Friday, January 29, 2010

From The Fans

By Emma Stewart

Baseball is not just a game. I do not consider myself to be, simply, a fan. I call myself a "baseball connoisseur." A connoisseur is defined as "a person with expert understanding of artistic and similar subjects." Baseball is art to me. Art that takes my breath away.

I watch as the infield plays pepper with balls hit toward them. They know where their teammates are without having to look. Tossing the ball to second base. Out. Then a quick, accurate throw to first. Out again. It is choreographed much like a ballet.

The pitcher takes the mound. He may not be the fastest or strongest pitcher ever to play, but very accurate. Low and away and still in the strike zone. The next one is just a little higher. Strike two. He has a pitch to waste, but he doesn't. High and inside. Still in the strike zone. Strike three; the batter goes down looking. Painting the corners like van Gogh.

The center fielder is in left center. He plays more shallow than most in the Major League. The ball is hit, it goes back, back, back, over his head and out of his reach. He back pedals, as usual. Makes a running jump at the wall. He has stolen another home run from some unlucky hitter. That, too, is art. Not graceful like the pepper ballet in the infield, but art just the same to someone who loves good baseball.

Comedy is a form of art as well. The boys in the dug out are a riot. The trainer is rocking back and forth, keeping the beat that is only heard in his head. Gum is sticking to the brims of baseball caps. The manager just smiles as the last batter relives his last at bat. The third baseman tells the short stop a joke and they both laugh.

The best part of watching the team is how they come together and play like little leaguers. Not putting down their abilities in the least. They play like little leaguers because of their love and passion for the game. They seem to always have a good time. The boys put their whole hearts into baseball. They haven't lost the original awe they felt the first time they took the field. The smell of the grass. The sound of the flags flapping in the breeze. The roar of the crowd as they do the wave. These are grown men, earning a living, doing something they use to do for free; playing a game with all the zeal and heart they had as children. And, loving every moment of it. That, too, is art; loving what you do and doing what you love.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

For His Own Good

RT Staff Note: In keeping with our ongoing theme of coaching and youth teams, there is another issue that an exceptional athlete can experience...complacency.

If you are a coach or an involved parent...don't let this happen under your watch. Nip any sign of "I'm better than thou" attitude in the bud before it is too late. Here's another article from that addresses some solutions to a very common youth issue.

Every league has one or two - superstar players who don't put in their full effort, or who reserve that effort for games only.

Perhaps you have one of these on your team. As the coach, you were excited to land one of the "top" players in your league. And then, when you started practice, you discovered that your star shortstop doesn't seem to take practice seriously. He has been told all his life how good of a player that he is - and he has the all star jerseys to prove it.

So he goofs off in the batting cage, since he can hit the ball without even trying. Likewise, during infield practice, he showboats a bit, missing routine plays more than he should, while making up for it with a spectacular throw or backhanded stop. Yes, he might pick up a bad habit or two while doing this, but during actual contests, he has his game face on, and still manages to play at a high level.

So what's the harm? He can still help you win a championship, right?

If that's your line of thinking (along with 90% of youth coaches out there), you should seriously rethink what your motivations as a coach really are. Should you want to win? Absolutely. As a coach, you should put the best team on the field that you can. But your first responsibility is to help each and every member of that team to develop into a better player than they were when you met them.

So don't be afraid to discipline that superstar. Try talking to him first, privately. Let him know that you realize he has great talent and skill. Let him know that you realize he turns it on during the game. But explain that he is letting his team down by not putting forth his best every time that he steps on the field - his teammates look up to him, and if he dogs it, they may, as well. Furthermore, if he does not practice hard, he gives up the chance to improve as much as he could have, resulting in limitations to his game that simply should not exist.

You can try small discipline steps - give the player laps the instant you see him lagging in practice. Make him pick up trash afterwards. Give him push ups.

If he still does not respond, pull him from your infield and play him in right. Or better yet, let him start a game on the bench. Drop him to the bottom of the batting order. Explain why you made this decision, and make it clear that the requirements for every team member are the same - all players should be expected to give 100% all of the time; everyone is expected to earn their position. If your star is exempt, you are a hypocrite.

Ideally, you can identify this issue before the regular season starts, and have the chance to clear up any issues during the preseason. Even if not, know that the life lessons you teach this young man - and everyone on your team - are more important than the victory or two that might be in question because of your move.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

College, Coach, Team, and Scholarship options?

RT Staff Note: The following is another segment from the San Gabriel Arsenal Recruiting Guide. Click on the link on the right hand column of this blog to view the entire guide.

What does the player need to know about the College, Coach, Team, and Scholarship

1) Does the college offer the academic program the player would ultimately hope to pursue? Are athletes given priority registration?

2) Where is the college/university located? Will the locale be good for the player in terms of weather and distance from family/friends?

3) What is the general campus like? Social aspect of school?

4) What is the expected enrollment of undergraduates and graduates? What are the class sizes?

5) What are the schools strongest degree programs offered, which are the best academic departments?

6) What are the student housing options? Do most students live on-campus or off? What transportation is available?

7) Do the members of the baseball team room together? Live in special dorm facilities?

8) What are the majors of most of the baseball team members?

9) What is the academic calendar? Quarter / Semester / Trimesters ?

10) Is tutoring offered to student-athletes? Is there a fee?

Baseball Coach and Team:

1. In what division and conference does the team play?

2. What was the team’s record in the past? What are the coach’s goals for the team?

3. What style of play is desired for the team? Is the player comfortable with the coach’s style?

4. How many players will be on the roster and how many will travel with the team? How
many trips are planned for the coming season?

5. What are the pre-season and post-season schedules?

6. How often is practice during the season, and post-season?

7. Where do most of the players play during the Summer? Are there expectations of playing in collegiate Summer Leagues?

8. How will the team composition change with seniors leaving and redshirt players
returning? What known transfers are coming in?

9. What is the normal composition of the team? Developed from Freshman year to Senior
year or high level of Junior College transfers each year?

10. What position is the player being recruited for and how many others are already playing there or are being recruited?

11. Where am I in terms of your recruits? (Really listen carefully to how this is answered, let silence work for you and don’t be too quick to move on to another question)

12. Have you seen me play? Which of my coaches have you talked to? What other scouts
/ individuals have you spoken to about me?

13. What are the next steps ?

Scholarship Concerns:

1) If not offered a scholarship, is the player a candidate for admission as a Walk-On player?

2) If offered a scholarship, what expenses are covered, what is the duration and how can it be terminated?

3) If offered a scholarship and the player is injured and can’t play, will the scholarship be lost?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

West coast baseball is its own worst enemy

By Bob Keisser Sports Columnist
Posted: 01/22/2010 11:11:55 PM PST

The camaraderie at the ESPN Zone Friday morning for the Easton Southern California College Baseball media day was jocular and fraternal, a like gathering of minds and personalities who share a comfortable bond. Of course, this was January. By the time April arrives, they will eventually feel like they're all stuck together in one sleeping bag.

These coaches play each other so often each season that they know the names of each other's children. With the depth of talent in the region, that means everyone schedules some raucous early weekend series and a slew of midweek showdowns between conference play.

Essentially, they beat each other up. Last year was almost a TKO for the West.

There were great teams in the West, including Fullerton and UC Irvine in the Big West and Arizona State in the Pac-10, but everyone else seemed to be a few games over or under .500.

Seven Pac-10 teams had between 24 and 32 wins. Six in the West Coast had between 28 and 31. Six in the Western Athletic Conference had 25 to 32 wins. Two WAC teams had 40-plus wins but didn't get a postseason sniff because of low RPIs.

The Mountain West Conference had three teams with dynamic records but sub-.500 Utah won the conference tourney.

Some teams are reaching the end of the season with depleted pitching staffs and fatigued teams after slugging it out with each other. Fullerton and Long Beach State played a dozen games each against Pac-10 teams last season. UCLA played 13 Big West teams.

In other parts of the country, there are oodles of Mid-Major conferences to provide fodder for schools from those dreaded BCS conferences like the Southeastern, Atlantic Coast and Big 12.

It's a problem without a universal solution.

"I like to travel and go places," Pepperdine coach Steve Rodriguez said. "We've all come to realize that we're willing to travel and play the best teams even though they won't come out here to play us.

"Because of their financial backing" - the bountiful BCS revenue that supports other programs - "it's hard for them to travel. They can actually lose money if they pass up a home weekend. They don't need to travel."

Pepperdine hits the road for four games at LSU, but only two of them versus the defending national champs. They were able to get East Carolina to come West for a series. They have 19 games against their contemporaries beyond their league showdowns with Loyola and San Diego.

Long Beach State last season played series at South Carolina and Wichita State. In 2007, they played at Rice, Arizona State and Wichita State. In 2010, they'll get on a plane once, to play at Oregon State. The Wichita State rivalry which began in 1994 comes to an end after 2010 because of economics.

"We can't afford to travel like we did," Dirtbags coach Mike Weathers said. "So now our decisions come down to scheduling teams that are closer. Do we schedule, for example, Portland or Washington? Portland might help our won/loss record, but we can attract a bigger crowd with a Pac-10 team and help our RPI."

Long Beach and Fullerton are rare examples of West Coast programs that consider baseball to be an important revenue stream. The Dirtbags will play 17 games against Pac-10 teams, and Fullerton will play 11 and Cal Poly 10. UCLA has 13 and USC 12 games versus Big West teams.

"We can't afford to (be cavalier) about our home schedule," Fullerton coach Dave Serrano said. "We depend on the gate."

San Diego coach Rich Hill decided to do what he can to limit games against his peers.

"What we've done as a WCC team and non-BCS school is to increase our guarantee and bring in teams from outside the West," he said. "This year, we have Indiana for four games, and we have Wake Forest and Vanderbilt on our future schedules.

"I also would rather play one of the Oregon or Arizona schools to avoid the common opponent syndrome that seems (to depress) RPIs. If Loyola, Pepperdine, Long Beach and Fullerton play each other and wind up playing .500 after they're done, it isn't good for anyone. So I stay away from that."

In addition to Indiana, San Diego will host Rice. They will play seven road games against Coastal Carolina, Arizona State, Oregon and Oregon State.

UC Riverside, meanwhile, just plays Road Warrior. Eighteen of their 30 non-conference games last season were away from home, which was an improvement on 2008, when they played 16 of 19 games early in the season on the road, a run that included dates at Nebraska, Nevada and Texas Tech.

"We can't combat it," head coach Doug Smith. "We're not as high profile as Long Beach and Fullerton, so we go on the road and make it part of our approach; let's beat these teams that would never play us at home. We use it as a weapon, a little bit of a chip on our shoulder."

UC Irvine opened last season playing 11 of their first 12 on the road and had five trips outside California that required an airplane.

"Frankly, I think it's horrendous that only three or four teams from the Pac-10 get bids (each got three in 2009) when there are nine teams from the SEC and ACC getting bids," UC Irvine coach Mike Gillespie said. "And I think if you backed any coach in a corner, including those from the SEC and ACC, they'd agree.

"They don't want to play the fifth best team in the Big West or Pac-10 because they can schedule easier teams. Here, we have no gimmes."

But they share a gauntlet and have darn good friendships.

Mike Weathers didn't compete in the "Coaches Cookoff" segment of the program because he had to pick up keynote speaker and alum Jason Vargas for the the Dirtbags annual Lead-Off Dinner Friday night.

Pepperdine's Steve Rodriguez was named the Top Chef and USC's Chad Kreuter, the defending champion, earned the "Kitchen Nightmare" award. That pleased Gillespie, last year's "nightmare" chef, and also Kreuter's father-in-law.

"I had six sessions with Ken Ravizza (the noted area sports psychologist), and he told me to visualize the meal," Gillespie quipped. "I have a five-year plan now. I'll have my own TV cooking show in five years."

Monday, January 25, 2010

How It's Done

If NCAA Division I programs want to emulate a top program and make baseball a priority and profitable sport at their school, LSU is the program to mirror.

The athletic department just released the interior photo's of their recently added wall graphics and aesthetic touches inside the locker room, offices, players lounge, etc... Click This Link.

Also, they have begun to add an additional 3 sections of bleachers past the right field wall to mimic what they have in left field. This will bring the capacity of the stadium (before standing room tickets) to right at 10,500.

Yes, sports fans, you read that right. LSU has a total SEATING capacity of 10,500. They will pack in much more with standing room sales. That's a normal weekday night for the Tampa Bay Rays.

If college baseball wants to grow, increase the scholarship limits and become one of the Big Three revenue sports, then AD's need to travel down to LSU and sit down with Joe Alleva, the LSU AD to listen, learn and execute his incredible vision. He is the best.

Want to know how good he is? Under Alleva’s direction, all 20 LSU sports competed in NCAA post-season play for the first time in school history, and it culminated with the baseball team winning the national championship. In addition, six teams finished in the top 10 nationally. The Tigers hold claim to being the only school in the Southeastern Conference to participate in a bowl game and the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments during 2008-09. Furthermore, LSU student-athletes volunteered a total of 2,360 hours for community service projects.

Under Alleva’s guidance, LSU has one of the most lucrative apparel and shoe contracts with Nike while also having one of the nation’s most attractive multi-media rights contracts with CBS Collegiate Sports Properties. LSU athletic budget is now approaching $85 million, which allows the university to compete at the highest level in the nation.

Alleva has a long-term vision for continued improvements to LSU’s athletic facilities in order to ensure that the Tigers are among the best in the country well into the 21st Century. One of his top priorities is the enhancement of Tiger Stadium and making Tiger Stadium and the North Stadium Drive corridor a showplace for the university. Alleva’s innovative plan is to make a plaza area between the Maravich Assembly Center and Tiger Stadium that would recognize LSU’s national championship teams and distinguished alumni. This special area, along with Mike’s Habitat, and the LSU SportsShop, would become the focal point for visitors to campus.

LSU and many schools in the Big 12 and SEC have the If You Build It They Will Come mentality and it works!!! With the professional game becoming a bit pricey in these tough economic times, the college game is a great substitute. Joe Alleva understood that. Now, if only the rest of the conferences around the country...especially California, would understand that as well, the college game as we know it will explode.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Recruiting Basics

RT Staff Note:The following is from the SGV Arsenals Recruiting guide. You can access the entire guide by clicking the link on the right hand column that corresponds to the San Gabriel Arsenal Recruiting Guide link.

1) Please understand the following statistics – out of the hundreds of thousands of kids that play age group / high school sports only 3% will participate on a college varsity sports team, only 1% will receive any type of college athletic scholarship.

2) The coach’s “recruiting game” - a school may be in contact with as many as 250-350 players per year; 40-50 seriously (handwritten notes & letters, the one call per week, etc.); 6 to 12 all out; top 3-4 they will ask for early commitments. Recruiting is a serious business and most college coaches do a VERY GOOD JOB of it. They are selling their institution and experience. Like anything you are buying, always be aware and evaluate your alternatives.

3) If you don’t have stellar grades, your athletic skills are even more important, as they may help you get a spot on the team or even just into an institution!

4) Make an effort to watch a practice and games of the schools that interest you.

5) Consider what you know about the head coach and the coaching staff.

6) Ask the schools if you may contact former and current players and/or parents.

7) Do YOUR homework. Evaluate the schools you are interested in current Rosters. Where are their current players coming from? High School or JC’s? If there is a large number of JC transfers, you need to factor this into your decision to attend as a Freshman. The coaching staff is showing a practice of bringing in transfers if they feel their current players are not going to win games for them. What is the composition of the team by graduation year (i.e. Frosh, Soph, Junior & Senior). Remember, some Juniors will be drafted and sign.

8) Ask about players in the program that are NOT on the roster (i.e. Redshirts, other players). There can be hidden individuals you may not even be aware of.

9) Evaluate the OTHER PLAYERS being recruited by the specific school. Do they play the same position you do or could they be moved into your current position. Schools will over recruit Shortstops knowing that there are many high school Shortstops that end up playing different positions at the collegiate level. Shortstops in high school are usually some of the best athletes on the team. They can move multiple places at the collegiate level.

10) Have the college coaches explain their interest in you and why they want you in their program. Even go so far as to ask them to compare / contrast you with other players you know have committed or are being recruited.

11) Determine if you would attend this school even if you had a career ending injury and could not play.

12) Remember you can have five paid visits and add and drop as you go. Enjoy the experience.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tough Choices

RT Staff Note: Sometimes an athlete just has to choose between his sports. This young athlete from Southern California had to choose between Volleyball and baseball...both are played during the same season. The lesson here is to follow your passion and stick with it. Is baseball or volleyball his passion? He seems unsure. Were coaches, friends and colleagues influencing his decision or is it what he really wants. Read and decide for yourself.

By Eric Sondheimer
Michael Beals of Manhattan Beach Mira Costa chose baseball over volleyball when the seasons conflicted. But a scholarship offer from the Bruins persuaded him to trade cleats for spikes.

Imagine if there were a 7-footer walking around a high school campus who could dunk like Shaquille O'Neal but refused to play for the basketball team. It would be a travesty and the subject of much debate.

Michael Beals of Manhattan Beach Mira Costa was that teenager -- except in volleyball. For three years, living in a beach community that cherishes volleyball, Beals declined to join the high school team. He was a tall, lanky 6-foot-6 pitcher for the baseball team who also played club volleyball. He couldn't make a decision which sport to choose, since they were played at the same time.

"I was on the fence," he said.

But last summer, when his volleyball skills began to take a huge jump, the decision was made for him. He received a scholarship offer from UCLA and signed a letter of intent in November without playing in a single high school volleyball match.

It's the first time in Brian Rofer's 20 seasons recruiting volleyball players as an assistant coach for the 19-time NCAA champion Bruins that he has signed a teenager who didn't play for his high school team. Rofer based his evaluation on what he saw from Beals in club action and his college potential.

"Yeah, he beat the odds in that he learned to play volleyball outside the school system," Rofer said. "He learned in the club system, and that's rare because most kids start playing in junior high and their only exposure early is in high school, but he developed and I think is upside is tremendous because he hasn't played much."

Beals is a setter who has been getting so good that his club coach, Chuck Moore, an assistant at USC, said: "It really is amazing the progress he's made in the last few months. It's built up all kinds of confidence, and he's taking ownership of his development."

Beals has been playing baseball and volleyball since his youth. He tried out for the Mira Costa volleyball team as a freshman at his parents' urging, but dropped it when it conflicted with baseball. He kept playing club volleyball to keep his options open. There were weeks in the winter after baseball practice that he'd head to club volleyball practice in the evening.

But the strangest twist of his high school experience was this: In three years, he recalls attending just two volleyball matches. He said he was always too busy with baseball or studying (he has a 3.8 grade-point average), but the truth be told, he was reluctant to show up at a volleyball match for fear it might convince him to throw away his baseball glove.

"I guess there was a bit of jealousy," he said. "I didn't want to see myself not out there."

And then there was walking the hallways of Mira Costa and running into volleyball friends who knew his talents and didn't understand why he was playing baseball.

"They gave me a hard time," Beals said. "The coach would say, 'Hi' to them and give me a dirty look in a friendly way."

"No, no, I never gave him a nasty wink in the hallway," Mira Costa Coach Mike Ninnis said. "Baseball was kind of his No. 1 sport. Unfortunately, it falls into the same season. You want him to make the decision. You don't want to put unnecessary pressure on him."

Beals figured out his path on Nov. 11 when he signed with UCLA.

"It was pretty breathtaking," he said. "When they offered, I was, 'Wow, I can't believe this.' I finally made it. All my hard work paid off. Even though it wasn't the most traditional route, I still got there."

Beals was the winning pitcher in Mira Costa's baseball playoff win last season but his velocity has stayed around 81-83 mph and he finally came to the conclusion he wasn't going to be a major leaguer, let alone a college baseball player.

"I still love baseball," he said. "I'm a big fan."

Last month, when Mira Costa held tryouts for its volleyball team, Beals showed up. He made the team but will have to beat out two senior setters to start. Still, he's looking forward to the big crowds, the adrenaline rush of facing the likes of defending national champion Los Angeles Loyola and perhaps playing for a Southern Section championship.

"I guess I'm just a volleyball player now," he said.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Little Too Early?

RT Staff Note: The following is a letter to Rob Bruno of NORCAL Baseball, one of the top College Development Youth Programs in the country. The letter is from a prominent coach at a major baseball powerhouse. I won't spoil who it is until you read the letter and see his sign off.

Rob Bruno,

For the past month I have received numerous phone calls from high school coaches seeking my opinion on their student / athlete making a “early verbal commit”. If I may, I would like to give you my thoughts.

In a nutshell I think where we are headed is TRAGIC! Here is why.

** I think all of us would agree, that a student-athlete should decide which college to attend because that university answers HIS academic, baseball, economic, and social needs better than any other college.

**How can an student / athlete determine at this time what his academic skills will be two to three years from now? Are the last two to three years of high school academics of no value in determining what academic challenge he should take on? (What a slap on the face to high school education if that is the case.) As he grows older, hopefully he will begin to take more difficult courses.

How will he perform in a more challenging academic environment? In my 34 years of coaching I have seen many students become more motivated or less motivated in the classroom as they move through their high school careers. Which one will he be?

** He doesn’t even know how you will score on the National tests (SAT or ACT) that are required before you can be formally admitted to a university. And yet these same schools are going to tell the athlete’s families how important academics are at their school.

Just a little hypocritical.

** He doesn’t know how much your baseball skills will develop. No one does that far out. Major League baseball spends on average over 10 million dollars per team to figure out who they should draft. Do you know what their success rate is for a first round draft pick to play a one day in the Major Leagues? Right at 50%!

** It will be 2- 3 years from now that he will play his first pitch for the college he selects. TWO-THREE YEARS!! Go back, to where his baseball skills were 3 years, and then realize that in all likelihood his baseball skills will even improve more for these next two-three years then they have in his previous two-three years. No one knows how good he will be at 19-21 years of age. If they knew for sure, the Yankees would be willing to pay that person lots of money!

** Will he socially like the same things in college that he enjoys now? Will his social behaviors be the same as they are now? Right now this athlete’s existence is measured by how he performs athletically. He, like you and I at the same age, could not image life without sport. But boy would our thoughts be different now! As he matures, his interests in life will change.

** The recruiting process is FUN! He has put all this time and effort into his academics and baseball development. He needs to REAP THE REWARDS of those efforts. How can a student-athlete know at this point in time, which colleges will be interested in recruiting him?

The answer is he can’t. I guarantee there are many schools that don’t even know he exists yet.

** A lot can happen to coaching staffs over a period of one year let alone three years. No one knows what health issues may arise. Less than a month ago Coach Pat Murphy resigned at ASU. If the main reason a player signed with ASU was to play for Coach Murphy, that player is now hugely disappointed.

** The real reason one decides now is “fear”. Fear that is he doesn’t act now the offer will go away. If your player is really a “DUDE”, his problem will not be if there is a school out there who will offer me a baseball scholarship, but how does he narrow down his list of which schools to consider.

** I truly believe these young kids and their families are so venerable that if you gave any of the top 100 college baseball coaches one hour in their living room that at the end of that hour they would be willing to sign with that school. We are paid to be salesman, and we don’t survive if we can’t sell our product. The athlete cannot know everything they need to know at this time to make a totally educated decision.

** I fear that this generation is very “short-sighted”. I firmly believe that with all the out-sourcing that we do now in the United States, that 8% unemployment is going to be the norm. Literally millions of people will be seeking employment. Couple that fact, with the fact that 40% of our work force is now over -qualified for the jobs they currently have. Your student-athlete will face global competition for jobs unlike anything we have ever seen. Where he attends college, and if he gets a degree in a marketable area will have a profound effect on the rest of his life!

** I will make the bold statement that this college decision in all likelihood will have as much effect of this young man’s life as who he decides to marry. These kids can barely drive, can’t vote, can’t defend their country but possess enough knowledge about who they are academically, athletically and socially to make an informed decision?

Simply absurd.

** A coach in our athletic department recently made this statement.

“What is the big hurry? If the college that has the best product for this young man, won’t that still be the best product a year from now?

Or is there a fear on the school’s part that their product is inferior?”

I never intended this email to be so long, but I am passionate about this issue. I really believe we are doing these young people a great disservice in having them make such a MONUMENTAL DECISION so early in their lives!


Dean Stotz
Stanford University Associate Head Baseball Coach

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Best of the 2000s: Top 10 Off-the-Field Issues

RT Staff Note: This article is from College Baseball Today.

Biggest Off-Field Issues of 2000s

Our sport of college baseball has changed a good bit since 1999. And I have to admit, most of the off-the-field changes in the past 10 years have been good. At least to me they have been. Our sport has never been more popular, the talent level seems to be rising and it hasn’t been ruined by money and greed - at least not yet.

So what’s to complain about? Well, there IS still some things, but I’ll save them for another place and another time. For now, let’s put on a happy face and take a look back at the first decade of the new millennium. Here are the 10 biggest off-field developments that took place.

Other than Oregon State, no other program in the country has improved more in the past decade than Nebraska, taking advantage of its new stadium, the back up of the season and the common start date to become a national power.

Here’s the 10-through-1 for the best off-the-field news in the 2000s.
Not that college baseball should be all about money or anything, but still…

In 1998, the final year of the 48-team field, the NCAA says it lost $226,000 on the tournament. That all changed after the field was increased to 64 teams. Despite cries from coaches and administrators everywhere that an increased field would lose even more money, June Madness began to turn profits. Meager at first, but then it became a big cash cow. The 1999 tournament pulled in just over $900,000. The 2001 tournament profited $1.3 million. The 2004 tourney raked in $1.7 million. And the 2008 tourney brought in $2.8 million. Behind the March Madness basketball tournament, the 2000s saw the baseball tournament has become the NCAA’s second-biggest money-maker.


Finally, everybody begins at the sound of the same starter’s pistol.

I’ve said it a million times, so here’s a million and one… I don’t like anything that makes our sport look freakish. And when I discovered that college baseball was the ONLY sport in the NCAA that didn’t have a common start date, I knew that had to change. Especially when you had one team begin practice on January 3rd and another team started on February 23rd. And yet those teams would meet on February 24th and that game would count in the RPI. That’s crap. You know it. I know it. Again, imagine Texas football starting practice on August 28th and Ohio State starting on July 25th. Then UT has to play in the Horseshoe on Sept 1st. You think the sport of football would allow this?

And by the way, in 2004, the ABCA surveyed college baseball coaches and 84% of them said they favored a common start date.

Better stadiums countrywide lead to higher attendance, more revenue and more emphasis.

It’s been an epidemic, in a good way. Beginning mostly in the SEC, stadiums got a lot of makeovers, or in the case of South Carolina and LSU, all-new shrines to the sport. But it goes way beyond that. During the 2000s, posh new stadiums showed up in such far-flung locales like Nebraska, Penn State, BYU, Missouri State, Stetson, TCU, North Dakota State, Baylor, UNC Greensboro, Miami (Ohio) and Santa Clara. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Then there are the upgraded and expanded joints like at Michigan, Stanford, Auburn, Oregon State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Maine, Virginia, Texas and of course, the grand refacing at Ole Miss.

How popular is this trend? The best news of all may be the re-emphasis of the sport throughout the Big 10 as nearly every program has either built or is building a new stadium or renovating an existing site.


The days of free-for-all, serial school hopping come to an end.

Unlike football and basketball, baseball never required players who wanted to transfer to another school to sit out a season, until the summer of 2008. That’s when the NCAA decided to pull a 180 on that policy. There are heated arguments on both sides of the issue, such as coach Ron Polk vehemently arguing that baseball is a partial scholarship school. It doesn’t have the power to tell players what they can do since they don’t get compensated like football and basketball players do.

On the other side, most coaches do seem happy to put an end to the “feeder school” dilemma. That being where a kid at a mid-major could have a breakout season, then go to play summer ball and get “recruited” pell-mell by a major school and subsequently transfer to a major school, in a whisker of a moment. Yeah, nobody says it happens, but it does.

Oh, the other twist to the transfer rules is the elimination of mid-term transfers. Because baseball now requires players to be enrolled in the fall semester before the next season, the days of J.C. transfers and mercenaries that enroll in January to play that spring are done as well. Be that good or bad.


The coaches say it’s a huge hurdle, a threat to our sport and, ultimately, a mistake.

As best as I can tell, the Academic Progress Rate is a measure of how well student-athletes are progressing toward a degree. That’s it in a nutshell. A couple years back the NCAA discovered that college baseball players were earning fewer credit hours per year than athletes in any other sport across the board. So they stipulated some conditions that will indicate better progress for baseball players. Now, if a team doesn’t show across-the-board satisfactory progress, they could lose scholarships, get a cut in practice time or even have their amount of games cut during the season.

One of the big problems is that football and basketball players routinely make up their course hours in summer school, but with summer leagues being so predominant, college baseball players in the past don’t usually go to summer school.Therein lies one of the bigger problems.


The Punk Rock coach of college baseball’s 18-page soliloquy opened some eyes.

In the summer of 2007, Mississippi State coach Ron Polk, long a burr in the saddle of the NCAA, sat down and wrote a “state of the nation” letter to everyone in our sport, laying down the law on stupid rules and issues. It was, in essence, what EVERY coach in the country was thinking but afraid to talk about. It was a beauty.

There were far too many highlights to mention, but here are a few high notes:
- The NCAA tournament was the second-biggest money making event in the NCAA, but baseball as a whole saw very little of that money. Instead, our sport dealt with 11.7 measly scholarships, cuts in coaching staffs and restrictions across the board.
- The APR was a mistake and should be renounced for baseball.
- The NCAA put ridiculous rules on baseball, like being the only sport to make players be eligible in the fall, before the spring season started and also cutting the size of rosters to 35 players, making our sport the only one with a roster cap.
- The NCAA’s new stipulations that 27 players could get some kind of partial scholarship and those must get at least 25% of a full scholarship. (As coach Polk said, “First they’re going to only give us 11.7 scholarships and now they have the nerve to tell us how to spend them?”).

Coach Polk ended his letter by writing, “It is a true fact: for some reason college baseball has been slighted for so many years in so many ways. Our defenders (the NCAA) became our prosecutors.”

Interestingly, coach Polk mailed out 1,421 letters at a cost of $2,500 of his own money and wrote the letter in one single afternoon - Polk being famous for eschewing computers.

Also, his Athletic Director at the time, Larry Templeton, who was also the NCAA baseball committee chairman, allegedly didn’t read the letter and didn’t comment on it. The 2008 season was, not so ironically, coach Polk’s final season at MSU.


The ramifications of the sports giant taking over full time in 2003 is far-reaching.

Here’s a quick check list of the dominoes that fell when ESPN began televising the full series.

- CBS, and its ambivalence toward college baseball, would no longer carpetbag the championship game. (The CWS was force-fed on CBS by the NCAA to begin with as a package deal when CBS bought the NCAA basketball tournament in 1989.)
- There would be no more one-shot, winner-take-all title game that started at 11 freakin’ a.m. And I say, “good riddance!” with a middle finger extended.
- The CWS title round became a more logical best-of-three series between the bracket winners.
- The CWS title round also became a prime-time event, earning greater viewership.
- The series would get spread out even longer, starting on a Saturday and ending two Wednesdays later. That’s a little on the too-long side of things, agree?
- The success of ESPN’s coverage of the CWS would lead to their televising all of the Super Regionals and a couple of the Regionals.
- Two more words: Erin Andrews.

Now, if we can only get ESPN and to come on board the entire season

New digs assures the CWS stays in Omaha for another 25 years.

At first I was against getting rid of Rosenblatt Stadium, a place that I grew up spending all day watching college baseball, back when they used to play three and four games a day at the CWS (you know, before money started to ruin things). But as the months have ticked by, I’ve come to accept that Rosenblatt is kind of a pain in the ass to navigate every June and not as fan friendly. On top of that the new downtown stadium helped forge a deal with the NCAA that would lock up the College World Series with the city of Omaha at least until the day I die. So anything that keeps this great event in the O, a place that embraces college baseball like nobody else could, is fine by me.

Besides, in a year or two, when the new stadium is in full swing and we’re all enjoying another June day of college baseball action, we’ll probably be saying to each other, “What was all the fuss on this new stadium about again?”

That’s just how times change, people.

Most agree that TV is the key to getting our sport into a growth spurt.

This one is a personal favorite of mine. At the beginning of the decade, college baseball on TV was nearly dead. Only the CWS remained, of course, along with an occasional game on Fox Sports. The regular season contract with ESPN ran out in the late 80s when the Sunday college baseball game of the week was replaced by MLB baseball. College baseball on TV became nearly extinct.

But then a couple of cool things happened. Namely, the inception of CSTV (College Sports TeleVision) got things kicked off when it went on the air in 2003 and started televising games on a weekly basis. Then ESPN cranked up ESPNU in ‘05 (even though their penchant for showing six games in an entire regular season is pretty disheartening). Finally, in the latter parts of the decade, the HD-ready Big 10 Network gave exposure to a league that needed it, which could also be said for the Mountain West Conference in its new home, The Mtn. Their biggest contribution was putting Stephen Strasburg on display in a Friday night matchup with TCU last April.

Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the weekly games broadcast by Sports South and Sun Sports down South as well. Now, if only we could get networks to show more Friday night ace-vs.-ace showdowns instead of the usual Sunday rag-armfests that end up with double-digit Arenaball scores.

You use to count the college baseball websites on one hand. Now, at least add your toes.

Okay, for those of you who have heard this before, bear with me. But back in 90s, there was Baseball America and Sports Weekly as periodicals. And that was it. Nothing daily. Nothing timely. By 2000, the only original content you could find on the web was from my esteemed cohort Mark Etheridge (with his first iteration of, through Rivals), the venerable Boyd Nation and my stuff I was doing with USA Today (at at the time. In fact, that was half the reason I followed my bliss into this whole baseball writing foray, because I got tired of not finding jack-shit on the web for college baseball. Baseball America had some stuff, but it was mostly just what you found in their magazines. But then they began their weekly chats (or as I called them, the “required reading for any college baseball fan”) soon after that and started to expand their coverage on the web.

Then came the biggest news to hit our sport when, in 2003, Jeremy Mills, a Rice grad who is much smarter than you or I will ever be, started up his scoreboard site at, giving us all a way to stay updated on scores nearly as they happen. It continues today at and still knocks my socks off on a daily basis.

Though many sites have come and gone in the last few years, there are certainly more sites out there devoted to our sport than there has ever been, along with web-worthy stuff from local newspapers that have expanded the coverage that used to just show up in print during the 90s and early 2000s.

Oh, silly me, I almost forgot this part… Things exploded for me when, in 2003, CSTV and brought me along and also expanded their coverage, while changing the way our sport was covered, with creativity, a personality and a system of contributors. When CBS decided to buy CSTV and do absolutely nothing for our sport, that of course led to my site that you’re reading here - and I do hope you dig what you see.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Top 10 Colleges that Should have NCAA D1 Scholarship bearing Baseball Programs but Don't have them!!

RT Staff Note: Article from College Baseball Underground.

Some of the teams on this list are southern teams which is very surprising that there are no teams on those campuses. However, there are quite a few Northern and snow laden schools which are on the list. My longstanding strong opinion has been to play fall games that count towards league play for the cold weather schools. Enjoy the rundown.

1. University of Tulsa - Division 1A Football, The state of Oklahoma to draw from, Warm Weather. There's just a few positives that could really help the program out. According to the Baseball Almanac 8 major leaguers came out of the program before it was dropped. Turns out quite a few former players raised quite bit of cash to bring the program back but no dice per the University. Good article with former major leaguer Steve Rogers highlights the history of the program and how they college nixed them on bringing the program back. No club team exists on campus.

2. University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) - Division 1A Football, Conference USA, warm weather, fast growing economy. Need I say more? This program was actually kind of hard to find information on but turns out that the team was actually voluntarily coached by the legendary Cohen brothers who both played major league baseball for a number of years. Sadly, both of the brothers died within 6 months of each other in the mid 1980's and the program faltered after that. Naturally the college blamed it on gpa and anyone but themselves. No club team exists on campus.

3. Portland State
- Growing baseball area, Neighbors Oregon State took some titles a few years ago and their other neighbor University of Oregon just built the Ducks a beautiful stadium along with resurrecting the team after a 26 year absence of the program. There's definitely talent in that neck of the woods. There isn't even a club team on campus.

4. Colorado State
- This team is the LSU of the "Club Baseball" ( world and could give a number of NCAA teams a run for their money. The Colorado State Rams have taken several NCBA championships under Coach Mike Abernathy and are poised to take many more as the year goes on. Out of all the programs I would be really curious to see how this team would handle a NCAA D1 schedule.

5. Syracuse University - Division 1A Football, basketball. However they do produce a pretty mean Woman's Hockey and softball teams which both get more scholarships than the men's basketball team. No worries though, S.U. Basketball draws in 30,000 people for big games. I do a little "consulting" for this team myself and introduced them to the local baseball training center in town that produced a catcher for the Clemson Tigers. Also built them their first website and built up a fan base of over 600 fans via their official facebook fan page. Just a little pet project for in between articles. Like many club baseball teams, their funding from the college is around $1,000 per year. The rest comes from the players. When Syracuse University did have an NCAA team they ended up producing 10 major leaguers.

6. University of Wisconsin Badgers - Yet another Division 1A football school without baseball. A club baseball team does exist on campus.

7. University of New Hampshire
- The program that produced Carlton Fisk. Apparently a club team still exists. Need I say more?

8. Providence College
- Primary subject for the book "Strike IX" by Paul Lonardo(which is an excellent book everyone should buy The Providence College Friars took the Big East Title their last year and even had the Florida State Seminole "Animals"(an FSU specialty cheering section) cheering for them in one of their title games at Dick Howser Stadium. Great story with a sad ending. No baseball team at all exists on campus, not even in club form.

9. Boise State Broncos - Many people think their football team is top notch and underrated. Broncos football gets national attention every year. The campus should do something for baseball. Club baseball does exist on campus.

10. Montana Grizzlies
- Even though they're a top notch D1AA football team which finished runner up for the 1AA football championship this year, the baseball team needs some financing as well. Their team exists as club only.

Stupidest Baseball Conference of the Year Award Goes to: The Big East - They've only managed to let Syracuse University, Providence College, Marquette and Depaul slip away. This conference out of all of them should be leading the way in doing something to bring these teams back.

Honorable Mentions: Marquette, DePaul, Wyoming, Idaho State, U of Idaho, Iowa State, Colorado, Southern Methodist, Vermont, Northern Iowa

To see the full list of colleges that have dropped division baseball, see the weblink below.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Be Proud Not Loud

Parents of gifted athletes come in a variety of packages. The two that this article will focus on are the quiet parent vs. the outspoken one. We all have experienced a parents outrage at the plethora of sporting events throughout our child's lives. We have also seen that parent that let's his kid work it out on his own. Which one are you?

The parent you should aspire to be is the quiet, supportive type that will allow their son a chance to be his own man with no interference and zero public displays of emotion.

Parents that sit in the stands and complain that the coaches don’t know what the heck they are doing is not the type of parent your son or your friends find particularly attractive. Parents like this think that they are much more qualified to make decisions on whom to start, who to play when and what situation may warrant a better choice than the one that was executed.

OK, parents, so you think that you guys are so smart? Have you spent time with the players three or more hours a day, 6 days a week, for the past five months? Because the coaches have. That’s over 360 hours of observation and analysis of each player. They have situational practices, inter-squad scrimmages and countless hours of time in the cage to help them decide who the better players are.

Have you even seen your own kid play that much? If so, where and what was the level of competition? How much time have you spent in the cage with your own son and what credentials do you have to critique his hitting mechanics? How many ground balls or fly balls have you hit him this week? Can you teach him the proper way to field a ground ball? When do you use the back hand? Do you know the different ways to throw a double play ball to second, based on how far away from the bag the ball is hit? Have you worked with him on that for countless hours each week?

Do you work with him on how to react to the hundreds of situations that occur when runners are on base? Do you work on hitting the cut-offs everyday? How about the double cut? Do you watch him run the bases and work with him on that? At what point in the pitchers delivery should a base runner take that first step towards a steal?

How many times each week do you work on bunting with your son? When do you bunt towards third base and when should you bunt down first. Do you teach him the push bunt? When would you ever use that? Do you work with him on hit and run plays, going opposite field on off-speed, or hitting to the right side with a runner on third with one out or less?

Do you work with your son’s on covering first base if he is a pitcher? How about bunt coverage? Do you parents ever talk to your sons about the upcoming game and their hitters and what they have done in their past at bats? Are you discussing what your son should be thinking before each pitch? How about how to hit based on the count? What might the other team attempt?

Do you help him visualize situations like how to cover a steal, hit and run or bunt? Where do they need to be in each situation? Did your family dinner time conversations talk about what your MIF son should do if there is a runner on first, ball is hit back to the pitcher, and the ball is fielded and an errant throw is made to second?

Do you do any of this for three hours a day, 6 days a week? If you don't, then HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY KNOW if your son can adequately handle all of the skills well enough to earn a starting position? If you do, then you don’t have a job…because that’s exactly what coaching a team is…a full time job!

And much like in your own job, mistakes will be made, It's a crazy, unpredictable game...There will be mistakes...but not on purpose. There’s not a coach alive that wants to maliciously make it a horrible experience for your son. Oh yes, he will be tough on your son, maybe even in his him a little verbal beat down...because he wants to make him tougher...We have seen that strategy work many times...Hey, if your son can’t handle a little tough talk, how the heck is he ever going to handle a tough game situation? Heck, forget about baseball for a will he handle a game of LIFE situation? Listen, good coaches take a statement like “there’s no crying in baseball” very seriously. So stop your crying folks!

As I sit in some stands, I hear more often than not how horrible the coaches are. These are usually the parents whose sons are NOT playing. As if the kids that are playing are given some special privilege that somehow, some way their kid didn’t get. Parents, did you ever think that maybe the players that start have proven time and time again in practice that they deserve to be on the field? OK, we get it. Sometimes a starter doesn’t always deliver in a game…but maybe he impresses them so much in practice that they are pinning their hopes that he will someday break out and therefore, give him a few more chances that our armchair observations can’t see. In baseball, as it has been for the past 125 years, only 9 play on a team and if it is a close game, only 9 will play period.

Be a good your team...set an example for your own children and please, quit embarrassing yourselves in front of everyone else and have respect for the other parents that are in the stands enjoying their sons season. Sorry for the tough talk folks...High school and college ball isn’t tee ball where everyone plays and the losers get a trophy.

RT Staff

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The pock Mark on baseball

By Gene Sapakoff
The Post and Courier
Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thanks, Mark McGwire, for finally talking about the past.

But the controversial toothpaste is out of the smudged tube. The juice is out of the syringe. Barry Bonds came and went.

Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa "saved" baseball with the fabulous home run chase of 1998 and, confirmed or suspected, contributed to the demise of a great sport as we knew it.

New to his role as St. Louis Cardinals hitting coach, McGwire on Monday admitted using steroids and human growth hormone during his 1990s glory years, including the 1998 season in which he blasted a then-record 70 home runs.

Ho-hum. So much has happened since that summer originally greeted as magical.

Rafael Palmeiro lied to Congress.

The Mitchell Report named names.

Alex Rodriguez confessed, under pressure.

Ken Caminiti is dead and Roger Clemens probably isn't feeling very well.

Mostly, kids have suffered. Baseball fans in high school and younger know nothing but "The Steroid Era."

Much of the burden has been placed on coaches.

They have to warn people for a living. They have to deal with real or suspected users.

They must dust off the standard lecture every spring, the one about the dangers of ruining various favorite organs in exchange for a few more extra-base hits.

"Steroids have definitely made it tougher," College of Charleston head coach Monte Lee said Tuesday. "I played in the mid-90s and late 90s in college through the minor leagues during that steroid era. Now, we really try to educate our guys a lot. Back when I was playing in high school before the steroid era, there really wasn't a lot of education about it."

The front lines

Matt Ishee was an assistant coach at Mississippi State and Charleston Southern, and still gives private baseball lessons in the Lowcountry.

John Rhodes is director of the Charleston-based Diamond Devils, one of the most prestigious travel baseball organizations in the South.

Both have been on the front lines of the steroid evolution.

"Obviously, it's been something we've had to address," Rhodes said. "It has made things a little more difficult. I will say this: The kids, to give them credit, are pretty intelligent. The last five or six years, particularly, they realize some of these home run guys were successful because they were basically cheating."

Ishee can relate.

"I don't get as many questions now as several years ago," Ishee said. "But I used to have a lot of kids saying 'I want to get stronger and what's the best way to do it?' "

Ishee was helping Mississippi State advance all the way to the College World Series in 1998. He remembers watching TV in Omaha as the McGwire-Sosa home run derby was heating up.

Blame MLB

Lee was a junior at the College of Charleston in 1998. Later, he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and crossed paths with McGwire every day during spring training weight-room sessions in Jupiter, Fla.

"It's a good thing that he has come clean," Lee said. "It's calculated, obviously, before spring training because he knows he was going to get a lot of questions about steroid use. That bothers me a little bit."

Ishee thinks McGwire's admission is the first step in a long-term makeover effort aimed to gather Hall of Fame votes.

But lots of smart people agree McGwire is not the real villain.

"The problem was all these guys getting all the notoriety," Rhodes said of the media love for the long ball. "That's what the kids are dreaming of."

Lee blames Major League Baseball management.

"There was no testing policy," he said. "Everyone is pointing at the players, but no one seems to talk about the fact that Major League Baseball turned the other cheek. They didn't do anything when there was obviously a steroid problem in the 90s."

Now, all this time later, coaches and parents are left to clean up the mess.

Reach Gene Sapakoff at or (843) 937-5593.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

FSU Baseball: Get Out of the Cold!

RT Staff Note: On the heels of our post yesterday about the differences of Northern Climate Baseball versus Sun Belt Baseball, a story crops up in a Tallahassee TV web site about their bout with their version of cold weather. For the past month, all schools in the Norths top conferences like the Big East and Big 10 were experiencing sub zero temperatures...Yet Florida State players and coaches were complaining about their temperatures in the high 40's and 50's...IN JANUARY! Their early morning temps were still 30 or more degrees than Ann Arbor's high mid day temperature.

Now if a Florida player that is used to playing year round in a toasty climate is discouraged about the prospects of playing outdoors in 50 degree weather, what do you think a player in upstate New York is feeling right now in -5 degree weather. Many northern schools don't get to enjoy 50 degree weather on their home field until early to mid April?

Reporter: Phil Jean
WCTV Tallahassee, FL

FSU baseball may be a hot topic when it comes to favorites this college baseball season, but the players and coaches can seem to focus on only one thing - the cold.
FSU hitting coach Mike Martin, Jr. says, "We were talking about it this morning in our morning meeting about how we've all been here for a long time in Tallahassee, and to have a sustained cold snap like this is pretty bizarre. I'm tired of being cold."

FSU junior outfielder/pitcher Mike McGee adds, "I'm not a fan of the cold weather at all. I can't stand this. I mean it's okay to have this type of stuff for less than a week, but it's been like this since I've been back."

Since January 2, Tallahassee has started every day below freezing with temperatures off by 15-20 degrees from normal. With these frigid conditions, it's tough to loosen up.

FSU pitcher Sean Gilmartin says, "It's definitely tough to try to stay loose. Especially as a pitcher. You;re going out and throwing and then getting tight a little more when you sit down a little bit. Then, you have to try and go out to throw again, so it's tougher when you're pitching to go through this."

McGee adds, "It's really hard to get warm, and then once you are, warm, it's hard to figure out where your arm is at because a lot of time your muscles get kind of numb because it's so cold. So, a lot of times, it's even hard to tell if you're still tight or not because you're freezing, so you really don't know."

It may be freezing out there, but nothing can warm you up faster than the thought of playing in Omaha come June.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Seasonal Differences

On Rivals College Baseball Message Boards the other day, a poster suggested the following:

Here's a revolutionary concept for you that I know won't be popular on this board. Why don't all the Ice Belt teams and all the smaller school teams UNITE in a voting bloc to use their superior numbers to force some tough changes.

There are a couple HUNDRED schools that participate in the current D1 level of the NCAA that have NO practical chance of ever reaching a super regional, much less the college world series. Many, many smaller schools, from the north AND south alike, are nothing more than third-rate sparring partners for the "players" who annually scheme, jostle and try to play their way through to Omaha.

The current D1 has TOO MANY teams, with too many diverse liabilities, to all be competing for that tiny piece of the pie we associate with success, especially here on Rivals. If 200 teams got together and squawked loud enough, it would eventually cause the "great divide". Hopefully, it would hurry up what in my eyes is inevitable--a split of the current 300 team field of Division 1 college baseball.

I do not want the LSUs, Texas, ASUs, Miami, Fullertons, etc. to suffer at all from the impossible tasks of trying to create some semblance of a level playing field. I love watching and following great, high talent elite D1 baseball teams kick and knife their way as high as they can go. They play a vital role in the growth of our sport. But...

More than half the current D1 teams don't belong there. They don't have the money, the school backing, the climate, etc. to compete with the giants. I live next to a huge northern university. We are six days away from legal, NCAA approved "skills practice" for the 2010 season. When I logged on this morning, there was a flashing weather warning calling for frostbite conditions on all exposed skin. Temp was nine below zero, wind chills 20-25 degrees BELOW zero. There is at least a half foot of ice and frozen snow covering everything.

Please spare me the crying towels, and I know the ballplayers can do limited workouts in the gym or armory. But is that hindrance in any way equal to what an Arizona or Miami will be putting up with next week?

We could cut the current D1 participants from 300 teams to 128 teams and still keep the 64-team NCAA tournament field. Still keep regionals, supers and the CWS the way it is. The other 170 or so teams would become a Division 1-AA with a little shorter season and their own playoff system much like 1-AA football has. The administrations could save travel and competitive scholarship monies if needed, and still offer a baseball team for their student athletes.

The 128-team D1 schools would be free to negotiate with the NCAA and each other about start dates, travel, scholarship numbers growth, TV rights, etc. They can do what is best for their situations, while not having to compromise because of the limitations of many of the current schools in D1.

I am convinced the change is coming anyway. I would just like to see it happen sooner rather than later. I think everyone would come out better off in the long run. And it is certainly better than schools having or choosing to drop baseball altogether.

Personally, we feel that this is a tremendous idea. Unlike basketball and football, many of the northern schools are just not committed to baseball because of the high cost of early season travel and little return on investment.

Why not have a warm weather division and a cold weather division that play at different times? Or...why not let the cold weather schools play a fall schedule that starts in Mid August and runs through late October? Fan attendance would be bigger, the weather more like real baseball and the travel is cut to a minimum.

Another solution is to let the cold weather states, split their season to September/October and April/May. Then, they can still participate in the College World Series...maybe with better results...because they can compete for better players since they are not playing or practicing in bitter cold weather.

What do you think?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Off Base Parents

RT Staff Note: From The Boston Globe...Oh brother...Parents gone wild!

Board members are squabbling over league rules, and jockeying for control. Managers are allegedly stockpiling talent in the minor leagues. Lawyers are involved.

No, this isn’t another labor dispute in Major League Baseball. This contentious state of affairs comes courtesy of Little League - ages 9 to 12.

The Parkway Little League - one of the state’s oldest leagues, known in Boston as an intensely competitive winning machine - is awash in controversy, beset by bitter disputes over how the 14-team league is run and who should run it. The infighting has dragged on for months, delayed league elections and the annual player draft, and resulted in the league’s charter being suspended amid allegations that it has run afoul of a host of Little League rules.

The strife, many say, is fallout from the often hypercompetitive culture of youth sports, the latest example of intensely involved parents turning a beloved childhood game into a bureaucratic brawl.

“You know how adults can be in these situations. They’re worse than the kids,’’ said Steve Barr, media relations director for Little League International in Williams port, Pa. “In this case, things kind of snowballed and got out of control. It was adults bickering more than anything else.’’

At the heart of the brouhaha was a feuding 31-member board that controls virtually everything the league does, from ordering uniforms to setting schedules - and, most controversially recently, enforcing a system that allowed major league managers to hold some players on minor league teams.

The practice effectively created a farm system, with managers of major league teams getting a certain number of “protected’’ players on a minor league team who can be called up when needed.

It was simply the way things were done, some felt. “It was just a format we used to put kids on a team,’’ said Dave Greenwood, a 33-year-old who coached the league’s state championship team in 2008, advancing to the regional competition in Bristol, Conn.

But it had begun to irritate a growing number of parents, who felt the system penalized some players by holding them out of league-wide tryouts and preventing them from advancing to other major league teams. Others felt certain coaches had managed to gain advantages by monopolizing talented players.

A revolt began. And soon a growing slate of other complaints had put the board in the crosshairs. Some parents, including several on the board, alleged that a number of long-serving members had hijacked the board and blocked efforts to change the system.

“Just because we as a league had been doing it wrong for years that didn’t make it OK,’’ said Joe Castellano, a 42-year-old board member whose 12-year-old son plays in Parkway. “Once they’re protected, they don’t have the opportunity to try out for the majors. They were stuck in the farm system so to speak.’’

The dispute escalated. Squalls erupted at heated board meetings. Lawyers were brought in, at a cost of several thousand dollars, to scour the league’s constitution.

“There were two months of back and forth,’’ said Patrick Holden, assistant regional director of Little League’s Eastern Region in Bristol. “They were debating clauses in their own constitution.’’

Some disgruntled parents, in the midst of the squabble, had contacted Little League Baseball, which was dismayed to learn of the league’s farm system.

“They treated it like it was Major League Baseball,’’ Holden said. “Psychologically, what are you telling these kids? That’s definitely not within our guidelines.’’

Trying to quell the disputes and set Parkway straight on its procedures, Little League sent a representative to league meetings. It didn’t help.

“She kind of took over,’’ said Joe Petitpas, who was league president at the time, before resigning last month amid the controversy. “We definitely butted heads. She wasn’t going to give an inch and neither was I.’’

A stern letter from Little League Baseball warned the league to conform to a list of rules - anything from those restricting the number of pitches that young players can throw in a game to others prohibiting jewelry on the field. But it had a fundamental admonishment: Restore “basic and general communication.’’

The controversy continued. But on Monday, the league made a move that Little League officials said would go a long way toward winning its charter back. In an attempt to minimize dissent on the board, it simply slashed it nearly in half, to 17, ridding it in the process of some of the staunchest defenders of the old system.

With thoughts of baseball far away during the off-season, some parents have only followed the dust-up from a distance, but say the whole affair is a shame.

“It’s unfortunate that these things happen,’’ said Dan Murphy, whose son plays in the league. “You don’t want to upset children’s enjoyment of the game. I just hope they iron it out.’’

Greenwood said it was unfortunate that some board members let the disputes get personal and take on a life of their own.

“It became a power struggle between a group of adults, and it never should have gotten that far,’’ he said. “I’m looking forward to moving forward. Let’s get rid of the lawyers and play baseball.’’

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Where Do You Want To Go To School?

RT Staff Note: The following is from the Baseball Factory Blog and Ron Naddleman. Naddelman is a former two-time All Ivy League Third Baseman at the University of Pennsylvania, where he competed in a College World Series Regional. He has served as the President of Baseball Factory for the past 13 years, and also is the Executive Director of Baseball Factory's charitable arm The B.A.S.E. - H.I.T. Foundation. Naddelman and Steve Sclafani (CEO) have been featured in Business Week and CNN for their work in building Baseball Factory into the nation's leader in player development and college placement.

Rob Naddelman: Through a Parent’s Eyes

The above question is one that I, or our Exclusive Program Senior Vice President Kelly Kulina, often pose whenever we get a chance to sit down with a Baseball Factory player at one of our Player Development events. By far the most popular answer that we have received over the past 13 years is, “Anywhere I can play baseball.”

That answer sounds good on paper, but usually it is far from the truth. My response when I hear this answer from a player is usually something like this:

Me: OK, let’s say that the head coach from Minot State in South Dakota really wants you to play for him, are you ready to go to South Dakota for your college experience?

When posed with that circumstance, most of our players say something like this:

Player 1: No way, I would never want to go to a school that small. Or…
Player 2: I want to go play down South where it’s warm. Or…
Player 3: I don’t want to have to get on a plane to go to school. I want to be a car ride away from home. Or even…
Player 4: South Dakota is not far away enough for me. I want to get as far away from my parents as possible. (This one tends to sting a bit for mom and dad who are usually sitting next to their son)

I use these examples to illustrate that there are a lot of factors to consider when making a college decision and very rarely does the decision only come down to, “where I can play baseball.”

As a parent, the key is to try and get your son thinking and see what it is that he likes or doesn’t like about a particular college. I understand that when you are dealing with 16-18 year old young men, it can be difficult to muster up more than a one word answer or a grunt when asked about their future. I have had the following conversation many times as well with our players:

Me: “So, do you want to go to a school in a city?”

Player: “I don’t know.” (As player looks down at the ground and bites his nails).

Me: “Do you like a big campus, or a small campus?”

Player: “Uh, whatever.” (As player shifts in his seat and glances at his cell phone for a text message)

Me: “How far away from home do you want to be?”

Player: “Doesn’t matter.”

I have seen on-looking parents cringe when their sons give responses like the ones I outlined above. Most parents feel the urge to want to jump in and start answering the questions to prove that they are good parents and have not raised a Neanderthal.

Parents need to try and fight this urge and instead, use these examples as an opportunity to get proactive in the college search process. Sometimes the best way to find out what a player likes about a college is to first find out what he doesn’t like. The key is to see as many schools as possible and to start to form opinions. Even if your son is convinced that he wants to go as far away from home as possible (as an aside…usually, our kids talk a good game, but when it comes down to making this decision, they prefer to be closer than further to home), you should still start with the schools that are within a two to three hour radius from your house. Chances are there are many NCAA DI, DII, DIII, Junior Colleges or NAIA programs in that geographic area, so you will see a good cross-section of options. This will help him form opinions on schools with 25,000 people vs. 2,500 people; schools in an urban setting vs. a rural setting; schools with on-campus housing vs. off-campus housing, etc.

Moms and Dads should throw as many questions as possible to their sons when they are on these visits. What do you think of this campus? How do you think you would do with these classroom sizes? One parent can ask the questions, and the other can write down the answers so that nobody forgets the first impression, which is usually the strongest and most accurate. As a family, you can then apply what your son does like about a school that is close to home and compare it to schools outside your geographic area. For instance, if you live in Maryland and your son thinks University of MD, College Park is too big; he probably will feel the same way about UCLA, University of Texas, and the University of Michigan. Even though those schools have great baseball programs, they may not be the right fit for him.

And remember, players at any age are allowed to take as many unofficial visits to colleges as they like. An unofficial visit is when the college program covers no player expenses for travel. The sophomore year in high school is a very good time to start taking these unofficial visits.

So get out there, see some schools, and help your son form some real opinions on what is important to his future. It is hard for them to know what they like until they can see it with their own eyes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Be A Winner, Not A Whiner

Has your son ever been on a team that is full of a bunch of whiners on the bench because they don’t like the style of coaching or don’t get enough playing time and do nothing but bring the rest of the team down? We know a few kids that have had that experience. Here's what we think.

If You Don’t Dream About Baseball, Then Baseball is NOT Your Dream

The players that cared and performed well on teams are what we call diamond dogs. They all eat, breathe, sleep and dream baseball. Most of the time you will find that 100% of the starters and contributors on that team, coincidently played on summer college development programs that they had to try-out for. They were used to the competition…used to the pressure…and could handle the heat of a demanding and grizzly tempered coach. In fact, most players prefer ill tempered coaches to more laid back ones…Most stars on a team like the pressure of someone being on their butts all the time. And, it should be no surprise that these same players are the stat leaders on their team. Tough guys win in tough situations.

The whiners are usually recreational ball players. We define recreational ball as any community league, such as Legion. Now, there are Legion teams that are good in some smaller communities, and not all Rec ballplayers are like the players in our scenario. But, for the most part…in large markets and sun-belt states, Legion Ball can be a false sense of security and a safe haven for mediocre players. Sorry parents if you disagree. In large markets, the better players ARE playing on college development programs…there are very few exceptions to this…the rest are playing Rec ball. If you look at any D-I signee list, 90% of the D-I players played on a college development program...Enough Said.

Therefore, the whiners for the most part, get ample playing time in the summer months on their rec teams…which is an awesome thing…That part we like. The only way to get better is to play more. That's what that league is give baseball players that don't play at a high level, a chance to play more and possibly get better.

But, we all must put these things into perspective as parents. A star on a Rec team is not the same as a star on a Travel team…just as a star on a Single-A team in the pro’s is not the same caliber as a star on the Major League Roster. There are different levels of competition and different levels of success. High school is somewhere in between the rigors of travel ball and the watered down competition level of Rec Ball. It's a step up for the rec guys and usually a heck of a lot of fun for the Travel players.

Numbers don't lie. Travel Ball players are putting up gaudy High School stats. Last season, Orange Lutherans Gerrit Cole and Aaron Gates and American Heritage’s, Joey Belviso and Eric Hosmer had insane stats. There are hundreds more like them that play at the same high level of play that had equally lofty stats.

On the other hand, as we stated earlier, the Rec ball player sees high school as a higher level of play. The stars in the Rec league…those guys that were putting up lofty numbers against lesser competition, often find it a bit tougher to put up those big stats on varsity. When they don't have that same success in High School as they did the past summer, they risk losing their confidence, cool, and passion for the game, because they had it so easy with Dad as their coach in Rec ball. They start to blame the coaches or others for their lack of success and unfortunately, so do many of their parents. If we heard it once, we heard it a million times…”My son hit .500 on his Legion team and he can’t crack the line-up on his high school team…the coach is a joke”. No parents, the league your son played on was not as competitive and did not properly prepare him for the level of play his HS league has. Although many rec players may indeed be good…and may someday develop into better players…the big fish in a small pond kid will have a tough time in the Ocean a majority of the time.

Back to the College Development Program players. They never had it easy. Hosner, Belviso, Cole and Gates DID NOT have those stats on their CDP teams. Belviso did not have 12 HR’s in 22 CDP games. Each had to earn their positions, work hard to maintain their status on the team and prove that they were worthy to play day in and day out...and did so in front of pro scouts and college recruiters. That's a lot of pressure for a 16 and 17 year old kid.

There were no dads guaranteeing them a spot on the roster. There were no city boundries limiting them to a local team. The travel teams that they played on had a dozen guys just like them from all over the state competing for their spot…so it raised their game to a higher level…and it’s no surprise that they all are considered the nations best…because they competed day in and day out in the summer against the nations best.

To the travel ball player, high school is a bit easier…and as a result a bit more fun and rewarding…But they too realize that success in high school does not mean success in college or the pros. They are smarter and savvier than that…because they have seen that higher level of play and while they may be basking in the accolades that high school brings…it’s a whole new ball game at the next level.

If only whiners could take that attitude and treat high school as their next level and grind it out rather than grind everyone around them down…that team and others like that team would be a lot more fun to play for.

Guys, it’s usually not just the coach…It’s your attitude towards the game…the commitment to yourself…and your work ethic that will make or break your high school career.