Archive | College Recruiting

World Series: What’s to be Learned?

Now that the World Series is over, and a champion is crowned, what can Ruffnecks players (and families) learn from it?  To start with, it has been the opinion of Ruffnecks coaches for a long time that players do NOT WATCH ENOUGH  BASEBALL!  So, at the very least, if baseball players watched Game 7, there are plenty of take-away lessons that are important.  Consider the following post by Chad Longworth, just hours after Ben Zobrist captured his second championship and MVP honors:

Just Keep Going (by Chad Longworth)

Ben Zobrist is the 8th player in Major League history to win Back to Back World Series Championships for different teams and now has an MVP in his pocket. As a high school senior, he signed at an open tryout for unsigned players to Olivet Nazarene University to continue his baseball career and his Christian education. The single most important factor in achieving success in uncommon ways isn’t the hitting secret or the fancy travel ball showcase team. It is a willingness to put in the boring work and to put one foot in front of the other every single day. Many players will talk about being great, talk about winning championships, but talk means nothing. Social media posturing means nothing. Being anointed by recruiting services and Baseball America means nothing. It’s about doing the daily work when no one is watching.

The simplicity of these truths is staggering.

Oh no!  Ben Zobrist did not get recruited… and he survived!  He did not do showcases; he did not get an early commitment; he did not get recruited the summer before his junior year in high school; he did not get recruited the summer before his senior year in high school; he did not even get recruited during his senior YEAR in high school.  Oh no!  Perhaps his parents should have spoken to the coach, or pushed him harder, or gotten an advisor.  Regrettably, we are in a culture where baseball is often dominated by well meaning parents who think they can engineer the outcome with opportunities that are bought or created (daddy ball).  And sometimes it works.  But thank goodness for the Ben Zobrists of the world.  He is a champion and an MVP, and he had to do it the hard way.

What Else Did We See in Game 7?

We saw baseball players on the biggest stage doing just about everything in a baseball game.  Highly skilled players bobbled balls; came through in the clutch; made bad decisions; made good decisions; failed; met with the exhilaration of the greatest success… you name it… you saw it… if you were watching.  It was Game 7, The World Series, and it was close.  It was the scenario in every real ball player’s dream… to be in the biggest game, at the biggest moment.  From a baseball standpoint, it revealed so many fundamental truths about the game.  Each pitch mattered.  Taking extra bases mattered.  Failing to take an extra base cost both teams at different times (in the entire series).  Two-strike approaches were all over the place.  Did anyone really watch Rajai Davis, and how far he choked up on the bat just to survive to the next pitch?  There is no way he was trying to hit a home run.  He just wanted to put the ball in play.  By the way, Davis is a New England kid who played multiple sports in high school: football, basketball, and baseball.  And further, he was drafted in the 38th round, never played in the Cape Cod League, and like Zobrist, was not recruited by a Division I college.

If we were really watching, we saw some gutsy plays.  We saw a failed squeeze in the perfect moment when a squeeze may have won the game, and would have made a hero and a genius out of player and manager, respectively.  Instead, we watched the player fail to execute, and we were left second guessing the manager.  We saw genius, and we questioned the decision making of really smart baseball men.  This is what makes baseball like none other.  We saw competition at a fever pitch… intoxicating, adrenelin-pumping, competition from 50 of the best baseball players on the planet.  Some had small roles, slumped, couldn’t deliver; some had to deliver in small ways; some met the moment in big ways that most of us only dream about.  But in the end… as we in the Ruffnecks INSIST we must do, we saw two TEAMS play as teams and not for themselves.

Baseball has not abdicated its place in the sports conscience of America or the world.  It is just that we don’t watch either enough, or closely enough.  If we watched, we would understand our roles as players, coaches, spectators, (and parents) much better.  We would capture the joy of playing a most difficult game, not for ourselves, not for a ranking, not for a “commitment,” not for anything but the satisfaction of winning the next inning, contributing, getting hit by a pitch to move a runner along, making a play, and relishing the moment.

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The Divsion I Frenzy: Does it Matter?

It is that time of year… students are returning to their high schools after a summer of baseball, readying themselves for the academic rigors of a new school year.  Some seniors have already committed to colleges, many others continue the process.  Juniors and Sophomores engage in scuttlebutt about “this guy” or “that guy” who is being recruited by some big university in the south.  A few Juniors, and even Sophomores, are getting “offers,” sometimes with pressure from college coaches to “take it or leave it, or else we will move on to others.”  The pressure mounts.  What does it all mean? And how much does it all matter?

In the Ruffnecks program we do our best to meet with every player to discuss academic and college aspirations.  Commonly, the initial response to the question of “What are your goals and aspirations?” is “I want to play Division 1, and I want to go south.”  Indeed, we have talented and focused players in the Ruffnecks program, many of whom can and will play Division 1 (whether they go south or not).  However, this frenzy and anxiety is rooted in the pressures from parents, peers, and the “noise” of recruiting services, prospect camps, and empty promises of national, select, teams that claim to wave a magic wand and deliver a D-1 scholarship.  One such organization, here in New England, is even dangling the carrot of “playing for your country” to 12, 13, and 14 year olds…  Taking 13 year olds to a national training complex in North Carolina in September?  A 13 year old?  Really?  Is this funded by the United States Olympic Committee, or is it simply another pay-to-play opportunity?

The Problem

The problem is that reality and expectations do not always align.  The Ruffnecks certainly contribute to the problem.  How?  We boast the accomplishments of our alums.  We communicate how many Ruffnecks have been drafted.  We tweet the commitments of players to big schools.  We fall into the trap.  But we also work tirelessly to combat the problem by working with families to understand the process.  We build TEAMS not Showcase Teams. We foster a culture in which it is fun to travel, play baseball, and be among athletes of like-minded goals and aspirations.  We hope that the friendships forged through the Ruffnecks experience endure.  But the problem constantly looms on the horizon.  Parents (and players) want their kids to get a baseball scholarship, go down south, or to “use baseball to get into a better school.”  Great, but few really have a smooth path.

The problem is also nurtured by organizations and programs that boast “Division 1″ or “draft picks” among players who may have worn that team’s uniform for a single event, or a single tournament.  Again… Really?  New teams, old teams, coaches, make claims that they get kids scholarships or get kids D-1 commitments in order to recruit for their team or program.  And face it, schools do the same thing.  They measure and promote themselves by how many IVY League admissions they get, or their median or mean SAT scores.  The world may not change.  But we can try to catch ourselves, recalibrate, and take a deep breath.

The Solution

The solution lies in the reality that most baseball players of high purpose and focus will find themselves in schools and college baseball environments that are fulfilling.  Certainly, most Ruffnecks players will find their way.  However, the Ruffnecks will not recruit players to this program with promises that we can deliver anything other than an opportunity to reach those goals and aspirations.  We do not deliver scholarships.  We do not deliver D-1 guarantees.  We hope we deliver a journey in which the phone calls to home are punctuated by, “I really like it here.”  The solution also lies in the reality that Division I baseball is not for everyone, and many Division III players are perfectly capable of playing at some Division I schools.  The challenge is to find the school that meets an individual’s academic and athletic aspirations.

The solution also continues to reside in the ability of parents to “chill” as the expression goes.  In several of our year-end conferences we hear the parents do most of the talking, despite the fact their sons are 16 or 17 years old and know our preference that it be the player’s journey.  And the look of anxiety on parents’ faces far exceeds what shows on the player’s face.  Indeed, parents have legitimate questions that deserve to be answered.  But conversations that are steered by parents and not the player are less productive than when the player has focus and purpose.  The definition of success as a parent is not tied to the outcome of a collegiate baseball roster spot for a son.  It is, after all, a game to be played for fun and what it means to our American culture, heritage, and to fulfill our competitive instincts.

Tucker Healy

Our favorite story continues to be the Tucker Healy story.  Tucker was one of the original Ruffnecks in 2003 when the program had none of the reputation it currently enjoys.  Tucker graduated high school in 2008 with no scholarship offers and no recruiting offers at all.  He was captain, short stop, and sometimes pitched for his high school.  He played 1B, 2B, and sometimes pitched for the Ruffnecks in his last few years.  Certainly, not a steady script.  Tucker went to Division III Ithaca College, where his mother went.  He became a pitcher, only. He could not get a summer baseball roster spot on any of the known collegiate summer leagues after his freshman year in college.  He went home to play Legion baseball.  Between his sophomore year and junior year he got a spot in the NECBL.  Between his junior year and senior year he got a spot in the Cape Cod League.  He did not get drafted after his junior year, as most pro prospects do.  He was selected by the Oakland Athletics after he graduated from Ithaca.  He has progressed all the way to Triple A.  He may be the first Ruffnecks alum to get a moment in the Major Leagues… but that remains to be seen.  Wouldn’t that be a fine story?

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Fall Baseball Notices

(Updated Friday, Nov. 16 at 2:00pm)


Ruffnecks Banquet
Monday, Nov. 19

6:00 - 6:30  Arrival and Mix
6:30 - 7:00  Dinner Served
7:00 - 8:15  Program
8:30             Evening Ends

Ruffnecks Banquet - Monday, Nov. 19

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