerful man in the game and has dedicated his life to torturing the bank accounts of MLB owners. To some, Boras is a polished, more evil, money-hungry version of NFL super agent Drew Rosenhaus.

In the Alvarez story penned by The Gray Lady, Boras is mentioned very briefly and referred to as an "advisor." The article goes on to explain that the Red Sox selected Alvarez in the 14th round of the draft three years ago when he was a high school senior. Alvarez turned down an offer of close to a million dollars back then because his cash-poor parents were determined that their boy would get a college education.

Now I have no interest in beating up the New York Times, Pedro Alvarez or his family. The Times is an awesome newspaper, and I suspect the Alvarez family is an example of what is right about the American family structure.

The point of this column is to highlight how we have been conditioned to view college basketball as opposed to college baseball or other non-revenue NCAA sports. We limit our skepticism when we write, discuss and think about sports not played by the O.J. Mayos of the world.

All the alleged and perceived agent corruption/manipulation we vilify in the college basketball world is running wild in amateur baseball. It's just no one seems to care. The NCAA sure as hell doesn't. That's why the organization pretty much looks the other way when guys such as Scott Boras cultivate relationships with teenage prospects and maintain those relationships while the players pursue education, sorority girls, beer bongs and curveballs at State U.

Top-flight baseball agents employ "runners," too. Except they're called "advisors," and no one chases them down to appear on "Outside the Lines" and reveal whatever "illegal" inducements the players were given to remain loyal while matriculating on campus.

I'm not calling Pedro Alvarez baseball's O.J. Mayo.

I'm saying all the ingredients are in place for the same things to take place in baseball that occur in basketball.

If I had a son who was worthy of being a 14th-round pick out of high school and getting offered a million at age 18, I'd send him to college for three years and roll the dice again.

Alvarez, as a top-two pick, might command as much as $10 million this summer. His ruthless advisor is likely to hold him out until the day before fall classes start and squeeze another mil or two out of the team lucky enough to select Alvarez today.

Do you think Alvarez chose Vanderbilt because of its fine pharmacy school or because it produces multiple MLB prospects each year with enhanced negotiating leverage?

Is it worth it to an agent to plant $100,000 in seed money in a teenage prospect in hopes of harvesting a $10 million contract three years later? My financial planner thinks it's a sound investment.

Again, I'm not saying that's what transpired with Alvarez and Boras. I'm saying the environment is ripe for those types of deals, and we don't even consider it. But we do when it comes to basketball. Why?

When the NCAA enacted its new, get-tough Academic Progress Report standards, a little-known fact that the media ignored is that college baseball programs traditionally performed far below basketball programs.

Let me translate that for you: Baseball players were less likely to graduate from college than basketball players.

The APR forced baseball coaches to bring their kids back to campus for summer school rather than allowing them to audition in front of scouts and agents in the Cape Cod League. Yeah, the "cesspool" of street agents, runners, handlers, scouts and agents we love to rail against in basketball co-mingle in baseball at high school All-American games without raising a word of dissent.

I understand why the NCAA is comfortable with this arrangement. It generates a billion-dollar TV contract by micromanaging its basketball players, keeping them uninformed about their value and selling the public a lie about the "purity" of amateur status.

Why do we play along in the media? We're not that stupid, are we? There's no way we're controlled by our biases. No way.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Draft Day!


RT STaff Note: This article is by Dayn Perry. Dayn is a frequent contributor to FOXSports.com and author of the new book, "Winners: How Good Baseball Teams Become Great One. Enjoy and good luck to anyone who may have a son in the draft.

Plenty of reasons to feel this MLB draft

Among the major professional sports drafts, the MLB variant seems to get short shrift. This is so for a number of reasons. One, college and high school baseball players are far less familiar to the sporting public than, say, those eligible to be drafted in the NBA and the NFL. Two, the MLB Draft is burdened by the "crap shoot" reputation, and, three, MLB draftees have far less immediate impact than those playing hoops or football.

As for the first point, not much can be done about that one — college football and college basketball are and probably always will be more popular than college baseball (and certainly high school baseball). As for the second point, well, it's a myth. Take a gander at the top 10 picks in a given year for all of the three major sports, and, generally speaking, you'll find similar levels of success or failure.
MLB has its Brien Taylors, but the NFL and NBA have their Ryan Leafs and Chris Washburns, respectively.

The third point? Certainly, the existence of the minor leagues means that MLB draftees have a longer wait than their NFL and NBA counterparts. However, it's not quite as long as you might think. Consider that as recently as 2005 we had these names called early on: Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki, Jay Bruce, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza, Travis Buck, and Clay Buchholz. Needless to say, that's an impressive first-round haul — and one that's already making a serious impact in the majors.

The next year's draft, 2006, has already produced names like Luke Hochevar, Evan Longoria, Andrew Miller, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum, Max Scherzer, Ian Kennedy, and Joba Chamberlain, with more certainly to come.

In other words, the MLB Draft is certainly worth your while. So to get you in the spirit of things and to prep you just a bit for Thursday's action, let's run down the top-10 talents available this year ...

1. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Vanderbilt
Coming into this season, Alvarez was the consensus No. 1 guy. However, an early-season wrist injury hurt his stock just a bit. With that said, the track record is exceptional, and he's come back reasonably strong from the injury. When healthy, he's got excellent plate coverage, the best bat speed in the draft, and power to all fields. He's hit well with wooden bats in the summer leagues, and his defense is good enough to allow him to stay at third. Alvarez is a Scott Boras client, which may turn the Rays off at No. 1. However, it's been rumored that the Pirates like him quite a bit at No. 2 and may be willing to meet his bonus/contract demands. He looks like a future star.

2. Tim Beckham, SS, Griffin HS — Griffin, GA
Beckham may have the most upside of anyone in the draft. His glove at short is excellent, and he'll stick at the position. While the raw power isn't there, everything else is. He's got a quick bat through the zone and a knack for squaring up on the ball. With proper coaching, he could be a consistent .300 hitter at the highest level. The question is how much power he'll have.

3. Buster Posey, C, Florida State
Posey boasts versatility (he's also a reliever, and he's played every position on the diamond), quality defense skills, and good power at the plate. He's a safe bet, but the knock on him is that none of his tools grades out at a "superstar" level. Posey figures to be a productive major-league regular, but he lacks the ceiling of some other position players in the 2008 draft. Still, he could go to the Rays at No. 1, and no one could argue against their thinking.

4. Justin Smoak, 1B, South Carolina
The switch-hitting Smoak is probably the best pure hitter in the draft not named Pedro Alvarez. Controls the strike zone, takes his walks, ridiculous power. And he's done it all against SEC competition. His defense at first is acceptable, but it's his bat that makes him a potential star. He's the surest bet available.

5. Brian Matusz, LHP, U. of San Diego
Could be the best arm in the draft. Good size, excellent (if inconsistent) velocity for a lefty, pounds the strike zone, plus curve, plus-plus change. He's got the most upside of any pitcher in the draft, and he'll advance quickly. Mechanically, he needs work with his stride foot, but otherwise he's the total package.

6. Yonder Alonso, 1B, Miami (Fla.)
Alonso is another polished college hitter. He doesn't quite have Smoak's power, but he has everything else. He's strong defensively, has quick wrists through the zone and a perfect left-handed swing. Scouts praise his makeup as well and his plate discipline is perhaps the best in the draft. He won't spend much time in the minors.

7. Kyle Skipworth, C, Patriot HS (Riverside, CA)
High school catchers are tricky things, but Skipworth appears to be worth the risk. Strong arm, good left-handed pop, will be able to stick at catcher. Comparisons to Joe Mauer are inevitable, and they may be justified.

8. Aaron Crow, RHP, Missouri
Crow, the best right-handed pitcher available, throws three pitches for strikes, including a mid-90s fastball with good sink, and he's got exceptional command. Crow's put up great numbers against strong Big 12 competition. The only drawback is some concern about his mechanics. Still, he figures to advance quickly.

9. Gordon Beckham, SS, Georgia
Doesn't quite have the defense of Tim Beckham (no relation), but he's got more power. As well, Beckham has speed on the bases and should be able to stay at short. His swing tends to get a little long at times, and that's something that can be exploited in the majors. It's correctable, but it's a concern.

10. Bret Wallace, 1B, Arizona State
Thanks to a body type that's decidedly unathletic, Wallace is probably bound for a future as a major-league DH. With the bat, however, his skills are unassailable. Lots of power and exceptional plate discipline. He'll move quickly through the system, and any team in need of production at first/DH should be looking at him.
What teams should you keep an eye on? Well, here are handful of clubs that have particularly interesting decisions to make on Thursday ...

Team under the Gun: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates, as mentioned, have the second overall pick, and they badly need to hit the jackpot. Pittsburgh has enjoyed a glut of high picks in recent years, and the only five-star prospect they have to show for it is outfielder Andrew McCutchen. If Alvarez falls to them, then the new front office will need to show a commitment to change and pay the going rates. That's not to say Alvarez is the only choice for them. However, if the Pirates continue their recent history of drafting low-ceiling college arms, then things aren't going to get better for them.

The Rich get Richer: Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays already have the best collection of 25-and-under talent in baseball, and it's not a particularly close call. Since they have the top overall pick, they're poised to add yet another elite talent to the fold. Do they take the "best player" available route and go with Alvarez, or do signability concerns force them to take Posey or Tim Beckham? In any case, Tampa's hold on the future of the American League is about to get stronger.

Big Day: Milwaukee Brewers
Because the Brewers last winter offered salary arbitration to a pair of outgoing, highly rated free agents (Francisco Cordero and Scott Linebrink), they received a total of four compensatory draft picks in return. That means the Brewers have the busiest day ahead of them. Within the first two rounds, they'll pick 16th, 32nd, 35th, 53rd, 54th, and 62nd. As you can see, that's six picks within the first 62 overall, and that makes for quite an influx of young talent (one would hope, anyway). For a system that's been depleted in recent years by the "graduation" of prospects like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, J.J. Hardy, Rickie Weeks, and Yovani Gallardo, this is welcome news. Now the objective is to stock the system with some talent to go alongside top prospect Matt LaPorta.

And that's your quick-and-dirty rundown of what to look for on Thursday, when this year's First-Year Player Draft goes down.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Baseball Meal Plans


RT STAFF NOTE: This is a great follow-up to his tremendous baseball Nutrition series from Jon Doyles great web site, baseballtrainingsecrets.com. Andrew McInroy is a highly-sought after consultant who works with numerous amateur and professional-level athletes and will make this whole nutrition thing very clear - once and for all. Enjoy!

By Andrew McInroy
As always, this is not to be used as medical advice. The following information is to be used for informational purposes only. Always speak with your doctor or healthcare physician before beginning and nutritional or supplement program.

Sample Meals

EXAMPLE: Off-Season

Name: Dave
Weight: 185 lbs
Sport: Baseball
Seasons: Off-Season
Goal: Add muscle and strength
Calories: 3515 cals
Protein: 277.5 g (1110 cals)
Fat: 78.11 g (703 cals)
Carbohydrates: 425.5 g (1702 cals)
Meals Per Day: 6

Off-Season Nutrition: This is the season where you want to add rock hard muscle, recover, and prepare to be bigger, stronger, and faster for your next season. During this season, you will have time to prepare meals as opposed to your other seasons where you are on the go constantly with school and baseball. From a nutrition stand point, you will eat above maintenance calories to bulk up.

7 AM: Meal 1 / Breakfast
Oatmeal - 3/4 Cup
1 Large Banana (Can slice into Oatmeal for extra flavor)
1 Cup of Egg Whites + 2 Whole eggs
1 Fish Oil Pill

10 AM: Meal 2
Tuna Sandwich - 1 Can of Tuna + 2 Whole Wheat Bread Slices
1 Slice of Whole Wheat Bread Toasted with 0.5 TBS of All Natural Peanut Butter
1 Cup of Spinach

12:00 PM: Meal 3 - Pre-workout meal
Protein Shake: 1.25 Cups of Oats + 1 Scoop of Whey Protein
1 Fish Oil Pill

3:00 PM: Meal 4 - Post-workout meal
1 Banana
Protein Shake: 1 Cup of oats + 2 Scoops of Whey Protein

6:00 PM: Meal 5 / Supper
Chicken and Whole Wheat Spaghetti (2 Cups of Whole Wheat Spaghetti + 1 Whole Chicken Breast cut into Spaghetti Sauce)

10:00 PM: Meal 6 / Night Time Nutrition
Cottage Cheese - 1 Cup
Natural Peanut Butter - 1 Table Spoon
Spinach - 1 Cup
1 Fish Oil Pill

EXAMPLE: In-Season

Name: Dave
Weight: 185 lbs
Sport: Baseball
Seasons: In-Season
Goal: Maintain Muscle and Strength
Calories: 3000
Protein: 277.5 g (1110 cals)
Fat: 66.66 g (600 cals)
Carbohydrates: 322.5 g (1290 cals)
Meals Per Day: 6

In-Season Nutrition: This is the time where you will want to maintain what you have achieved during Off-Season and with your busy schedule with school and baseball, you will want to have a more convenient method of eating. Nutritionally, your calories will be less than Off-Season because right now you are just maintaining what you have.

7:00 AM - Meal 1 / Breakfast
Oatmeal - 0.5 Cup
1 Banana
1 Cup of Egg Whites + 1 Whole Egg
1 Fish Oil Pill

10:00 AM - Meal 2 / School Snack
Protein Shake: 0.5 Cup Large Flake Oats + 1 Scoop Whey Protein + 1 Table Spoon of Peanut Butter

12:00 PM - Meal 3 / School Lunch
Tuna Sandwich - 1 Can of Tuna + 2 Whole Wheat Bread Slices
1 Slice of Whole Wheat Bread Toasted with 0.5 TBS of All Natural Peanut Butter

3:00 PM - Meal 4 / After School SnackBanana
Protein Shake: 2 Scoops of Whey Protein + 0.5 Cup of Oats

6:00 PM - Meal 5 / Supper
Chicken and Whole Wheat Spaghetti (2 Cups of Whole Wheat Spaghetti + 1 Whole Chicken Breast cut into Spaghetti Sauce)

10:00 PM: Meal 6 / Night Time Nutrition
Cottage Cheese - 1 Cup
Natural Peanut Butter - 1 Table Spoon
Spinach - 1 Cup
1 Fish Oil Pill

EXAMPLE: Game-Day

Name: Dave
Weight: 185 lbs
Sport: Baseball
Seasons: In-Season
Goal: Maintain Muscle and Strength
Calories: 3000+
Protein: 277.5 g (1110 cals)
Fat: 66.66 g (600 cals)
Carbohydrates: 322.5 g (1290 cals)+
Meals Per Day: 6

Game-Day Nutrition: Today is the day where you will want to be full of energy and you have to eat right to do this; carbohydrates will be the nutrient that we will manipulate. Before a game, you will want to have complex carbohydrates that will digest slowly to provide you with long lasting energy whereas during the game in the dugout and after the game, you will want to have fast digesting carbohydrates that will immediately replenish your energy stores. This is why there are '+' signs in the profile above and they indicate that there will be increased carbohydrates to accomplish these factors.

7:00 AM - Meal 1 / Breakfast
Oatmeal - 0.5 Cup
1 Banana
1 Cup of Egg Whites + 1 Whole Egg
1 Fish Oil Pill

10:00 AM - Meal 2 / School Snack
Protein Shake: 0.5 Cup Large Flake Oats + 1 Scoop Whey Protein + 1 Table Spoon of Peanut Butter

12:00 PM - Meal 3 / School Lunch
Tuna Sandwich - 1 Can of Tuna + 2 Whole Wheat Bread Slices
1 Slice of Whole Wheat Bread Toasted with 0.5 TBS of All Natural Peanut Butter

3:00 PM - Meal 4 / Pre-game meal
Protein Shake: 2 Scoops of Whey Protein + 0.75 Cup of Oats

During Game Nutrition
Sip on 50% Water / 50% Gatorade Solution

6:00 PM - Meal 5 / Post-game meal
Banana first thing you get home
Chicken and Whole Wheat Spaghetti (2 Cups of Whole Wheat Spaghetti + 1 Whole Chicken Breast cut into Spaghetti Sauce)

10:00 PM: Meal 6 / Night Time Nutrition
Cottage Cheese - 1 Cup
Natural Peanut Butter - 1 Table Spoon
Spinach - 1 Cup
1 Fish Oil Pill

TIPS / OTHER
- The point of a lot of these meals, such as the protein shakes, is for convenience. Some of it may not be enjoyable, but you got to do what you got to do to get your nutrients; let's face it, 6 meals in a day is a lot.

- For protein shakes, I suggest using a tall glass and measuring the appropriate amount of ingredients into each and then you can place a little sandwich bag over it and place it in your locker. When it comes time, just add water and it's good to go.

- Do not be obsessed with going over or under calories by a bit, just do your best to get your own meal plan done and try to stick to it.

- What is more important: Taste or Results?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

More Baseball Prose


RT Staff: The following was written by a writer that only identifies themselves as L.E.M.S. We liked it and therefore felt compelled to re-print it. Enjoy!

The beauty of the game - and why some women love the men who play it.

Since I can remember baseball was a part of my life. I had three cousins living with us when I was a year or so, and I credit my two older boy cousins for rubbing some of their youthful roughness and competition off on me.

For some who may not believe that I had my own understanding of the game by the ripe age of 2 take my father's college graduation into account. Me, all dressed up like a perfect princess, but standing on my chair in the crowd chanting as loud as I could, "let's go Mets, let's do it again!' Okay, to give myself some credit it was a large crowd (very stadium-esque) that I was in, and how many 2 1/2 year olds really know where they are all the time? But yes, this was proof that I had learned a lot from my Uncle's 1986 Christmas card video which was highlights of the glorious 86 Mets season.

I lived for baseball... for playing it, and for the season itself. I was child of summer. I had a larger collection of baseball cards than most boys I knew- and next to my Mark Paul Gosselaar and JTT posters in my bedroom was a giant Nolan Ryan poster. I loved Doc Gooden too- but after my cousins broke the drug scandals to me in the early 90's I had to hide my adoration. He wasn't a good role model according to my parents.

I played softball like it was the greatest skill I had ever learned. I had to, they forced once the town I lived in split into girls and boys leagues. Pitcher, shortstop, 3rd base, 1st base and then the outfield after we discovered that I had a wicked arm. I loved going to professional games, but I loved playing in my own even more. I went to Mets games with my Uncle, the one credited with teaching me all the chants and the most die-hard Mets fan I know to this very day. I guess I fell in love with the game before I even knew what love was.

Half the fun of being a baseball fan was having one side of the family as Mets fans, and the other as Yankees fans. The bickering and trash-talking always amazed me, and still to this day does. By the time I reached high school I had been to four professional baseball stadiums and one minor league one. I played softball all through high school, and even entertained the idea of playing in college.

I ended up going to college in the Hudson Valley far enough from home, still close enough to the city. That's right, the only city in the world that I love - New York. I was thankful I was still so close to see games whenever I wanted. I credit my college boyfriend for restoring much of my faith in the game after I lived in agony over the 2000 Subway Series.

As a Red Sox fan he taught me the true art of dedication. I knew disappointment as a Mets fan, but not to the extent he was living in. I learned so much that I eventually developed a bit of a dedication to the Sox (and to Gabe Kapler's beautiful arms in right field and Derek Lowe's farmer-meets-surfer looks). After deciding it wouldn't make me a traitor to have a favorite NL and AL team, I accepted my Red Sox t-shirt he bought me for my birthday. Because yes, he refused to buy any other MLB merchandise than the Sox. Hey, at least we spent Valentine's Day in Cooperstown one year.

Somewhere along the way my love for the game grew to a love of those who play it. I know it's partially out of awe and admiration- I envy them for playing a game for a living. I admire them for having a job that they are so passionate about. I know I always liked ballplayers, and that I've always gotten along better with athletes in general. They understand that aggressive, competitive gene that I have in me.

Before the summer of 2005 the only ballplayers I knew were my friends from home and the few I knew in college. Professional ballplayers and I had never been a part of the same social crowd. Until, my internship in the minor leagues. Blame the chubby relief pitcher for turning me into a giggling stupid school girl while he asked what hats I liked better that we sold in the store.

A lot of ballplayers believe girls chase after them for the uniform, which yes, is partially true because it's part of the deal. But there's another part that is often overlooked, the part that honestly means more than whatever size paycheck they earn. Maybe minor league players have the best, because they haven't reached that status in the press, they don't worry about all of the off-field antics, they live to play the game, and hope that they do it well enough to make a living. They have a passion for the game like they're still kids playing little league. Really, they're just a bunch of 7th grade boys with overactive sex drives. Or so the 2005 South Atlantic League taught me.

I love the game for its innocence, for the feeling I get when I'm in a stadium watching what is truly a work of art. Maybe I like ballplayers because they remind me that people still follow their dreams. Because they prove to us that heroes aren't always perfect but we can still learn from them, and love them. Maybe I love how I don't have to explain why I'm a bad girlfriend during baseball season, because they get it. Because for the players, baseball also comes before everything else. They get my love for the game, my dedication for the whole season without a lengthy explanation.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Kyle Skipworth-Player of The Year


RT Staff Note: We are going to delay our final poll until state championships end the middle of this week. American Heritage is already locked in at number one and as it stands right now, Don Bosco Prep controls its own destiny to finish a strong number two.

Below, we received a press release from Fleishman-Hillard PR agency about the Gatorade Player of the Year. You can't do better than that as a player. We agree and endorse this choice as well. Kyle Skipworth was a lock for this award in our book ever since he set a California state record when he put together a streak of 18 straight hits in 18 official at-bats this spring. Below is the release. Congrats Kyle!


RIVERSIDE, Calif. (June 3, 2008) – In its third decade of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in partnership with RISE Magazine, today announced senior catcher Kyle Skipworth of Patriot High School (Riverside, Calif.) as its 2007-08 Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year.

Skipworth becomes only the second student-athlete from California ever to win Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year recognition, joining former NFL quarterback and Major League Baseball reliever Chad Hutchinson (1994-95, Torrey Pines HS/San Diego).

The award, which recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Skipworth as the nation’s best high school baseball player. A national advisory board comprised of sportswriters and sport-specific experts from around the country helped select Skipworth from the more than 477,000 high school baseball players nationwide. Skipworth is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Male High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special afternoon ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound senior catcher produced a .543 batting average, 51 runs scored, 47 RBI and 13 home runs, leading the Warriors to a 27-3 record and the California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Division IV state postseason tournament semifinals. A projected first-round pick in this week’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, Skipworth compiled a 1.117 slugging percentage and .627 on-base percentage this spring. An Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic selection, the left-handed-hitting Skipworth set a California state record when he put together a streak of 18 consecutive hits in 18 official at-bats this spring. He reached safely in 25 straight plate appearances during the span.

In only his second season as a full-time catcher after playing left field and third base as an underclassman, Skipworth was rated the No. 1 throwing arm at last summer’s 17-and-Under World Wood Bat Association (WWBA) Championships in Georgia. He gunned down more than 70-percent of would-be base-stealers in his career.

A 2007 Area Codes Games participant, Skipworth helped the 2007 USA Baseball Junior National Team to a bronze medal at the COPABE “AAA” Pan American Junior Championships in Mexico. During the offseason, the Jurupa Little League product also played for the Angels Elite Scout Team and the ABD Bulldogs travel team. In the summer of 2006, Skipworth was a standout for the gold-medal-winning Team USA squad at the COPABE “AA” (Under-16) Youth Pan American Championships in Venezuela.

Skipworth has maintained a 3.81 GPA in the classroom. He donates his time generously to the Jurupa PONY League Pinto Division as a volunteer coach, volunteer umpire and youth instructor.

“He’s the whole package,” said Head Coach of rival Orange Lutheran High School Mike Grahovac. “Being a former catcher I can really appreciate everything that he’s been able to accomplish. Kyle’s just a tremendous athlete with a great arm behind the plate. Offensively, he can just flat-out hit.”

Skipworth has signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball at the Arizona State University this fall, but is also projected as a first-round selection in this week’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.

“Without question, Kyle is deserving of recognition as the nation’s best high school baseball player based on his statistics on the field and the impact his play had on Patriot’s success,” said Gatorade Senior Vice President of Sports Marketing Jeff Urban. “But he is also a shining example to peers and aspiring young players of what a leader and a student-athlete should be. He represents everything we hope for in a Gatorade Player of the Year recipient.”

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by RISE Magazine, which works with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

Former notable Gatorade National Players of the Year include:

· Two-time American League Most Valuable Player Alex Rodriguez
· WNBA all-time leading scorer and rebounder Lisa Leslie
· NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith
· 2007 Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning
· Reigning 200-meter world champion Allyson Felix
· Beach volleyball gold medalist Kerri Walsh

For more on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information and lists of past winners and future announcement dates, visit gatorade.com/playeroftheyear.