I recently went to Lakepoint (which recently filed for bankruptcy protection) and watched an elite tournament take place. There was a huge buzz in the air about one of the teams that spent 100K to assemble a “team to win it”. All of the players were discussing as well as were the parents.
The team was easy to spot full of DI commitments and a coach that had his chest poked out like he was “the man”. He had his girlfriend attending as well and she was gleaming from the stands as the team raced out to a 3-0 start. The coach was friends with everyone, making conversation with people in the crowd and bouncing around like he was high on life.
There were multiple assistant coaches, nice uniforms, and a history. The history is the team was picking up where the former team brand failed. A brand that took off quickly and had multiple locations all over the country playing in tournaments all over jetting in pitchers and players as needed to “win” events. That brand no longer exists and is tied to many questionable things even back in the basketball days. Where did they go and why are they using a new name to gather teams for these BIG Events?
What Is The Benefit?
There is not one thing that I witnessed that was good for the game, good for the families or good for the coaches. Everyone has sold their soul to “win” a championship. Not win a championship with players that are part of a program that you develop and build relationships with but with “hired guns”.
So things are now so bleak that you have Daddy Big Bucks spending 100K to assemble a team for a week to go win a championship at this event. 36K was spent on tournament entry fee to guarantee what times and what fields their group was going to play. 18 players from across the country were flown in, provided car rental, had a hotel at the Hilton and “lived large” with their family and girlfriends who were “hired” for this one-time event.
The players and their families had to be told (I saw the email) not to go buy out all of the food at the hotel at 2 AM when they had the munchies. I will not cover the things that were taking place that would make them have the munchies at 2 AM. Many of these players were “unsupervised” and pretty much had the run of the town.
Where is the benefit in that for the players? They are getting exploited and put in a position where only bad things can happen. They are kids, kids who are not being treated as a professional while they are amateur. How can college coaches and pro scouts condone what is taking place? Do they condone it? I say by attending these events and supporting the actions that are taking place they are condoning it.
So we have this hired gun team riding high starting off with a 3-0 start and everyone in the complex thinking they are rock stars. Man, they had some big arms and big commitments and were being treated as a royalty. An envy of all the other teams who were in attendance and set to compete against them.
Players on this team are expecting to walk through their opponents and win a championship. These guys are not there to get the exposure they have already committed to powerful DI programs and many are professional prospects, they are there simply to win this tournament and have the time of their lives doing so.
The players along with their girlfriends and families enjoy all the luxury of being treated well and pretty much acting as if it is a vacation and they are paying for it with their services on the field. Everyone wants to win a championship although this team was assembled only for this event and the “teammates” may never play with each other again.
As the legend spreads and all the other teams become suddenly motivated to beat this 100K team, the baseball gods spoke and the 100K team loses their next 3 games and are knocked out of contention for playing for the National Championship. The coach looks like he lost all the air in his chest and his belly is not sticking out far and now his girlfriend stays at the pool instead of attending the games.
The coach begins to challenge (blame) the players, the players do not care and no one all of a sudden wants to pitch so he is throwing guys back out on the mound that were already overworked asking them to get them out of an inning. I witnessed a pitcher wave the coach to the mound so he could be taken out. I would have pulled the pitchers 8 batters before the horrid inning.
I saw 8 wild pitches in one of their losses. I saw balls being thrown halfway up the backstop seeking the highest velocity possible. It was a complete train wreck and the engineer who put it all together was exposed. He could recruit talent (who could not with an open checkbook) but found out how hard it was to get players to play hard for you.
Changes Are Coming
It is obvious there is a major problem and following in the footsteps of what was going on in basketball. Things will have to change with more regulation and oversight on all parties as things are out of control. No one can save themselves from the circle of trouble.
Players have to play to get exposure, parents have to support their kids, coaches have to play in these tournaments to get the exposure or no players will play on their team, you have to win championships or you will not have the elite players play on your teams and the college coaches have to attend these events as they have to keep up with their counterparts and not lose a chance to see so many players at one location.
I call to the college coaches to stop attending these events. Host camps at their campus and better identify potential prospects using technology that will make them more efficient. See fewer people with a better chance of signing than more people with a less chance of signing them. The problem is that everyone is there for the “Elite” and there are only 25 elite programs in the country. People will begin to figure things out and quit letting the social aspect of the chase to control their process.
There are so many things I can write about a reference to this story that I will not because it would take to long and open up to many cans of worms. Bottom line is it is bad for baseball, bad for families and everyone involved. When will everyone begin to act prudently and wisely in reference to the development and exposure?
It is bad business when only a few people and companies are making millions of dollars and everyone else is supporting the profit of these companies by being manipulated into chasing the eye of a recruiter. Everyone wants to be an early recruit and wear their fan wear to the venues across the country letting everyone know their son has committed to XXX.
I have two grown kids that were good baseball players and NEVER played in one of these events. They both played college baseball and had successful careers at small colleges. They were not Division I Elite players. I know the importance of developing and investing in the athlete to be sure they are in the best environment possible to reach their full potential.
I know the environment I saw this past week was not a good environment for any player and provide limited or no benefit, however, I saw more malicious things taking place where young men were being taken advantage of and used as a tool to build a trophy case. I am excited to offer and support an environment that promotes the athletes well being first while extending ongoing support before, during and after their baseball careers are over.