Lightning Baseball

Summer Ball
Posted Apr 29, 2017

Summer ball…Competition vs Exposure

When did summer baseball become more about exposure than it is about playing the game at the highest levels possible? I remember when our boys were young, we would travel all over the country to play baseball in some of the toughest tournaments we could find. The team simply wanted to play against the best players in the country, and show everyone else that baseball players in CO can compete with anyone else in the country. Now, it’s virtually the first question I’m asked when talking with families (and many other coaches are saying the same thing) - “what kind of exposure/visibility is my son going to get this summer…”.

When our boys got to HS, it was still about the same thing – the competition. We didn’t know much about showcases, Perfect Game, national player “rankings” and more - obviously because most of it didn’t exist. We just did our research and tried to find the best teams in the country and what tournaments they were in so we could go play against them. That’s how we made all our decisions.
In the summers of 2000 and 2001 we played in the AAU National Championships in Orlando, FL - finishing in the top 8 in the country both years! Virtually every player on our team had committed somewhere by then, but they still had zero hesitation about traveling to those places to go up against the best. Playing against the best competition was the goal so that when players finished the summer and stepped on a college campus for the first time, that fall, they would be the most prepared they could possibly be. Those players went on to have tremendously successful baseball careers, many of them ultimately playing professional baseball. My belief was that those kids were more interested in the competition of the game than they were with the visibility of what they did.

So often today kids, and parents, believe that since they have already committed to a college, there’s no need to travel around the country. I quote “because we don’t need the visibility any longer”. It is players, and parents, believing that staying home (in CO) for the summer will be fine. The competition is fine – but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s strong. Sure it is, for any one specific game. But game in and game out the competition simply isn’t as strong as it is in other parts of the country. So by staying home, it’s nice – the kids get to spend more time w/ their family and friends. That last hurrah before college. However, they are missing out on competing at the highest levels and preparing themselves for the level of competition they will face in college. Can they overcome that? Sure they can – sometimes. But the best, of the best, usually don’t want to take that risk.

I often ask the players why they play the game…and frequently I get the response “to play in college” or “to get better” - but rarely do I hear “because I love to play the game”. And that, more than anything else, should be the reason to play. Because of the love of the game itself. The spirit, the competition. Not the visibility of it. When did it change?

DT