Monday, August 31, 2009

The Hardest Part Of Next Level Baseball

RT Staff Note: We ran this article last year and decided since many parents have been dropping off their sons to school the past few weeks, we would run it again. This is a real life experience from our fellow Northern Californian colleague...Enjoy!
RT Staff

What is the hardest thing you have ever personally experienced? Run a marathon? Facilitate a high profile multi-million dollar business acquisition? Prepare your own taxes? Give birth? For some of us, it's the simple things, for others it's world changing events. For my wife and me, it was walking away from our son, getting into our car and going back home while he started his new life as a student athlete on a baseball scholarship.

As part of an innovative program his D-I school offers, he attended a freshman summer school program designed for freshman recruits for all sports and hundreds of other over achieving braniacs to get a head start on college. For the athletes, it's meant to even out their yearly unit requirements. In this program, there are women's and men's baseball/softball, soccer, tennis, basketball, swimming, water polo track and field, volleyball, and golf freshman athletes.

During the respective athletes season, which in many cases spans over two quarters, (many California schools are on the Quarter system) they can only take 12 credit hours due to the rigorous game preparation demands and the travel that accompanies it.

Now, back to the hard part. The orientation was meant to prepare all of the parents to learn to cope with separation, ease our fears of college life and give us a glimpse of what their schedules and days would look like. And, for the most part, it did help answer a lot of general questions we had. What they don't know however, is the closeness and intimate relationships that many student athletes and their parents have with each other.

I have mentioned this before in an article titled "Senior Tears", that the life of parents of elite athletes is spent on the road, traveling from tournament to tournament, showcase to showcase, combine to combine. Baseball is no different than any other sport I learned. I talked with a couple of a tennis player from Houston, the parents of a couple of highly touted girls basketball players from Sacramento, volleyball parents from Colorado and a two state ranked boys basketball parents from the San Francisco Bay Area. We all shared the same stories of elite camps, travel teams, AAU tourneys, showcases and more. And along the way, we have stayed in places from Motel 6's to luxury resorts. We were our own private little support group, trying to help each other out for that dreaded hour we would all have to say goodbye.

It worked the first two days. There were a lot of laughs, stories and experiences that kept us preoccupied. Up to that point, the hardest thing to cope with was our kid's task of trying to find out what courses to take in the upcoming fall quarter. The summer program doubled as an orientation for fall and in addition to reviewing their coursework and expectations for the summer program, they were there to enroll in fall classes too. All student athletes have to be done with their classes by 1:00 or 2:00, depending on the sport and finding the right match of classes and times that can co-exist with their sports schedules was not an easy task. Here's a typical day of a student athlete…no matter what the sport.

6:30-7:30 Strength and conditioning
7:30-8:00 Breakfast
8:00-1:00 Classes/lunch
1:30-5:30 Practice
6:00 Dinner
6:45-9:45 Study (Mandatory, depending on sport)
9:45-? Their time to make decisions on what is more important…partying or sleep. Our money is on relaxation and sleep with this schedule. There's always the weekend.

By Saturday afternoon, the scheduling was completed and the last orientation meeting had concluded. As we headed off to the dorms to meet up with our son and say goodbye, the sensation of the past 18 years flashed before the eyes of my wife and I almost simultaneously. From diapers to dances, tee ball to Junior Olympics, pre-school to the dorms we were walking to, it all started to feel like a heavy weight on our shoulders as we walked closer and closer to his new residence.

And as we approached the dorms, we passed other parents donning sunglasses, wiping tears and clinging to each other with expressions of sadness and separation anxiety. That didn't make it any easier for my wife and I. We were both about to succumb to an emotional episode ourselves when out of the corner of our eye, we spotted our boy ride around the corner in his used cruiser bike we purchased for him a few days earlier. He had a look of accomplishment on his face and happily exclaimed that he did indeed get the classes that he wanted… his first collegiate success.

As small as this "victory" was in the scheme of the things he will most likely face in his next four years at college, it WAS his first success and my wife and I were happy for him. Right then and there, we knew he would be alright…We strolled together up to his room, took some final pictures, my wife tidied up his bed, desk and dresser, we engaged in some small talk and finally said our goodbyes.

There are a lot of things I could have said at that moment, but the only words that came out were " I'm so proud of you". Maybe the ghosts of parents past were looking over me at that moment, because it was exactly the words he wanted to hear. He didn't say that of course, but after 18 years of long car trips, sharing free and very austere hotel continental breakfasts and the glances he made to me after a home run or spectacular play, my parental instincts knew, that he knew, that I really meant it and he really appreciated it.

The car we entered after our goodbyes was now empty…devoid not just of his school things, but of his funny personality, his sometimes annoying music, dusty cleats, crusty bat bag, smelly socks and body odor from a long tourney or double header. We never thought that we would ever miss stuff like that, but I in particular, miss that most of all. That's what raising a student athlete, a baseball player, who happens to also be a great, caring son is all about. That was the life that we had with our boy…And what a perfect life that was.

Good luck to all of you parents that will be going through the same experience in the weeks to come.

Friday, August 28, 2009

There's Never an Offseason

RT Staff Note: We received an e-mail from one of our readers that passed along a letter his son received 2 years ago from an "advisor" that saw his son play at some showcases and camps. He sent it to us because he reads our blog almost every day and our past posts were almost identical to the words of this "advisor". At the request of the parent, we omitted names and references to the specifics like names and locations of the particular showcases. For the record, the player that this letter was addressed to had over 6 college offers and is presently playing and starting at a major D-I. He listened to the constructive criticism he received and benefited greatly. Will many of you players out there do the same?

Dear (Player),
I am a (Baseball Advisor) and I saw you play at (some recent camps and showcases). I have also talked with a lot of other recruiters and scouts that seem to like your abilities a lot. You have the body type, athleticism and skills that scouts and recruiters are looking for. That's the good news and definitely something to build on.

My job as a (advisor) is to identify and critique players and to prepare them for their future as a potential draft pick whether it is next year or after your junior year in college. While you have the basic tools, I am going to brutally honest with you and say that you need some major adjustments in the attitude department. Let me explain. I have heard that you are very coachable. That is not the problem. However, a house pet is "coachable". I can get my dog to do whatever I tell him, if you get the analogy. You need to work on what every player in the Bigs has. You need to play and display your talents with a lot of extra heart at the plate, in the field and in the dug-out. You need to make quicker decisions, have better instincts and be aware of the situation around you. Let me see a more hard nosed approach and the sky is the limit for you.

For example, although this may seem minor, I have been watching your approach at the plate. You start off looking great. You look very confident until the pitcher gets into his wind-up and then your confidence takes a hit a bit. A good pitcher, catcher or coach will pick that up and start to challenge you more. As a result, that gives the pitcher the advantage. Also, you may have been nervous but, at the (XYZ Showcase) you took a lot of good pitches. You need to attack those pitches and take them to the opposite field. As you get older and the competition gets stiffer, you will not see many "wheelhouse fastballs". You need to have the confidence that you can hit ANY ball at ANY part of the strike zone to ANY part of the park.

A lot of hitting is more about the mental approach than the physical. You need to put yourself in the mindset that you are in control. You OWN that pitcher. I don't care if he is throwing 95 or 75. You OWN him. You have the tools. You are like a high tech race car that is capable of reaching speeds of up to 230 mph. But if you don't put your foot on the gas pedal, you won't go anywhere. Your brain and attitude is your gas pedal. Step on it and you will reach your potential.

From now until the beginning of your high school season is your time to concentrate on getting better. Are you doing that everyday? If not, you will not reach your potential or goals. The type of player we are looking for swings at least 5-600 times a day...everyday. The type of player we are looking for is working on his defense everyday with a fellow player, his father, brother or by himself. That is the most important thing of all.

You are at the stage of your life where as a position player, you will be playing over 100 ball games a year. You need to be in top physical condition to be able to withstand that kind of schedule. Whether you play infield or outfield at the next level, you need to strengthen your legs, your core, and turn your arm into an Iron Mike. You need to have a schedule and stick by that schedule everyday. I suggest mornings before lunch (follow that up with a big, hearty lunch) in the summer and once school starts, take advantage of your schools facilities and work out a good three hours a day everyday including Fridays with a different routine every other day.

(Player), we look at hundreds of ball players just like you each year. I am telling you all of this because most don't have the athleticism that you have, but they have the heart. If you could just work harder and smarter each and everyday, you will see unbelievable results. For instance, according to the XYZ Showcase), you ran a 7 second sixty. By the time your high school season starts, we would like you to run a 6.7 sixty. Again, you have the body to do that, you just need the desire, attitude and work ethic to make it happen.

I hope you take my advice seriously, because scouts will be watching and following you. Good luck the rest of your summer and fall. We will be seeing you this coming high school season. If you follow my advice, you will dominate your league and then, who knows what will happen next?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Stephen Strasburg Whirlwind

RT Staff Note: This article is courtesy of the Washington Post and gives our readers a glimpse of he complexities of a pro contract negotiation. Listen to what Scott Boras has to say...You may have to read his comments a few times before you truly understand what he is saying, if you don't understand the post grad speak of a marketing/attorney savant like Boras. High profile signings are in a different stratosphere than the everyday 10th round and up variety. Enjoy!

At 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon, with the temperature at 92 degrees, Stephen Strasburg had his introductory "news conference," which was open to the public and included fireworks, a jersey presentation (an extra layer for him to wear!) and a VIP seating area where Ted Lerner sat with his wife. Strasburg, agent Scott Boras, new GM Mike Rizzo and team President Stan Kasten sat on a stage erected along the third base line. At one point, Rizzo said, "As we've said before, we don't expect Stephen to be the savior of this franchise."


Somehow, I don't remember a news conference featuring fireworks for Ross Detwiler.

Anyway, about an hour after the public presser ended, a smaller group of media members met more informally with Strasburg and Boras. A transcript follows.

A few comments first.

* Strasburg is well-trained to say the right things. He has been, shall we say, corporately "Borased." When he's asked about how he'll spent his money, for instance, he replies, "I haven't really thought about that. You know, I'm still just soaking it all in."

* Boras's answers might be a bit jumbled, but that's the way he really talks. "Comparability." "Risk characterization." "Commoditization." All vintage Boras.



[That's an oxymoron, by the way.]

Q: What has this day been like for you so far?

Oh, it's been pretty wild. Coming into that locker room, I've never seen anything like it. You get a chance to meet all the players you see on TV. It's a pretty tremendous feeling, and I'm really excited to get my career started and hopefully be playing up here with these guys sometime soon.

Q: How would you describe your personality?

I'm pretty laid-back. I consider myself to be a humble person. I try to manage the highs and the lows and not get too greedy out there, because I've learned in playing baseball that if you think you're the greatest, then it's gonna humble you real quick. I just try to go out there every day to improve something in my game that will help the team win.

Q: Anything important about the number 37?

I came in my freshman year and just, being a freshman, they gave me number 40. Then this catcher wanted number 40, and he was number 37, so I was like, all right, here ya go. So I got 37 from then on.

Q: Do you want to keep it?

I'm not a big superstitions guy. I pitched with number 29 in the Olympics, I wore number 37 at [San Diego] State. It doesn't really matter what jersey you wear as long as you go out there and do your thing.

Q: How much did Tony Gwynn help you the last few years?

He's just been a tremendous mentor as far as kind of preparing me for what's involved in the pro game. I guess I have to experience it first-hand, but it's extremely different from college baseball. You know, just the way his professional approach, going in day after day -- just the way he would coach our hitters and manage the game, it kind of just goes to show that you really have to step back and manage your highs and your lows and focus that you have an entire season. You can't really worry about the home run you just gave up or the loss you just had. You really have to focus on your next start or your next pitch.

Q: You described yourself as a structured person.

Absolutely. In high school I was a starter and then I went in my freshman year at State and was the closer after a few games. That was kind of where I learned to be ready on the fly, never knowing when I was gonna go in. But I kind of reinvented starting after that and I kind of realized there is a big routine you have to follow as far as conditioning, preparing for an outing. Make sure that your arm and your mental focus is 100 percent when the game starts.

Q: Is that your personality away from the baseball as well?

Oh, absolutely. I like to know what's going on with my life.

Q: You admitted when you got to SDSU that you needed to get in better shape. What did that teach you about yourself?

You know, it just goes to show that I was a lot tougher mentally than what I thought at the time. So, it just goes to show that if I want something really bad I just have to put my mind to it and work as hard as I can.

Q: You have been cognizant of trying to stay grounded. But how difficult is it when everything in your life seems to be working against that?

Well, I have always tried to be myself and I'm going to continue to do that. Just because a few dollar signs have been thrown in front of me doesn't mean I'm going to change who I am as a person. You know, that's something that my mom and dad raised me up on -- to always be true to yourself and to just be a good person.

Q: Did you think once you were drafted you would sign with this team?

You know what, when I got drafted number one overall I was just thinking, "Wow, so much happened in just a few years." I was just so thankful that day that they selected me. And then I put it in Scott Boras's hands to go out there and fight for me, and he did a great job for me, and at the same time I was extremely excited to play.

Q: At the time, what did you know about this franchise? And what have you learned since?

I never really followed any Major League Baseball as far as this year and the year before because obviously there was a lot of hype saying, like, "Who's gonna finish in last place and get the number one pick"? And that was something I had no control over and I didn't want to focus on at the time; still don't. But from what I've heard and can see here, there's a lot of history within this organization, maybe not current, but it definitely has the making of becoming a big-time organization in the major leagues that will win a lot of ballgames.

Q: Over the last two months, did you see things here that made you think, "Okay, this is a team I do want to be a part of"?

You know, I went into it, I was gonna be given an opportunity to play the game that I love and I just knew that if given the opportinty I was gonna do it. It doesn't really matter which team I go with. It will be just amazing to see you've played major league baseball, and to possibly be able to do this with the Washington Nationals was just a dream come true.

Q: Stephen, are you gonna have any time to yourself this weekend, and if so, anything in particular you want to do?

Ahh, you know, they have a pretty big itinerary for me, so I'm just kind of following them around. But I'm loving this. This stadium is amazing, absolutely amazing. The only other stadium I've been in is Petco (as far as being in locker rooms, etc.), but this is just incredible. Hopefully I'll be able to call this home sometime soon.

Q: College kid, making a lot of money. Anything now that you really want to buy or do?

I haven't really thought about that. You know, I'm still just soaking it all in. I want to go accomplish what I want to accomplish. As long as you take care of your money and don't blow it all you should be okay financially.

Q: Do you feel like all the attention you got junior year and the practice you got trying to still be a teammate among 25 other guys might help you now, where you're walking in as a rookie but still making more money than most of these guys?

I mean, yeah, in a way, but I kind of experienced that -- probably not to the magnitude that I'm going into -- but with the Olympic team, they were like, "Who's this college kid?" You know, all these guys are professionals. Some of them went in the first round. Some of them are salty minor league veterans. It was a great mix, and I learned a lot from it. Just goes to show that as long as you let your playing do the talking and just listen and don't try to step on anybody's feet you'll fit in just time.

Q: Scott, there have been obviously a ton of number one picks and a ton of people who've entered their careers with big contracts, but not many with this much scrutiny. What advice would you give a really high-profile client who's beginning his career?

BORAS: Well I think when you're talking about professional athletes it really, sometimes, these occurrences -- it's the same advice. The piece of paper, the contract, the checks, all those elements have really nothing to do with your teammates, your performance, your attitude. It's about the opportunity to perform. I think what got Stephen to this point -- the great thing about his negotiation, there was a great fluidness to it. Frankly, it was not a negotiation that was in any way, there was no acrimony. Rizz evaluated Stephen very much along the same lines I did. We realized he had extraordinary abilities physically, but we also realized he would have the ability -- both intellectually and in what his goals are as an athlete -- to handle what comes with what his talents bring. And that includes all the elements of association with contract.

Q: What do you think the biggest adjustment will be now, pitching-wise?

STRASBURG: I think the big thing that I'm gonna have to work on is just making sure that I'm ready physically to endure a 162-game season plus playoffs. You know, pitching every five days instead of once a week. That's gonna be the big thing that I'm gonna have to work on. You know, I'm gonna have to hit the gym really hard and get my arm used to pitching every five days. From there on, I just gotta go out there and do my thing and help my team win ballgames.

Q: Scott, how much did your relationship with Rizzo help in the process to sign Stephen?

BORAS: Well, we had a challenge before us because we had a similar evaluation on the baseball side but we had a new market to look at, because markets are often driven by two things. One is revenues and the other one is talent. And so in going through that process, it was one that really began for me with the Washington franchise -- I had an opportunity to meet with Ted and Mark frankly a great deal in the Teixeira negotiations. Of all the baseball teams I've deal with over the years, it is a family business. And that means good and sometimes bad. It means they're accountable, and they're people. I knew when Stephen's season was over and Ted and Mark got a chance to meet Stephen, they would understand a little bit more about this opportunity. Because there is a separation between elite players who are coming to a baseball team, whether it be through rarely the draft and often international markets and sometimes through free agency -- and the draft is normally associated with risk characterization.... It was a difficult process for all of us because the comparability was off the charts. And that part of it makes the negotiation, I think, more relative to a market side than an evaluation side. That was the most difficult part of it. Mike -- he communicated well. He's a good voice for his ownership. And also, having a history with Mike, he knows all the legal parameters we have to go through... so it resulted in, I think, a very fluid [negotiation].

Q: Stephen, I'm sure you've heard a lot of people mention the history of number one draft picks, especially pitchers. Do you think that all pertains to you, and what do you make of that history?

BORAS: If I may interrupt. When a journalist talks about number one draft picks, you're including high school and college players. The repertoire for college players is extraordinarily high for success. For high school, it's not. So I think you have to differentiate... and also understand that in prior drafts, other than in this year and the last couple years, the number one draft pick was not necessarily the best player. Probably for a good 15-year period the best player in the draft was rarely the top pick because of signability. So when we talk about success ratios I think we have to factor that in.

Q: Okay, so directly, Stephen -- do you think there's anything standing in the way of you being really, really successful?

STRASBURG: I don't know. I can't predict the future. I just have to go out there and do my thing day to day and get better. You know, God has a special plan for you and if he wants me to be extremely successful in the big leagues than I am. If he has another plan for me, it will show itself in the long run.

By Chico Harlan | August 21, 2009; 6:02 PM ET

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Cold Facts of College Baseball Up North

By Steve Rundio

They’re trying to save baseball at UW-La Crosse.

Bless their hearts. When the university announced last June it was eliminating baseball and men’s tennis as cost-cutting moves, players from both sports began raising funds, and they have a good chance of keeping both alive in 2010, perhaps beyond. It’s hard not to admire players for initiating a fund-raising effort during a tough economy to sustain a sport they love.

But baseball’s supporters face an intractable long-term problem: Spring baseball up north can be a bummer.

As someone who loves sports and is a very lucky man to get paid for attending high school sporting events, I must admit my least favorite task as sports editor is sitting through an early-spring high school baseball game. As a baseball fan, I prefer the American Legion season.

It’s not the cold weather -- watching soccer, cross country, track & field or football in 45-degree weather doesn’t bother me. What bothers me about early spring baseball is the quality of play. Forty-five degrees doesn’t compromise the quality of soccer, football or cross-country (many runners actually prefer 45 degrees to the mid-summer heat). Those sports allow for enough movement to sustain peak performance.

Baseball is a different game. Players remain stationary most of the contest -- both on the field and in the dugout -- and are as cold as the fans who watch them. And since baseball is primarily a game of hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, it’s more dependent on nice weather than any other sport. Football can be played in a sleet storm. Baseball can’t.

At least high school baseball gets the benefit of some decent weather. Half of Tomah’s Mississippi Valley Conference schedule is played in May, when conditions range from plausible to comfortable. The WIAA doesn’t conduct its post-season until the baseball-friendly month of June.

Colleges face a tighter schedule. Take UW-La Crosse. Its first home game last season was March 24. Average high temperature: 48 degrees. Why so early? To get the regular season done by May 8 (the team’s final home game was May 3).

Most northern teams take a trip to the Sun Belt to get a sufficient number of games in adequate weather. UW-La Crosse went to Arizona in mid-March and played eight games in six days. These trips aren’t cheap, and they’re even more difficult for athletic budgets to sustain during a deep recession.

UW-La Crosse isn’t the only northern university to target its baseball program. Vermont and Northern Iowa just played their final seasons of baseball. UW-Madison dropped the sport 18 years ago. It’s tempting to conclude that UW-Madison doesn’t offer baseball for the same reason Mississippi State doesn’t offer hockey. It’s a climate thing.

Wisconsin has many weeks of nice baseball weather. Unfortunately, few of them coincide with the second semester of college. So while the La Crosse Loggers draw 3,000 fans to watch college players on a glorious evening in July, local colleges struggle to attract any fans at all during raw afternoons in April.

Hey, I’m rooting for baseball to survive at UW-La Crosse. But I also know the cold, cold facts.

Steve Rundio is the sports editor for Tomah Newspapers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Never, Ever Give Up

There was another feel good post in NorCal Preps about a player that epitomizes our belief that there is no substitute for hard work...Daniel Nava out of St. Francis High School in Mountain View, CA unsuccessfully tried to walk on at Santa Clara University a few years ago, became SCU’s team manager and eventually played at a local JC, the College of San Mateo. He became so good at the JC level, that he returned to Santa Clara on scholarship and won the West Coast Conference batting title. Yet, despite his success at a respectable D-I school that plays a challenging schedule, he went undrafted.

Undaunted, he went on to play for Chico in the Independent Golden Baseball League, signed with the Red Sox two years ago and was assigned to Class A Lancaster, where he won the California League batting title last year with a .341 average. Daniel obviously is not the type to get complacent and this year he is playing for the Portland Sea Dogs in AA, where he is batting .358 with a .698 SLG.

Now, we don’t know what the future holds for this 5’10” 200lb. young man, but time and time again he was confronted by adversity and each time worked like a mad man to overcome his perennial under the radar status. Other players like Dustin Pedroia and David Eckstein are other players that don’t fit the typical physical mold that scouts seem to want, yet worked harder than everyone around them to get the chance to show the baseball world what they can do...and boy, did they.

Baseball is hard enough, but the harder a player works, the easier the road to success in many cases. Talent will take ball players a long way, but hard work is the greatest supplement of all and it always has befuddled us as to why more and more ball players with tremendous athletic talent don’t give the game that extra effort, rather on relying on their natural athleticism to get them through the day.

For every Daniel Nava, there’s that 5 tool player that everyone thinks is a “can’t miss” that starts to believe his own hype and gets a bit too complacent. While everyone around him is revving up their internal engines to make an impact, this player is on cruise control, and before long, he becomes just one of the guys.

Now imagine if that 5 tool player had the same attitude as Nava or Pedroia? Well, you’d get Pujols, A-Rod and Jeter. Those guys are perfect examples of highly sought after athletes that wanted more and achieved super star status. They are never satisfied with the status quo. They are constantly raising their own bar, with each and every personal milestone they pass. They work harder than everyone else around them plain and simple.

Their talent alone was just a vehicle to take them on a much longer journey. The fuel they need to continue their quest is an unprecedented work ethic. And the end of the road won’t end for them until the day they are introduced at the steps of Cooperstown and are given that plaque in the Hall of Fame.

Yes, we may sound like a broken record with our constant rants on work ethic, but if there are players out there reading this, please take this information seriously. We have seen our share of surprises and disappointments. Experience can be the world’s best teacher, no matter what side of success and failure a person is on. Our experience tell us that the best way to avoid disappointment or failure, no matter what the skill level of any player is to have the mindset to work harder than anyone around them. Even if a player doesn’t achieve their ultimate goal, the discipline he programmed into his daily routine will continue to play dividends for the rest of their lives.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Late bloomer earns spot with Sooners

RT Staff Note: Just north of us in Roseville, just outside of Sacramento, there's a player that we think exemplifies the old adage to never give up. If baseball is a passion with your son, there's no reason to stop playing. Some players mature at a much later date and a few years of junior college can help him become a stronger, smarter player. Enjoy!

Woodcreek alum Danny Black moves on to Division I baseball at Oklahoma
Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune

With all of the hype surrounding travel baseball and showcases for college scouts, it seems that younger and younger players began traveling all over in the attempt to be identified as college prospects. One former Woodcreek Little League and Woodcreek High School player has proven that there is more than one way to climb that ladder.

A solid, but unspectacular player at Woodcreek High, Danny Black has evolved into an outstanding middle infielder, and his reward is a scholarship to play Division I college baseball at the University of Oklahoma, a powerhouse program.

“Danny was streaky offensively, and he hit about .284 his senior year,” said Black’s high school coach Jerry Rieger. “There was nothing flashy, but he was a steady defensive player who took pride in his defense.”

Despite the lack of scouts pounding on his door coming out of high school, Black wanted to continue his baseball career.

“I didn’t get my height, speed and strength until after I was done with high school,” Black said. “I was looking for somewhere to have a chance to play.”

He found that place at a remote location – Feather River College in Quincy. While the school seems a bit out of the way, it is a junior college with a solid baseball reputation.

“I was fortunate to play there for a coach who had connections and to play for a successful team,” Black said. “That helped me get to Oklahoma. The kids who are doing the showcases and the travel ball are working on the visibility that helps promote them and get them seen.”

Terry Baumgartner, the head coach at Feather River, is one of Black’s biggest fans.

“Danny is one of the greatest kids I have had the chance to coach during my 17 years of coaching at the collegiate level,” Baumgartner said. “He did everything we asked of him and then some on and off the field. He made tremendous improvements from the fall of his freshman year until now. He was the kind of player at Feather River that could change the outcome of a game with his speed on offense or his defensive skills.”

That effort paid off in a big way for Black, who did play two years with the California Sting travel ball team in addition to his time in Little League and on the high school scene. In his case, it was not until he was discovered at the junior college ranks that his career really took off.

“I think it would be fair to say that he was not highly recruited out of Woodcreek High School,” Baumgartner said. “When he contacted me in July of 2007 the only option he had was to go to Yuba College. So we brought him up here for a visit and workout. I knew after watching his workout that he had the chance to be a special player because of his arm strength and actions at shortstop.”

The coach believes Black’s work ethic has been critical to his rapid and recent ascension onto the radar with the college and pro scouts. In addition to the scholarship to Oklahoma, Black was also selected in the 42nd round of June’s Major League draft.

“He had the body type that you could project would be able to get stronger and I even liked the way he swung the bat but he just wasn’t very strong,” Baumgartner said. “I knew that if he came to our place that my coaching staff could help Danny achieve his goals in baseball. For Danny to be able to get the scholarship offer from Oklahoma and even be drafted by the New York Yankees in the 42nd round is a credit to his hard work.

“I am sure a lot of the Sacramento area JCs are kicking themselves for not giving Danny a chance to prove himself,” he added. “Luckily for us he chose to come to Feather River College and he believed in what we could do for his baseball career and academics.”

Danny continues to draw motivation from the example of his twin sister Kelley, who passed away in 2006 after an inoperable brain tumor.

“She helped motivate me a lot,” Black said. “She was my hero and her death showed me that it can all end any day, so we need to enjoy life.”

Danny’s message to young ball players, even those who might not be superstars during their teenage years is that you need to keep playing, keep pushing and working for your spot.

“If you work hard, it pays off in the end,” Black said. “The coaches understand that you are going out and doing it, and they will give you a shot.”

His college coach at Feather River credits Black’s desire to get better as the thing that stands out the most about his former shortstop.

“When you are looking for JC players to play at a small college like FRC we are looking for the kids like Danny who are being overlooked and we give them the teaching, coaching and the opportunity to succeed,” Baumgartner said. “To Danny’s credit he took full advantage of that opportunity. He spent the time in the weight room getting stronger, on the field taking extra ground balls, and in the cages working on his swing.”

The desire to keep moving to the next level remains a major goal for Black, who has persevered to this point based on his will to keep pushing on. He took the next step this month when he arrived in Oklahoma with his dream still intact.

“As long as he keeps up the hard work and determination he will have a shot to play professional baseball after his time at Oklahoma,” Baumgartner said.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Incoming College Freshman...You'd Better Be In Great Shape!

If you are a graduated senior that is headed to play D-I ball, do you engage in the same everyday reps that you had in high school knowing that the next three or four years of your life (school year AND summer) will be dedicated to school and baseball?

Very good question. Here's our answer. Many of you received your letters or e-mails in early June detailing the running, strength and conditioning programs your coaches wanted you to work on. That should have been your first priority.

Have you followed that plan? We know, we know, it's your last summer with the guys and girlfriends before heading off to college. We get that...Mom and Dad get that...but Mr. College Coach doesn't care much. He is giving you a deep discount on a college education and would like for you to come to school in serious shape.

Getting in shape and being in top condition is extremely important. Many of you will look malnourished compared to your future collegiate team mates and the strength and conditioning coaches will be putting you on a fast track to get you to at least 80% of their strength and body mass in a hurry.

If you aren't in great shape by the time school starts, you will be susceptible to injury. The first week of school consists of physicals, paperwork and classes that introduce you into the world of NCAA sports. After that, your college life will be very planned out for you. The second week of school starts with a 6:30AM strength and conditioning wake-up call and 90+ minutes of some of the hardest conditioning you have ever experienced in your lives. That is followed by school and then a 1:30-4:30 practice. After practice you will break for dinner and then, will report to 2-3 hours of mandatory study hall. That gives you about an hour to yourselves before you have to start the whole routine all over again the next day.

So, back to our question. Should you take daily batting practice to keep your swing intact? We understand that you have nothing to prove and have already committed to a college, but for pride and to get used to the insane routine you will have in less than a month in college...get back in the cage and start hitting NOW! Show those underclassmen on your summer team that you deserved that scholarship. Set an example and show them what it takes to succeed. Be a leader and teach them that you have to be a self starter in the summer and that there is no substitute for hard work. So, if your stats are way down from your high school season, there's a reason for that...YOU ARE NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH!!!

Get in shape, get it together and get yourself ready for the months ahead. Don't worry, you won't miss out on anything the rest of August. There's 24 hours in a just need to organize them accordingly.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Labor Of Love

RT Staff Note: The labor of school has started for many high schools and some colleges and Labor Day is around the, we thought we would introduce another article about another kind of labor...working out, from Jon Doyle. If you want to see more articles on Jon Doyle, go to his web site at Baseball Training Secrets

By Jon Doyle - MA, CSCS

Youth Baseball Training is a simple, yet very complex topic. The information floating around these days leaves little to be desired. The goal of this article is to teach you how young athletes should train for maximum effectiveness, optimal performance and utmost safety.

Obviously, the term “youth” is very broad. The term can refer to any individual 18 years or under. The scope of this article will cover the ages of 6-18 years of age.

When an athlete is a beginner he/she needs to learn proper movement patterns. Overlooking this crucial element is the biggest mistake I see with youth baseball training. Everyone wants to put a barbell, dumbbells or medicine balls in the hands of these individuals before they have learned proper movement patterns.

What’s the point of doing a squat with weight on your back before you have learned how to squat correctly with just bodyweight? Why would anyone bench press before they have learned the proper movement and built up strength in the pushup? These two scenarios make absolutely no sense but I see it happening everyday.

The key is learning proper movement through specific movement patterns. Everyone and anyone can benefit greatly from these movements. If you don’t have a copy of “The Ultimate 7-Minute Dynamic Baseball Warm-Up” I suggest you pick one up immediately.

Not only will this DVD teach you how to move properly, but it serves as a form of strength training. In order to have strength, power, speed and flexibility that transfers over to the baseball diamond the body must be taught to move properly.

It does not matter what age the player is. Age 6 or 18, these movements serve as the foundation. If these basic fundamentals are not developed an individual will never even come close to their potential. The great thing is this all can be done in 7 minutes per day.

Also, for those athletes that are certainly too young to start a strength training program with barbells and dumbbells these movements will build strength, power, speed and flexibility through what is called neurological adaptation. Basically this means that the connection between the brain and the muscles will work much, much better. Common improvements that occur are increased overall body coordination, more fluid movements, the game “slowing down” as well as aforementioned strength, power, speed and flexibility.

After these basic movements have been learned the individual can move to classic strength training. The best movements to use are what we refer to as “Focus Lifts. They are as follows:

• Power Clean
• Power Snatch
• Squat
• Deadlift
• Bench Press
• Push Press

These should be taught first because these are the lifts that have the most carryover to the diamond and everyday life.

To learn how to do each Focus Lift in extreme detail check out the Power/Speed Development Series. Here you will learn the specifics and how to teach each Focus Lift quickly and easily for a price that is less than one personal training session with the kid down at the local gym.

If an athlete learns how to move properly and then is taught the Focus Lifts he/she will be a force to be reckoned with!

Proper youth baseball training will make all the difference in the world for your young athletes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Strasburg's Signing is Good For The College Game

I am glad that Stephen Strasburg signed his contract. It's good for the pro game and even better for the college game. College and San Diego State in particular, made Strasburg the richest top pick in MLB history. As a slightly pudgy High School pitcher, he drew some pro interest, but scouts didn't think he quite had the physical and mental make-up to survive a pro lifestyle.

Many colleges weren't knocking down his door either...But, San Diego State did and the rest is history.

In our opinion, college can help a player become more disciplined, focused and stronger from the ages of 18-21 than the pro's can. In Strasburg's case, college gave him the time to mature, get stronger, smarter and develop a good work ethic to help him ease his way into the spotlight. San Diego State provided him with a more controlled and disciplined environment than he would have had if he were to be thrust directly into the minors at age 18. Many high school athletes should take note. How many players are eaten alive by the pro system before the age of 20? Would they have been better off with a regimented, mentor filled college experience? We think so.

As happy as we are, the signing almost didn't happen. According to the Washington Post, the signing took place Just 77 seconds before a witching midnight deadline. The franchise that so often gets kicked when it is down and the town that is constantly accused of baseball's original sin (being Washington) proved that it could do something big and difficult and right.

And although Washington is the beneficiary of the most exciting top pick in decades, it is College Baseball in general that is the big winner with the Strasburg signing.

While Strasburg is the big story, High School star, Mathew Purke a first round pick by the Rangers has decided to go to TCU, turning down a $4 million dollar offer. It's a trend folks. Pitching great, Rick Sutcliff talked one night on a TV broadcast. With all he had done, he still said his one regret was not going to college and enjoying those years. A college education is priceless...its not always about the money.

Other notable drafted players that are returning to their schools to improve their draft status next year and get another year closer to a degree are: Josh Spence (Arizona State), James Paxton (Kentucky), Bryan Morgado (Tennessee),Ryan Woolley (UAB), Craig Fritsch (Baylor) and Tyler Lyons (Oklahoma State).

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Listen Up NCAA

As student athletes pack up for their long journey to become collegiate ball players, we thought we would start back on our campaign to increase the number of scholarships that baseball players receive. A while back, we had a comment from one of our readers that helped give us the idea for today's post. His comment:

College baseball has a long way to have the panache and status that college basketball and college football have. If you have noticed most of the high school baseball players who have signed with MLB clubs have received the signing bonuses and a clause for future education money. I believe a majority of high school players would prefer to go to college, play ball, and get their education. The fact is (and here is the real fallacy and unfairness of college baseball) baseball players do not get full scholarships!!! Why does the media and web sites like yours not address the real problems with college baseball and the NCAA. Come on...11.7 scholarships to divide between 35 roster players, when football players (all on the roster) get full rides. When it gets down to it "money talks". Thank-you Rounding Third for letting me air my opinion.

We couldn't agree with him more. No doubt baseball has a long way to go to reach the heights of basketball and football. Even though college baseball's popularity is on the rise, there's so much more room to grow the game to new heights.

First of all, we bring this subject up because many of you parents and athletes out there will be obsessing over these issues the closer your sons dream of being a collegiate athlete becomes a reality. We know this because we have sons that are playing college ball or have played D-I. If there was a time for a is the time...just when the college game is on the upswing. And, like the baseball players they recruit, the game has tremendous upside.

As we stated many times before, television coverage is increasing through ESPN, CSTV and FOX.. Web exposure via Gametracker and CSTV's online broadcast is a life saver for long distance parents unable to take a leisurely drive to see their son play like they did in high school. While more television exposure would help the sport from a exposure and financial's certainly not the end game.

There's a long list of improvements that we would like to make for the betterment of the college game. We started to write our loquacious version of what needs to happen until we stumbled upon an article written by Kendall Rogers of's college baseball site. Enjoy!

By Kendall Rogers

There's no question most coaches agree with the idea of a uniform start date. In its first test this past season, the uniform start date was welcomed with open arms. The timing of the start date? Not so much. I think everyone likes the idea of teams starting the season at the same time. However, many coaches believe the season should start two weeks earlier, leaving teams with more time to play 56 games. In the first season of the uniform start date, the condensed schedule caused a variety of issues.

Football, basketball and baseball are popular sports on the collegiate level, but you'd never know that by the way the NCAA treats each sport. Football and basketball generally have rules put in place to help the sports. Baseball is on the other end of the spectrum. Though it's true some Division I institutions still don't have baseball scholarships, the list is small. For now, baseball has a scholarship limit of 11.7. Several coaches have proposed the scholarship total be raised to 14.7, but we have our doubts that will change.

Most coaches I've spoken with this summer are relieved at the absence of transfers. Because of the new transfer rule, players must now sit out a year if they choose to transfer schools. For the smaller schools, the transfer rule has been a huge relief. No longer can the larger schools use the summer leagues and other avenues as recruiting zones. However, there are some losers in this situation. Sure, the transfer rule is a step in the right direction. But allowing no transfers is going too far. Therefore, we propose that players can transfer if the school they're leaving gives them a full release, regardless of conference affiliation. That certainly could keep larger schools from raiding smaller schools, while also giving players the ability to transfer.

The selection committee generally does a good job with the Regional host site selections, but the same can't be said about where they place teams. Nothing this past season was more disappointing than the Long Beach Regional, where the committee paired Long Beach State, San Diego, California and Fresno State together. Long Beach State won the Big West, San Diego won the WCC, Fresno State won the WAC and California was a very dangerous team. Amazingly, Fresno won the Regional as a four seed. They also won the national title. Though the NCAA won't come out and say it, they stack the West Coast teams for attendance purposes. That may be a plausible answer, but that doesn't mean it's right. The NCAA should adopt a Regional system that consists of a field of 64 equally spread out.

With college baseball gaining popularity, it's time to improve the television contracts. The SEC and ACC have respectable television contracts with many regular season contests and their respective conference tournaments on television. The same can't be said for the Big 12, Pac-10 and C-USA. If the sport wants to get over the biggest hump, better television contracts must be negotiated. ESPN does a good job with the Super Regionals and College World Series, but its coverage the other four months of the season is laughable. The sport must spread the wealth to succeed.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Broncos Prevail In Clash Of NBC Titans

In a game twice delayed by rain, the El Dorado Broncos prevailed over the Anchorage Glacier Pilots 2-1. It was a monumental match-up between two perennial NBC World Series powerhouses. The game was billed as a contrast between the excellent pitching by the Broncos and the best hitting team in this years tournament, the Glacier Pilots.

The Broncos pitching staff had a combined second best 1.67 ERA and also the second best opposing batting average at .199. Starting the game was Broncos pitcher Jake Sabol, who, coming in to the game had a 0.00 ERA after making an appearance in four games. Meanwhile Glacier Pilots brought the best batters to the plate - forcing a clash of two opposing styles. Of the top players in terms of RBI’s - Anchorage had the top three on the list coming into the game, Gunnar Glad with 17, Ryan Gebhart with 12 and Drew Heid with 9. The Glacier Pilots also brought the best fielding team to the table with a .989 fielding average and only committing 3 errors after playing 8 games. Statistics on paper don’t determine who is going to win - but clearly the 67 RBI and a team batting average of .344 the Glacier Pilots had coming into the game was very impressive.

Anchorage had run-ruled three teams coming into the game and appeared to be fueled by their loss to the Santa Barbara Foresters. El Dorado was the sole undefeated team coming into the game - coming off a win in the NBC Midwest Regional (where they were also undefeated). Yet, El Dorado had been struggling to defeat the last couple of opponents they had faced and were sorely lacking in terms of hitting. The Broncos did have the advantage of having the Friday off, while the Glacier Pilots had to find another win to move on to the championship game and face El Dorado.

Anchorage ended the first inning down by 1 after Broncos leadoff hitter Kyle Tiernan sent a ball hurling out of the ballpark in far right field. It was a controversial call by the third base official, as the ball appeared to be outside of the foul line. The Glacier Pilots coach disagreed with the call and went to have a word with the official but the score remained the same.

Five innings passed before the Glacier Pilots answered back with a run, coming off a single by Ryan Gebhart to center field - his 13th RBI of the tournament. Neither team scored and the game moved into extra innings before Broncos catcher David Allbritton lined out to right field and Wes Cunningham scored the winning run in the 11th inning, giving the Broncos the victory and making them the 2009 NBC World Series Champions. Broncos pitcher Jake Sabol only gave up one run to the Glacier Pilots, who had been averaging 13 runs a game and was summarily named the tournament MVP. It was truly a game to remember, the match-up was intriguing on paper.

In the end, the Broncos pitchers were able to tame the previously unstoppable Glacier Pilots hitters and went home champions.

Friday, August 14, 2009

NBC World Series Day 12

Here are the results from Thursday's NBC WS games.

El Dorado Eliminates Hays

....The El Dorado Broncos, the only team without a loss thus far in the tournament, were able to eliminate the Hays Larks in tonight's feature game at Lawrence Duemont stadium with a score of 3-2.

Hays got the ball rolling first in the top of the fifth inning when Jason Morriss came out big with a homerun out past left field wall. The Larks were able to keep their lead up into the top of the seventh when Rich Deveraux scored off Andrew Heck's double putting the Larks up 2-0.

But in the bottom of the seventh El Dorado was able to gain some much needed momentum to put them on the board. Chad Carman hit a powerful double allowing Kirk Walker and Matt Giller to score and tie everything up. Carman then went on to steal third, setting him position to score off of Justin Lindsey's grounder. Late in the eighth inning, the Broncos added two more runs to their score and securing the win when Wes Cunningham and Elliot Frey scored off of Chad Carman's single. With this win the El Dorado Broncos advance to the championship round on Saturday.

Anchorage (AK) Eliminates Conejo (CA)

....Yesterday's 5:00 game featured the Conejo (CA) Oaks and the Anchorage (AK) Glacier Pilots. In this must win game, Anchorage controlled the momentum from the beginning on their way to a 7-3 win.

The Glacier Pilots lit up Conejo's pitching by recording a total of sixteen hits. Shortstop Michael Miller helped power the Pilots’ offense by going 3 for 3 with three RBI's and two runs scored. Joey Terdoslavich also added four hits and Carlos Alonso three. The Anchorage bullpen shutdown the Conejo offense by holding the Oaks scoreless the last six innings of the game. Conejo is eliminated with the loss and takes home the 4th place trophy. As for the Glacier Pilots, they move on to play tomorrow.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

NBC World Series Day 11

Two games were played yesterday. The first part of this post details those games. Below the game highlights is an impressive piece from the NBC website that features past MLB stars that have played in the NBC World Series.

Hays (KS) Comes Back To Beat Crestwood (IL) In A Thriller

...In a game which looked to be an early blowout, turned into a late inning nail-bitter with the Hays (KS) Larks coming back in dramatic fashion with a 9-8 over the Crestwood (IL) Panthers.

The Panthers jumped out to an early 7 to 1 lead after two innings thanks in large part to Anthony Albano's two RBI triple in the top of the first inning. Multiple errors by the Hays Larks in the second inning allowed the Panthers to tack on more runs. After scoring one run in the bottom of the first inning, Hays could not manage to put up another run until the bottom of the sixth inning when Codi Harshman blasted a two RBI triple.

Hays put up three runs in the sixth inning to make the score 7 to 5. The Larks put up one run in both the seventh and eighth innings which included a throwing error by Crestwood in the eighth allowing Hays to tie the game at seven.

In the top of the ninth inning Crestwood regained the lead after wild throw by Hays' catcher which allowed the runner to come around and score. In the bottom half of the inning Hays got two runners on thanks to a fielder's choice and and throwing error allowing runners to advance to second and third. With one out and runners on second and third, Andrew Heck singled through the left side scoring both runs and giving Hays the come from behind victory.

The Crestwood (IL) Panthers were eliminated and the Hays (KS) Larks move on to play today.

The El Dorado Broncos Ease Past The Liberal Beejay's

....In a very close feature game, the El Dorado Broncos’ were able to hand the Liberal Beejays their first lost in a 4-3 final.

Liberal got things started early on in the fourth when Steven Tucker hit a double giving Tanner Rindles an easy run into home. This was followed up by Mitch Caster scoring off of Justin Gordey's pop fly to left field. To round the top half of the inning, Torrey Jacoby hit a grounder to El Dorado's short stop, allowing for Steven Tucker to add another run to the board, bringing the score to 3-0.

El Dorado was late to get their momentum, but in the bottom of the sixth they finally got things started. Travis Whipple hit a triple, giving the go ahead runs to both Elliot Frey and Kirk Walker. Traivs Whipple was then able to score off of David Allbritton's single, tying the score up at 3-3.

Things went scoreless until the bottom of the ninth where things heated up. As Liberal started to buckle under pressure and bases loaded for El Dorado, Elliot Frey came to the plate and hit a line drive down the first base line. The Beejays were unable to secure the out and gave the run up to Bronco's Wes Cunningham for the win.

El Dorado will take on the Hays Larks tomorrow night at 7:30 and Liberal will play the 10:00 game tonight against the Santa Barbra Foresters.

National Baseball Congress Hall of Fame

In 1990, after 55 years of great players, managers and administrators for the National Baseball Congress, the Rich family, who had purchased the NBC in 1986, decided to begin recognizing some of the great contributors to the NBC legacy by creating the "National Baseball Congress Hall of Fame."

The inaugural class was selected and inducted during the 1991 NBC World Series in Wichita, KS. It was much harder to decide whom not to include than whom to include among the first 12 inductees. The class was led by the legendary Leroy "Satchel" Paige, who won the first NBC title with his pitching prowess and his Bismarck, ND, Corwin-Churchill barnstorming, integrated ball club. Paige still holds the NBC record with 60 strikeouts in one tournament and a 4-0 record!

Also a can't-miss selection was NBC founder Raymond "Hap" Dumont, who in 1934 convinced the City of Wichita to build Lawrence-Dumont Stadium in order to host a national tournament. The first NBC tournament was a huge risk on his part, as similar tournaments had failed miserably on both coasts. Paige, and support from the local media and the national publication The Sporting News, helped make the tournament an instant success.

A complete list of Hall of Fame inductee's follows, complete with the year they were inducted. Many are household names. Some are remembered only by those who have followed the progress of the NBC over the years.


Inaugural Class of 1991
Bob Boone
Joe Carter
Chris Chambliss
Raymond "Hap" Dumont
Ron Guidry
Whitey Herzog
Ralph Houk
Billy Martin
Rick Monday
Bauldie Moschetti
Satchel Paige
Allie Reynolds
Tom Seaver
Don Sutton
Dave Winfield

Class of 1992
Larry Davis
Dick Sanders
Ozzie Smith

Class of 1993
Roger Clemens
Bert Wells

Class of 1994
Craig Nettles
Daryl Spencer
Bob Sullivan

Class of 1995
Bob Gadberry
Al LaMacchia
Arnold "Jug" Thesenga

Class of 1996
Carl Lewton
"Howie" Minas
Harry "The Hat" Walker

Class of 1997
Bobby Boyd
Randall "Dee" Hubbard
"Scoop" Nunes

Class of 1998
Bobby Bragan
Bob Broeg
Leo Mashak

Class of 1999
H.A. "Red" Boucher
Mark McGwire
Ralph Winegarner

Class of 2000
John Olerud
Dian Overaker
Kirk Vuscko

Class of 2001
Barry Bonds
Joe Garagiola
Rafael Palmeiro

Class of 2002
Jim Dietz
Tony Gwynn
Leonard Kelley
Jack O'Toole

Class of 2003
Merl Eberly
Kirk Gibson
Grier Jones
Buck O'Neil

Class of 2004
Don Dennis
Mark Grace
"Baseball" Bill Gwinup
Carl Kentling

Class of 2005
Sonny Cashion
Bob Cerv
Will Clark
Harold Pyatte

Class of 2006
J.D. Schneider
Steve Shaad
Von Hayes
Robin Ventura

Class of 2007
Robert E. Rich, Jr.
Melinda R. Rich
Herb Hess
Arnold Ashley
Andy Teter

Class of 2008
Jess Bolen
Mike Dean
Burt Hooton
Dave Kingman

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

NBC World Series Day 10

Upsets and controversial plays dominated the headlines of yesterdays games at the NBC World Series in Wichita.

....For the first eight innings, the El Dorado (KS) Broncos looked like they were in a great position to put away the Santa Barbara (CA) Foresters. Then came the ninth inning, and things got a little shaky from the El Dorado defense. The Foresters were able to put their first four batters on in the bottom of the ninth and were able to plate two runs before El Dorado put the game away with a late pop up from James Meador at the plate to end the game.

Starter Bryant Cotton got the win for the Broncos pitching a very strong game. Cotton came out of the gates dealing and only allowed three hits, one walk, and one earned run in his start, putting the El Dorado (KS) Broncos in a great situation to close out the contest. As for Santa Barbara (CA), Matt Hutchinson took the loss as the Foresters starting pitcher, throwing 4 1/3 innings giving up all four runs of the game. At the plate, shortstop Kyle Tiernan led the Broncos in hits going 2 for 5 at the plate. Duplicating Tiernan's performance was Santa Barbara's shortshop, Brandon Loy, who also went 2 for 5. With the win, the El Dorado (KS) Broncos will advance to the 5th round and will face the winner of the Liberal - Conejo game and will play on Wednesday. The defending NBC World Series champion Foresters will wait and play again in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

....Last nights nightcap, started two hours and twenty two minutes after it was originally slated to start, due to heavy rainstorms. Despite the late start, this game was worth sticking around for with the late inning theatrics.

After Conejo (CA) built a 5-0 lead in the bottom of the 4th, it looked like the Oaks were going to run away with the victory in the second winner's semifinal bracket game of the night.

The fun started in the top half of the 9th when Liberal got their first three batters on base. As Conejo held onto a two run lead with two outs, Liberal lined a pitch up the middle. Two runners were on at the time of the clutch hit, with the first scoring easily with the second runner being challenged with a throw at the plate.

In a controversial call, the home plate umpire signaled the Liberal runner safe, stating that he beat the throw and tag, enabling Liberal (KS) to tie up the game.

To no ones suprise in a bang bang play like this, Conejo's manager Riley was ejected for arguing the call. Shortly after that, the Oaks also lost rightfielder Kyle Jones to an ejection.

The BeeJays then were able to score the go ahead run with two outs to take the lead and hold off the Oaks final rally in 9th to take the win. With the win, Liberal (KS) advances to the 5th round to play El Dorado (KS) Broncos on Wednesday. As for the Conejo (CA) Oaks, they will play in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

....It was heated a battle between the Sedalia MO Bombers and the Hays KS Larks with neither team scoring in the first inning. In the second inning the Larks scored two runs going up 2-0.

After the completion of the bottom of fifth inning, it became clear that the Hays KS Larks were in control of the fight scoring three more runs giving them a total of five runs bringing the score to 5-0. The Hays KS Larks ended up taking it with a final score of 6-2. With this final defeat, the Sedalia Bombers are now eliminated from the tournament.

....Illinois' Crestwood Panthers were able to eliminate the Gunnison Colts of Colorado with a score of 6-5 in today's fourth game at Lawrence Dumont.

In the bottom of the first the Colts' Mark Sayes was able to put up the first run for the Colts after Jason Fobes single. While the Panthers had a slower start they were able to put up three runs in the top of the fourth. Bill Storrs hit a single allowing Marc Albano to run in and put the Panthers on the board.

This was soon followed by Randy Molina and Bill Storrs both adding runs to the Panthers score to round out the top of the inning. The top of the sixth brought a Panthers' single from Eric DeBlank to allow both Matt Kucharski and Brycen Bell to score.

The Colts' started a comeback in the bottom of the eighth after adding two runs to the board from Tyree Abshire and Jason Fobes.

Things heated up in the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded for the Colts and the Panthers' pitcher walked Mark Sayes allowing Eric Mattingly to score. Next up to bat for the Colts' was Jason Fobes who hit down the right field line allowing Ryan Stukey to tie up the score at 5-5. Eric Deblank came out strong in the top of the tenth for the Panthers, hitting a double down the left field line allowing for the run and the win by Joe Malia. The Crestwood Panthers will advance on and play at 5:00 on Wednesday against the Hays Larks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

NBC World Series Day 9

More NBC World Series Results

....Patrick Cooper of the Hays Larks lead his team to victory in the 5:00 PM game yesterday as he pitched a complete game giving up only 1 run. Hays scored the first run of the game in the bottom of the second and added what proved to be the game winning run in the bottom of the 5th. Nevada pitcher Anthony Pryor was the tough luck loser as he pitched 5 innings giving up only 2 earned runs. The Griffons made it close by scoring a run in the 8th, but in the end the Larks pitchers were too much to overcome.

....Like many of the NBC World Series games, the action started early in a match up between the Derby (KS) Twins and the Game Time (LA) Rockies. The Twins notched five runs to their belt in the first inning - leading to another run scored in the second inning. A single run scored in the fifth inning by the Twins was the last score the remainder of the game. Twins pitcher Eric Braekel picked up his second win of the tournament (he pitched for 5.1 innings), also notable was third baseman Skyler Rawlins who drove in three runs off just a solo hit in two at bats.

....The past few days have brought us a few run-ruled games, Anchorage brought us another in Monday’s 10:30 AM game. The Clarinda (IA) A’s had no answer for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots and gave up eleven runs in a shortened six inning game, unable to score or stop the opposing team. Anchorage pitcher Jason Mitchell threw all six innings of the game - giving up three hits, striking out seven batters and walking zero. Ryan Gebhart, Anchorage center fielder had another outstanding game with three RBI on two hits and one run scored in four at bats.

Monday, August 10, 2009

NBC World Series Day 8

More from the NBC World Series in Wichita KS.

....Liberal started of strong in the 1:00 PM game. Right fielder Mitch Caster got it started with a 2 RBI triple in the top of the first for the Bee Jays. He was then brought in by catcher Chad Comer as Liberal went on to score 4 times in the first. Liberal tacked on 3 more runs in the 4th This proved to be more than enough run support for starting pitcher Brett Davis who went 5 strong innings of 3 hit ball as the Liberal Bee Jays defeated the Valley Center Diamond Dawgs 10-0 in 5 innings.

....In the first game played yesterday, the Anchorage Glacier Pilots took the win over the Orange County (CA) Pioneers. The Glacier Pilots came out fast, scoring 7 runs before the Pioneers got on the board. The Pioneers mounted a small comeback in the 5th scoring 4 but it wasn’t enough. Anchorage responded by scoring 8 unanswered runs to win the game 15-4 in 8, with a tremendous push from center fielder Ryan Gebhardt – who had six RBI off just two hits in four at bats. The Pilots will play the Clarinda A’s on today.

....With the Force losing yesterday's 8 o’clock game the Stars were the last hope for San Diego in the tournament. The Griffons broke open a scoreless game with 3 runs in top of the 4th. They then added 5 more in the 8th to push the lead to 8. The Stars managed just 1 run off of Griffons pitcher Nate Van Bibber, who threw a complete game in a 8-1 victory. The Griffons will play the Hays Larks on Monday. The loss eliminates the Stars – the last of three San Diego teams that played in this year’s tournament.

....The Conejo Oaks wasted no time getting on the board with a homerun by #39 Ryan Delgado in the top of the 2nd to take a 2-0 lead. The Seattle Studs responded with 1 run in the bottom of the inning to make the score 2-1. The Oaks added to their lead in the top of the 8th when #38 Arin Fowble hit a double to the wall scoring 2 giving the Oaks a 3 run lead. The Studs, trying to keep the game close score 1 run in the bottom of the 8th but stranded another leaving the score at 4-2. Studs then scored on an error making it 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th. That’s as close as it would get, as the Oaks field a flyout to end the game. The Oaks advance in the winner’s bracket where they will face the winner of the Liberal BeeJays versus the Valley Center Diamond Dawgs game on Monday. The Studs move to the losers bracket where they will face the winner of the Clarinda A’s vs. Anchorage Glacier Pilots game on Tuesday.

....Last years champs, The Santa Barbara Foresters seemed to be warming up in the first inning against the Sedalia Bombers. Scoring only one run in the first at the top, the Foresters established dominance early with a 1-0 lead. The Sedalia Bombers were outclassed all around by the overwhelming force of the Foresters. It was a stalemate in the second inning wherein neither team scored. The third inning was a breath of fresh air when the Foresters scored not once, not twice, but three times updating the score to a 4-0 lead with the Sedalia Bombers trailing.

The fourth inning seemed to yield even greater results for the former champs scoring four more runs giving them a grand total to 8-0, Bombers still trailing with an even wider gap. The fifth inning exhibited a slower pace for the Foresters, but an even slower pace for the Sedalia Bombers. Only one run was scored, and wouldn’t you guess, it was in favor of the Foresters giving them a 9-0 lead. The Sedalia Bombers held on in the sixth inning, not allowing the Foresters to score a single run; the score remained 9-0 Bombers trailing with no advantage in sight. In the seventh inning the score remained 9-0 with the Santa Barbara Foresters in the lead maintaining a dominant position over the Sedalia Bombers. After the completion of the final inning, it became an apparent landslide victory for the Santa Barbara Foresters. They are now moving to the next round the tournament . The Sedalia Bombers will play in the losers bracket on Tuesday August 11 to regain some lost ground. The final score was 10-0 with 14 hits for the Santa Barbara Foresters, and 4 for the Sedalia Bombers.

....The El Dorado Broncos easily overtook the Gunnison Colts of Colorado with a score of 6-1 in last nights feature game of the NBC World Series. The Broncos were able take the lead early on in the game by putting up two runs in the bottom of the first after capitalizing on an error by the Colts. Another run was added to the Broncos score by Kirk Walker in the bottom of the fourth. In the beginning of the fifth Colts Ryan Castellanos was able to finally get a hit of off the Broncos starting pitcher, Jake Sabol. Castellanos was able to run in to put the Colts on the scoreboard after Mike Coffey's single. El Dorado added two more runs to their score late in the sixth inning with runs by David Allbritton and Matt Langseth. The bottom of the seventh inning brought one more run and the win for the Broncos by Matt Giller. The Broncos will take on the Santa Barbra Foresters in Monday night's feature game at 7:30.

For umpires, every baseball game is on the road

Strike! Foul ball! You're out of here!

All three are phrases Rick Brennan and Ron Brooks hope will lead them to an umpiring career in Major League Baseball.

"It's a tough goal to reach, but it would be amazing," Brooks said.

Brennan, 24, and Brooks, 22, are umpires this summer in the Northwoods League. Both are former baseball players who wanted to find a way to stay in the game. Brennan is from Hammond, Ind., and graduated from Franklin College in Franklin, Ind., in December 2008 with a bachelor's degree in history.

He began umpiring his junior year in high school with his dad, Glenn Brennan, but didn't became serious about it until college.

"I didn't enjoy umpiring (at first) but my freshman year of college it didn't feel like a job anymore — I was having fun," Brennan said.

Brooks is from Murphysboro, Ill., and is a junior at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Ill. He is studying to get a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. He started umpiring as a way to make money during the summer and umpired with his dad, Ron Brooks. After attending an umpire clinic in central Illinois, he decided umpiring was something he wanted to purse.

"Umpiring is the closest thing I can get to still being in the game and I don't want to be a coach," Brooks said.

Brennan and Brooks have been on the road for seven weeks now and have three weeks left in the season. They spend 2-4 hours on average traveling from game to game every other day, except for the times when they work a two-game series, as they did this week when the Duluth Huskies visited St. Cloud to take on the River Bats.

Both say it's tough being away from home and not seeing their family, friends and girlfriends.

Brennan has seen his dad twice since he started, and Brooks is hoping his family will be able to make it to a game before the season is over.

"Living out of a suitcase isn't all that fun but you do what you can," Brooks said. "It's all part of the process in being an umpire."

For their 10 weeks of service, they get paid about $3,000 plus travel, food and lodging expenses. Brennan and Brooks don't have any complaints about the pay.

"Obviously, I'm not getting paid very much for this job," Brennan said. "But I feel like it's a steppingstone to better jobs in the future possibly, hopefully working in the major leagues at one point. I know those guys are making big money, up to $300,000 a year."

According to Northwoods League umpiring supervisor Winston Wood, 38 of the 220 minor-league umpires previously worked in this league.

The Northwoods League can boast five umpires in Class AA, five in Class AAA, and one — Delfin Colon — who has reached the majors. Colon served in the Northwoods League in 2000 and made his major-league debut last season. Colon bounces back and forth between the big leagues and Class AAA, filling in for the full-time major league umpires when they are on vacation or injured.

Some local umpires, including Bats official scorer Bob Kremer, have worked Northwoods League games on an emergency basis. There has never been a full-time Northwoods League umpire from Central Minnesota.

In their spare time Brooks and Brennan play Guitar Hero and Ultimate Fighting Championship on Brennan's PlayStation. Brooks said he also likes to read and has read "Angels and Demons" and "The Da Vinci Code" since he's been on the road.

Brennan said he does not regret taking on the 10-week umpiring job and looks at it as a "learning experience." He has never umpired before at this level — summer-college baseball — but said he wants to get better. Brooks said the one thing he loves about umpiring is meeting different people.

"I like meeting people from different teams, towns, backgrounds — and all the other umpires," said Brooks.

When they have bad days on the field, their main goals are to stay focused and confident.

Brennan said if they are not confident then coaches and players will walk all over them. Brooks said that every umpire misses a call, even major league umpires. He admits that being the bad guy on the field at times is the only downfall to umpiring.

"They say your only friend out there is your partner. We try to be as perfect as we can," Brennan said.

After the season is over, Brennan said he will find another job to pass the time until next season starts. He plans to attend umpiring school again in January. Brooks plans to continue umpiring back home. He will umpire baseball in the fall spring and summer and in the winter he will referee basketball.

Brooks wants to go as far as he can in umpiring. If it doesn't work out, he said, he always has his degree to fall back on. His short-term goal is to umpire in the minor leagues. It would be his first step in reaching his ultimate goal.

"This is something I want to do for 10-15 years or more if possible," Brooks said.

Friday, August 7, 2009

NBC Word Series Day 5

We have been covering the NBC World Series all week, but what do we know about it? Here's some history courtesy of the NBC web site.

The National Baseball Congress and its now well-established World Series were the brainchild of Wichita sporting goods salesman Hap Dumont in the midst of the Depression.

Dumont hatched the idea after watching a Sunday baseball game between circus clowns in Wichita for the week and local firemen. While the circus wasn't allowed to perform on Sunday due to the blue laws of the day, the clowns in the baseball game drew a large crowd. Dumont figured he had stumbled onto something.

That's when he created the National Semi-Pro Baseball Congress Kansas State Tournament, played for the first time in 1931 on Island Park in the middle of the Arkansas River just north of Second Street. He made a few bucks on the event and made it bigger the next several years, until a cigarette was left burning in the wooden bleachers of the old park, burning it to the ground.

Never one to be defeated, Dumont hatched an even bigger idea. If the city of Wichita would build him a new stadium, he would put on a national semi-pro tournament, drawing teams from coast to coast.

The city built the stadium on the west bank just south of the old park and named it after Wichita pioneer Robert Lawrence, who once owned a mansion where the Masonic Home now sits at Seneca and Maple.

Even though semi-pro national tournaments had failed on both the east and west coasts, Dumont figured a central location might be the key to success in an age of teams that barnstormed by train or bus. But he figured he needed a hook.

In that day, a lawyer made $4,000 a year and a doctor about $3,500, so $1,000 was a huge amount for two weeks of play.
So he offered Satchel Paige, considered the greatest pitcher of the day and perhaps the best in baseball history, an impressive sum of $1,000 to bring his touring team from Bismarck, N.D., to compete in the first NBC tournament, in 1935. In that day, a lawyer made $4,000 a year and a doctor about $3,500, so $1,000 was a huge amount for two weeks of play. In fact, Dumont didn't have the $1,000 when he made the offer. He figured he would make it at the gate.

The tournament was a huge success from the start. Paige struck out 60 batters and won four games, which both still stand as tournament records. His Corwin-Churchill team beat Duncan, Okla., 5-2 in the finals. Dumont made enough money to pay Paige as well as all the bills, and he even had money left over. The Sporting News, baseball's bible of the day, gave the event significant coverage. Thus, the national tournament was born.

Thousands of young prospects and ex-major leaguers have since played in the tournament, which has continued to be played at the stadium Hap built. In the first few decades, most of the teams were either barnstorming semi-pro clubs or town teams sponsored by local factories. The typical star was an ex-professional, and quite a few of the players had played major league ball.

In the mid-70s, the typical team makeup shifted significantly. Young college players for teams in Alaska and Boulder, Colo., started dominating the scene. With the resurgence of minor league baseball, semi-pro leagues dried up. By the mid-80s very few factories sponsored teams anymore. Now the tournament is comprised of amateur athletes.

Here's yesterdays action...

....In the first action of yesterday, the Crestwood Panthers narrowly defeated the San Antonio Titans by the score of 6-4. Crestwood stacked five of their six runs in the first three innings only to see San Antonio score three of their four in the last two innings. The Titans starter, Grant Harrelson, was roughed up early having five earned runs charged his way in only two and a third innings. The Titans bullpen settled down for the remainder of the game but the five runs in two innings was too much to overcome.

....In yesterday's second game the Los Angeles Rockies eliminated the Missouri Caphas from this year’s field of competition by a final score of 6-0. A sloppy game most of the way. Six runs scored by LA, but only two of them earned. Crucial errors decided Missouri’s fate. Jamey Bradshaw of LA pitched a complete game shutout and allowed only five hits with three strikeouts.

....Yesterday’s third game featured the Clarinda (IA) A’s defeating the Colorado Springs Doubledays by a final score of 9-6. Clarinda’s Mick Gaston hit a towering solo shot to left field as A’s hitters had their way with Colorado Spring’s pitching. Greg Volz and Brandon Beall each had a three hit day in the losing effort for Colorado Springs. Clarinda’s bullpen held on to the lead and Dannie Strable was brought in with the bases loaded to seal the deal.