Monthly Archives: March, 2012

What We Want in Tournaments

Each year, the Gamers host 3-4 invitational tournaments for 17u teams at locations like Mizzou, Arkansas State, Memphis University, SLU and Lindenwood.  These are elite tournaments, usually just 6 teams with every game played at the college field and attended by a significant number of college coaches.

Aside from these 3-4 events, the Gamers program is not in the tournament business and has no desire to be in the tournament business.

Running tournaments in select level youth baseball is a challenging business in its own right, and is not a good fit with our overall program mission.  Sure, we could make some money doing it.  But, our mission is not about making money.   Instead, we strive to work with tournament operators across the country to help us achieve our goals.  

So, what do we want from tournament operators … it is a short list of seven items:

  • Good competition
  • Good fields, worthy of the hard work that our players put into playing
  • Well-organized events, planned in advance and with good and timely communication
  • A commitment to playing games and overcoming weather problems (this means investment in field crews and turface)
  • Space to hold our pre-game practices/warm-ups
  • Reasonable time limits, where you play to 7 innings 80% of the time
  • Good umpires, appropriate for the level of competition, that want to be there
We want tournaments to be a pre-set schedule of 4-5 games each weekend.  More scheduled pool play games against good competition is the recipe for a great event.  Most of our players already have a shelf full of $3 trophies.  If a champion must be crowned, then it can just be based on best record instead of a playoff style format that gets in the way of teaching the game.  
We want umpires that are not afraid to call strikes.  When umpires call strikes, it creates an environment that is healthy for pitchers, focuses action on the field, and shortens game times.  By calling strikes, more baseball is squeezed into a 2 hour time slot.  There is simply no downside to calling strikes.  It teaches kids to play the game.
Regarding time limits, we want to play 120 minute games instead of 100 minute games.  We would happily pay 20% more for this.  Actually, we would rather play 7 inning, 21 out games.  The clock has no place in baseball.  
I do not think this is asking too much.  As a program, we would rather pay $700+ for a tournament that delivers these things, than $350 for a tournament that doesn’t.

At the national level, Perfect Game and USA Baseball deliver events that meet these requirements.  Regionally, Pastime Tournaments is doing a good job.  Locally, Greater Midwest Baseball is working hard to deliver good events.  There are others in the mix too.

We look forward to the day when our families spend a lot less money on travel.

Updated — HS Baseball for Freshman and Sophomores

Note — this is a updated post from last year.  Topic is still important.

This posting is primarily directed to 15u and 16u Gamers.

We have now had hundreds of players go through high school baseball as freshmen and sophomores. Some have had great experiences. Others had bad experiences. It is important to have your expectations set properly and go into the high school baseball experience with the right mindset.
First a little grounding in reality. Of the Gamers playing college baseball right now, here is what they did during their freshman and sophomore years in high school:
During their freshmen year, 50% played freshman ball, 35% played JV and 15% played varsity.
During their sophomore years, 60% played JV and 40% played varsity.
Every situation is different. Some of our players go to huge high schools, some to small high schools. Some high school coaches push younger players to play “up”, while other coaches have firm policies to play juniors and seniors.
So, don’t get too caught up on whether you play freshman, JV or varsity baseball.  Obviously, we would like you to play at the varsity level and hope that you get that opportunity.
But, we have had a number of players go on to play D1 college baseball that never played “up” in high school and did not even start as juniors. High school baseball is not necessarily a good indicator of college baseball potential or opportunities.

WE HAVE HAD KIDS COMMIT TO PLAYING COLLEGE BASEBALL WITHOUT EVER STARTING A GAME IN VARSITY HIGH BASEBALL.   

There are lots of reasons why this happens.  I am not going to dwell on that.  But, it happens.
The opportunity to play “up” depends on a lot of factors, many of which are entirely outside of your control. My observation is that the process of selecting players to play “up” is not necessarily based on a players’ baseball talent, skill or attitude. Other factors clearly come into play, making the process seem almost random
This randomness can be quite frustrating for high school athletes and parents. But, it is outside of your control.
So, if you are selected to play “up”, congratulations. You need to work hard, continue to improve, earn playing time, be a leader and play like a Gamer.
Your challenge is to pick up good habits from older teammates, and NOT pick up bad habits. I have seen too many freshmen play at the varsity level for all four years, and never get significantly better. By the time they are juniors, they start getting passed by. It happens all the time…don’t let it happen to you.
If you are not lucky enough to be selected to play “up”, just relax and focus on the things that can control. You need to do the same things as the players that are playing “up” — work hard, continue to improve, earn playing time, be a leader and play like a Gamer.
Your challenge is to overcome lower quality competition, fields and umpires to use the high school experience to improve your game, develop your skills and prepare you for the summer. With the right mindset, you can have a very successful and productive high school season without playing “up”.
This is what “pursuing excellence” is all about. You compete against yourself to get better, day by day, regardless of the level of competition you are facing. This is how you can take control of your high school baseball experience.
Remember John Wooden’s definition of success — “Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best that you are capable of becoming“.
Learning and mastering this mental approach is 10x more important than whether or not you play “up” as a freshman or sophomore in high school baseball. This is the mental approach that will ultimately help you succeed at higher levels of baseball and other aspects of your life.

Good luck and we cannot wait until summer baseball kicks off.