Thursday, July 21, 2011

Youth Baseball: Nations Baseball National Tournament (Part 7)

Nations Baseball Premier National Championship - Gulfport, Mississippi - What to do besides play baseball

We had a good time in Gulfport, Mississippi watching our team compete in 7 games at the Nations Baseball Premier National Championship. That is a lot of games in 5 days, but we still had time to do some other things - besides eat that is.

Swim / Beach - Gulfport, MS is right on the Gulf of Mexico. The kids had a good time wading in the warm waters of the gulf. The kids could actually walk out about 1/4 of a mile and the water would still be waist high. From the beach it made me nervous, but it was really nothing to worry about. The kids enjoyed the swimming pool and the condos better.

Putt - Putt (Mini golf) - There is a family fun center on border of Biloxi and Gulfport on Beach Boulevard called Big Play. They had two 18 hole mini-golf courses.
Big Play Mini-Golf
Golf - There are lots of golf courses in the area, the players dads played on two. One was perhaps, no it was, the worst golf course I have ever played on, yet we had a blast. The first course we picked we chose alphabetically. This is not a recommended way to choose a golf course, but we were calling at 7pm on Monday night for a 8am Tuesday morning tee time. We were concerned that we waited too long. Googled "Golf Gulfport" and the first listing was Bayou Vista. I called and much to my surprise I secured two tee time 8:30 and 8:40. When we arrived we found out why it was so easy to get a tee time. The golf course is situated between the runway of the Gulfport - Biloxi International Airport and a sewage treatment plant. The club house is a trailer that is falling apart. Many of the greens were not green at all. I would not recommend this course, but we all have entertaining stories to tell about the worst golf course in America.
One story - Hole 6 (I think it was hole 6) is a dog leg right. You need a decent drive to turn the corner to have a look at the green. Unfortunately,  I teed my ball too high and popped up my drive. I had a choice to make pitch the ball down the fairway past the corner, or cut the corner over a huge sewage tank. How could you not take that golfing challenge. I needed a club to get the elevate the ball quickly, yet long enough to reach the fairway. I chose the 6 iron. That was the wrong club, the ball did not get high enough quick enough and hit the tank with a thunderous bang. Luckily, the ball did caromed into the fairway. If I did hit it in the tank, I was told I could lift clean and place it.
We also played at The Oaks. The Oaks is a really great course especially for the money $49 (Summer rate, greens fee and cart.)  The Oaks name is a apropos.  Lots of trees line each lush green fairway. The greens are tricky.

Go Karts - Big Play also has a really fun Go Kart track. We had a blast racing against each other.
Big Play Go-Karts

The Main Point

There are fun things to do besides eating and playing baseball in Gulfport, Mississippi.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Youth Basketball: One Very Special Game

I write about select youth sports. Actually most of my stories are about premier level select sports where the the best players in the area, region, state or even country compete against each other. You would think that the parents of these select athletes would be completely and consistently proud, yet many, way too many, are completely frustrated and never satisfied. These parents have lost perspective. I have asked my dear friend Ann and fellow blogger to give us some perspective. Ann writes the Intramuralist.

Ann is a mom of three boys, an avid lover of sports and a blogger. While at Purdue in the late 80's, she competed in every possible intramural competition. Winning slow pitch and fast pitch softball, basketball and racquetball championships. Her blog is not about sports specifically, it's about life and life differences,  but she never forgets that we ultimately all play for the same team.

As an avid sports fan, I enjoy multiple seasons via my three young sons.  To date, my favorite game this year was the hardwood season opener, played in by Josh, my youngest.  Both he and I thought it was wonderful.
Prior to tip-off, the teams proudly donned their new uniforms — Carolina blue for the Spirit, a roaring red for the visiting Firebirds.  After weeks of at times, individually grueling practice, it was fascinating to me the unique amount of hope the new uniform instilled.  The boys — and girls — were eager to play.
As my youngest son took the floor, his countenance was seemingly new.  It was a unique combination of confidence, excitement, and toughness.  This was a moment Josh had long waited for.  Tip-off came and off Josh immediately went.
Allow me to humbly share that Josh is an accomplished inside shooter; hence, he plays near to the basket, thereby increasing the probability of a successful shot.  The challenge with our enthusiastic young man playing basketball’s “4 spot” is that Josh is approximately, only 48” tall.  While might often comes in compact packages, Josh guarded and was guarded by players 12-24” taller.  As Josh gasped during an initial time out, “That is one big dude.”

 The game remained fairly close and was full of stereotypical hard court action.  There were a few 3’s, blocked shots, fierce rebounds, and solid team play.  There were fast breaks, efficient defense, and even some jaw-dropping, notably unselfish assists.  We chuckled on the sidelines at Josh’s most creative assist...
He received the ball just past mid-court and was quickly surrounded by 3 defenders.  The coaches yelled for Josh to pass the ball.  (Inside I wonder if he thought, “Sure. Great idea, guys.  Any thought about how to get it past 3 men way huger than me?”)  After a rather pregnant pause and then a seemingly internal light bulb going off, Josh glanced around, shrugged his shoulders, and proceeded to use his height to an extreme advantage by quickly rolling the ball through a defender’s legs.  It went straight to his teammate, heading for the basket.
What was not stereotypical about this game was that each athlete had a disability.  The range of physical impairment was wide.  While none utilized a wheelchair, one had no use of his left hand; the left leg of another didn’t function; and cognitive challenges covered a wide span.  Yet each of the basketball players seemed thrilled to be there... thrilled to play... and thrilled to find a place where they were generously affirmed.
The Main Point

For those of us who live with a special needs individual, there are days when you question if his or her experience is somewhat lesser.  There are even moments where people strongly suggest that it is... moments where you feel the world looks down on the disabled.  But on this day — via Spirit basketball — there was nothing lesser.  It was a wonderful game.

The Cincinnati Swish Spirit program, affiliated with Cincinnati Swish Basketball, is a non-profit organization based in Cincinnati, Ohio. Their mission is to provide every kid (6 - 16) regardless of disability the opportunity to learn and play basketball. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Youth Baseball: Cooperstown Dream Park - New Tips from 2011 Season

Readers are giving back and adding new tips and tricks to make the Cooperstown Dreams Park experience even better. Here is the latest advice from a baseball Mom.

Pre-order Food:

If you have a night game that goes late, have one parent go out and pre-order some burgers from the closest concession stand in the last inning. Otherwise, there will be a long line and slim pickings by the time your coach is done talking to the boys.

Group Discounts: 

Ask for group discounts wherever you go! Putt-putt, go karts, basically every place is used to it and most will accommodate you.

Restaurant Tips: 

Jive Cafe -- Looks like just a coffee place, but has great lunches. Right by the ballpark.

Lakefront Restaurant & Bar -- kids can run around in the park next door and by the waterfront while adults eat inside. Great spot to take coaches to watch sports on TV (if they are going through withdrawal as there are no TVs in Baseball Village, of course).

Things for the Barracks: 

A "sound machine" can be helpful in the barracks -- set it to ocean waves or similar white noise for a more restful sleep.

Team Giveaways:

Several teams brought give-away items representing their state, in addition to the pin trading. They threw these items during the opening day parade, and handed them out around the village. These were popular teams! Items included seashell necklaces, regional maple candies, leis, frisbees, etc. You might check with a local business before you go to see if they want to donate anything -- especially a tourist-type of business.

Rolling Cooler:

We should've brought a rolling cooler -- one per team is allowed, and then you can take ice & bottled waters to the ballpark. We wound up with warm bottled waters during some games.

POV on Rental Houses:

The rental houses out on the lake are wonderful and beautiful -- but far away and most discourage group parties. Not worth the cost of the rental, in my opinion.

Cell Phone Alert:

Cell phones while driving are ILLEGAL in New York State! The ticket costs $500. There was a road block outside the park on our first day there, checking for "seatbelts" -- but also checking for cell phones being used by the drivers. Several people got tickets that day. 

Go with the attitude that this is summer camp -- and experiencing a new place and making new friends is the whole point! I met some wonderful moms from other states.

Click here for additional Tips and Tricks. 10 posts cover almost everything you need to know.

The Main Point

Cooperstown Dreams Park week will be one of the most memorable weeks of your son or daughters life. These new tips and the tips I provided last year will help make it a little bit better. I hope you have a great experience and report back here when you return.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Youth Baseball: Nations Baseball National Championship (Part 6)

How did the Nations Baseball Premier National Championship held in Gulfport, MS rate compared to other National tournaments?

Here is my report card on Nations Baseball Premier Level National Championship held in Gulfport, MS during the week of July 10 - 16, 2011.

My son has competed in the CABA World Series (U10 - Indianapolis, Indiana), the AAU National Championships (U11 - ESPN Disney Wide World of Sports, Orlando, Florida), Cooperstown Dreams Park (U12 - Cooperstown, NY) and Nations Baseball Premier National Championship (U13 - Gulfport, MS). It is from this broad base of experience that I feel qualified to grade these events in comparison to each other.

Opening Ceremonies: The Nations Baseball Premier National Championship started with a parade in downtown Gulfport. It could have been a great event, but very few teams participated. Our team participated to the delight of the younger siblings. I think that this will be a great opening ceremony with the proper planning, promotion and participation.
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS B
  • CABA - F (I don't remember any opening ceremonies)
  • AAU Disney Fields - A (Disney performers entertained the players, siblings, parents and coaches.)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park - A (It was a bit long, but it was a festive start)
The Skills Competition: The Nations Baseball Premier National Championship started with a skills competition. You can read about it here. It was good, but not great. The Home Run fences were too far to make it exciting. The tournament committee did not make a big real about celebrating the winners or even announcing the winners on the website.
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS B
  • CABA - B
  • AAU Disney Fields - F (I do not remember any skills competitions)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park - A (Exciting competitions played out in front of a packed stadium)
The Fields: I give the fields at the Gulfport Sportsplex a B+. The grass was green, freshly cut and fast. The infield is made of crushed crimson stone that looked beautiful, dried very quickly and did not tear up skin like some crushed brick fields. The fences on the fields used for the U13 event were 8 feet high, 280 ft down the line and 300 ft straight away. This is a much more challenging distance for U13 players compared to the U12 experience in Cooperstown. Portable 3.5 foot fences were put in for the younger age groups and set at 275 feet. Portable mounds were used. I prefer dirt mounds, but I understand why portable mounds are used on fields that accommodate multiple age levels. The portable mounds used at the Gulfport Sportsplex were good. Finally, the drainage system is very good. We had a torrential rain one morning and we were able to play all the games with a minimal delay.
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS B+
  • CABA - C+ multiple municipal fields of varying quality.
  • AAU Disney Fields - A (Perfectly manicured fields configured identically. These fields can take on lots of rain and be playable in short order.)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park - A+ (20 perfectly manicured fields configured identically with reachable fences. These fields can take on more rain than the Disney fields and be playable faster.)
Gulfport Sportsplex

The Concession Stand: I give the concession stand at the Gulfport Sportsplex a F. They had a very limited menu. There were two concession stands and a snowcone truck, but the concession stand near the group of fields where we were playing was not open for all games. We played one full game on field #7 in intense heat with the stand closed up. We had to walk all the way over to field #2 to get much needed water and sports drinks. This was particularly frustrating because the tournament committee made it very clear that no outside coolers were allowed. (The team coach could bring in one specially marked cooler for team use.) Halfway through particularly hot game, the concession stand employee started to close the stand. We had to get the tournament director to remedy the situation. He was able to get the women to stay for the duration of our game. This situation was so indicative of the poor planning of this event.
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS - Grade F
  • CABA World Series - Grade B (Some venues were good, some not so good)
  • AAU Disney Fields - Grade B - (Too expensive)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park  - Grade A+ (Good food, big variety, honest prices)
Game Schedule: I give the game schedule a C. Most of the games were played later in the day 5:30 or 8:00. Perhaps this was done to avoid the heat. It does cool off at 8:00pm, but most of the games were played at 5:30 when it was still very hot. I would rather have games in the morning, so the kids can swim and have fun in the afternoon without worrying about getting tired out. Plus the parents can go out to and enjoy dinner at a reasonable hour. We were told that the tournament could not secure enough umpires for day games. I guess that makes sense.

Another reason for the C rating, the original schedule was wrong and a few game times were changed at the last minute. This made planning difficult. We were originally scheduled to play our one Wednesday game at 8pm, so many families headed to New Orleans for the day. That trip was cut short when the game time was changed to 5:30. Despite all of these issues,  most of the games were started on time and the umpires managed the games to the 2 hour time limit.
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS - Grade C
  • CABA World Series - Grade B
  • AAU Disney Fields - Grade B - (Many doubleheaders had large gaps of time between them)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park  - Grade A+ (I am not sure how they coordinate all of the teams when it is not raining, but they manage the schedule beautifully when rain delays or cancels games too.)
The Competition: Nations Baseball only attracted 7 total teams for the U13 tournament so they got an F. This 2011 inaugrial premier level tournament only attracted 7 teams and two of teams were U12 teams who had to compete at the U13 level. The tournament committee had an even tougher time attracting U12 teams. Go figure, the best U12 teams are spending their time and money in Cooperstown. The U13 teams were all talented and competitive teams, but not top level super regional teams that one would expect to see in a National Championship. The Cooperstown, CABA and the AAU National Tournaments attract a lot of high quality teams and thus these events crown worthy champions.
  • Nations Baseball Gulfport, MS - Grade F
  • CABA - Grade A (International teams from Puerto Rico and Panama made the event special)
  • AAU Disney - Grade A  (Lots of quality teams competed in this event.)
  • Cooperstown Dreams Park  - Grade A+ (Each week for 13 weeks every summer, 100 plus teams compete. There is a wide range of competitive levels competing in this event. The top teams typically prevail, but the mid-range teams can advance far.)
Click Read More for Umpire, Competition Format, Destination, Website, Tournament Committee grades

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Youth Baseball: Nations Baseball National Championship (Part 5)

Nations Baseball National Championship - Gulfport, MS - Where to Eat.

The food in southern mississippi is awesome. I can certainly understand why Mississippi is ranked #1 as the fattest state in the country. (Source

Here is a list of team friendly restaurants.

Hog Heaven has great BBQ served either inside or outside and good music. Our entire team showed up at 8:00 or so after our game and the staff seated and served us quickly. The band was suppose to wrap up their night at 9:00, but they stayed another hour to entertain our large group. That was a smart move by the owner of the restaurant. Several of our group liked the restaurant so much they went back for lunch.

On two different nights after the games ended, our entire team showed up at the Back Bay Seafood Restaurant. This restaurant was able to accommodate a large crowd very quickly and efficiently too. The food is pretty good and very affordable. You have to eat seafood at least once while on the gulf coast and this is a family friendly place to go.

Between games of a doubleheader, my wife and two kids and I ventured down 49 toward the water looking for a cool local restaurant. We stumbled upon Big Mike's Speakeasy nestled next to the abandoned Gulfport library devastated by Katrina. The building had a New Orleans flair to it with a nice deck so we went it and we were glad that we did. The Big Mike's (Grilled Shrimp with caribbean jerk sauce was great. We enjoyed the food here so much that we returned with a big group two days later.

Click Read More - for recommendations for a great burger place and two pizza places.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Youth Baseball: Nations Baseball National Championship (Part 4)

Nations Baseball National Championship in Gulfport, Mississippi - Where to Stay.

We have 10 families (44 people) visiting the Gulf Coast for the Nations Baseball Premier National Championship. This area, which has been devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the BP oil spill, Obama's foolhardy moratorium on offshore drilling and the struggling economy, is showing some signs of life. The landscape is dotted with foundations and parking lots without buildings, but the people here are wonderful and the southern food is amazing. If baseball did not send us this way, my family would not have chosen to come to Southern Mississippi for our summer vacation but we have enjoyed our stay.

Our 10 Families stayed in 3 different places.

1. Sienna by the Coast (3 families)
2. Sea Breeze Condominiums (4 families)
3. Courtyard by Marriott (1 family)
4. Inland condo / house (2 families)

Sienna by the Coast - Gulfport, MS

This is where we stayed. We rented a really nice three bedroom condo on the top floor of the Sienna by the Coast. The 12 story building is a well appointed luxury condo building, that sits across the street from the beach. The building has some nice pools (one inside and one out), a sauna, a whirlpool, a small gym, and a golf putting surface. Each unit has a great view of the gulf. It should be noted that it is the only significant structure for blocks in either direction (See pictures below). I was concerned about its isolated location when we first drove up, but I have been very happy with our choice. If you are looking for a quite place away from the action, then the Sienna is your place.

Other notes:

The 3 bedroom condo is huge and can easily accommodate 8 with the pull out sofa bed.

The only complaint we have about the Sienna by the Coast is that the pool closes at 10pm sharp. The full time residence don't like having loud vacationing renters splashing in the pool or talking in the poolside gazebo after 10pm. One night after we got kick off the pool deck by the security guard, we sent the kids up to the unit and a few of the parents took coolers to the beach .

Bring chairs - The Sienna by the Coast has a nice pool and pool deck but only has 12 lounge chairs. We used our baseball fold-out chairs and the two beach chairs provided by the unit.

The ball fields are only 11 miles and 17 minutes away heading north on Cowan and west on 10 Google will send you west along the beach and north on 49, but Cowan is the faster route.

The cost of the 3 bedroom / 3 full bathroom unit was $200 per night without management fees.

Sienna by the Coast
Sienna by the Sea - Looking East

Sienna by the Sea - Looking West
Click Read more to see comments on The Sea Breeze, the Marriott and general tips and tricks.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Youth Baseball: Nations Baseball National Championship (Part 3)

The Nations Baseball Premier National Championship Skills Competition

There were three skills competitions: Team speed base running, Team speed throwing around the horn and a Home Run Derby. This post gives you an idea of what to expect from the skills competition.

Team speed base running

Team Speed - Base running
Each team was allowed to enter as many teams of four players as they wanted. We have 10 players at the tournament so we entered 2 teams. The 4 players line up at home plate. An umpire officiates the event. The first player runs around the bases when the umpire says go. The next runner goes after runner number 1 crosses home plate. When the final runner of the four crosses home plate the umpire announces and records the time.

Tip One: Make sure all of the participating players bring cleats to this event. Our team came in second in the event by less than a second because one of our players ran in running shoes and needed to slow up on turns to avoid slipping. Our player was not the only participant to forget his cleats.

Tip Two: Your team needs to complete the circuit in under 59 seconds. 57.9 seconds won.

(Click read more for the Throwing and Home Run Derby)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Youth Baseball: Nations Baseball National Championship (Part 2)

The first day of the tournament started on Sunday, but there were no games. The teams had three things to do on this first day, registration, opening ceremonies / parade and the skills competition (Skills competition is covered in the next post). The following provides tips and tricks to make the most of this first day.


Team registration was from 10am to 1pm. Our team showed up at 11:45. Unlike the Cooperstown Dreams Park events with over 100 teams competing, there were only 15 premier level teams competing in this tournament across three age levels. (4 - U11, 7 - U13 and 4 - U14), so the registration process was very fast. The select level tournament that will compete next week at the same venue has attracted 66 teams across six age levels (U8 - U13), so the registration process might take longer. 

Tip One: Check the Nations website and see how many teams are competing. If the number is low registration will take 15 minutes.

Tip Two: A team picture is taken after the registration, so the team should go to registration in full uniform. Some teams wore uniform tops and allowed their kids to wear shorts for their team picture. It is up to the coach.

Opening Ceremonies and Parade

Nations holds a opening ceremony and parade in downtown Gulfport, Mississippi, not at the Nations Baseball Complex. The idea is a good one, especially for the younger teams, but with so few teams participating, it was a 10 minute parade. 

Nations Baseball Parade - Gulfport MS

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Youth Baseball: Nations Baseball National Championship (Part 1)

Last summer, my son enjoyed an unbelievably positive youth baseball experience at Cooperstown Dreams Park. It was a memory of a lifetime. I blogged about Tips and Tricks for players, coaches and parents. That series of posts attracts 10,000 plus page views on my site each month and is my most popular content. This year my son is playing in the Nations Baseball Premier National Championship in Gulfport, Mississippi. The following posts will cover the event and offer helpful tips and tricks.

It should be noted that there is a link between Nations Baseball and Cooperstown Dreams Park. In 1996, the founder of Cooperstown Dreams Park, Lou Presutti started Nations Baseball, with its various leagues and tournaments, to compete against USSSA Baseball. They have had Nation Championships for the select and elite levels, but this is the first Premier Level National Championship.

Nations Baseball Offers 4 divisions of play:
  • Metro - This division is your recreational league play teams. These teams are typically teams full of players who register individually and are drafted by a local league.
  • Select - This division is the entry level to select baseball. These teams typically will play 25-50 games a year and are competitive with All-Star type teams.
  • Elite - This division is a more competitive brand of baseball. Most of these players have been playing select baseball for several years and are becoming very fundamentally sound and will play 50-100 games a year.
  • Premier - This division is the highest level of competition. Most of these players are joined by being the top players in your area. These teams will tend to play 75-125 games a year.
Nations also has tournament and league classes called Open, these events are open to all divisions of play.

The Main Point

Over the last couple of weeks I have heard lots of stories about the politics of Nations Baseball and USSSA Baseball. I do not have enough knowledge about either organization to make any opinions. The first ever Premier National Tournament will be a great experience for my son, but it is not an premier event quite yet. I do have faith that Nations baseball will eventually get it right. This year they got the baseball facility right and the host city is great. They just need to attract more and better teams to justify the "National Championship" status.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Youth Baseball: Nike Swingman Cleats Product Alert

U13 baseball is the first year that metal spikes are allowed. (I debated the metal vs molded plastic cleats for U13 in two posts Metal or Molded Plastic Cleats, What to do?)

My son was very excited to buy his first pair of metal cleats. We went to Dick's Sporting Goods and bought the Nike Swingman Cleats in blue and black, his team colors. Two of his 9 other teammates also bought Nike Swingman cleats. The Nike Swingman Cleats are the most comfortable cleats he has ever had. He has not complained of foot or heal pain all year.

The only complaint he has is that the strap on his left shoe did not last the entire season. Before game 45 of the season, the ankle strap buckle broke off. The same buckle broke off the cleats of one of his teammates just a few games before his broke. To me this indicates a manufacturer design flaw. High end Nike cleats should last the entire season if not longer.

Perhaps we should have known that these shoes would not be durable because Ken Griffey Jr was pitching them. He never lasted an entire season when he was in Cincinnati either.

Left cleat strap buckle broke. Athletic tape secures it now.

Right cleat strap buckle broke. Athletic tape secures it now.
The Main Point

Nike Swingman shoes might have a design flaw. Buy and use with caution.

Side note to coaches: This was also the first year that my son was allowed to select his own cleats. His previous team issued cleats as part of the uniform. For the last 4 years, my son has worn cheap cleats that were not exactly comfortable for his wide feet. Foot comfort is more important than everyone wearing matching shoes. One type of shoe or even brand does not fit all. Give your kids the freedom to select shoes that are comfortable.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Youth Baseball: College Conference Tournament

If you are a coach looking for a good baseball tournament, I recommend the Ohio Elite College Conference Tournament held in Dublin, Ohio during the July 4th weekend.

My son and his team participated in the U13 tournament this weekend. Here are 10 reasons why I liked about the tournament:

  1. The locations: Dublin, Ohio which is northeast of Columbus, Ohio is a nice town with lots of hotel and restaurant options. 
  2. The fields: The U13 tournament was held on fields 5 - 9 at Avery Fields. The diamonds were well groomed and the fences 285 - 306 feet away. There were, however, two minor issues with the fields. They were dusty and the height of mounds were inconsistent. 
  3. The competition: The tournament attracted 22 elite and super elite teams from 5 states. The tournament committee did a fantastic job setting up pools that were fair and balanced.
  4. The tournament format: The 6 game minimum double elimination format was the best feature of the tournament. Each team played 4 pool play games. Then the entire field advanced to bracket play and competed in a double elimination tournament. This format works for both the super elite teams and the elite teams. For the super elite teams, this format practically assures that the best teams will advance and prevail. The double elimination format reduces the chances that a super elite team will be prematurely dispatched by a much inferior team with one stud pitcher. The top 10 teams of the 22 team field were given byes in the first round of bracket play. This allowed more evenly matched teams seeded 11-22 to compete against each other in the first round of bracket play. Our team earned a 13 seed with a 2-2 record in pool play. We played the 20th seed and won. We then played a far superior 4th seed team who sent us to the losers bracket. Again, we were matched up with a team (17th seed) we could compete with and won. We eventually lost to the 16th seed. So what I really liked was that the non-super elite teams could find some success, while the best teams prevailed.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Youth Baseball: The Link Between Baseball Past and Present

The link between baseball present and baseball past is omnipresent. Chevy used this insight to develop ads with little leaguers recreating famous Major League Baseball moments. The ad features the dramatic home runs by Carlton Fisk, Babe Ruth and Kirk Gibson.

The Kirk Gibson home run was particularly inspiring. This famous moment in baseball history happened in game 1 of the 1988 World Series between the A's and the Dodgers. Kirk Gibson was so hobbled by a swollen right knee and a strained left hamstring that he did not even come out of the club house for the team introductions and national anthem. He spent the entire pre-game and 8 innings of game getting treatment in hopes that he would get into a game later in the series.

Jose Conseco had hit a grand slam early in the game to give the A's a lead. The Dodgers held the A's to those 4 runs and managed to scratch out 3 runs before the 9th inning. The A's sent future hall of famer Dennis Eckersley, who had 45 saves during that year, to save the game. Kirk Gibson got his uniform on and went into the dugout. The Eck got two quick outs but then walked a batter. Kirk Gibson was called on to pinch hit. Gibson limped up to the plate and quickly got in the hole 0-2. And he looked bad doing it. He then hit a weak ground ball that went down the first base line. Kirk struggled down the base path as the ball went foul. He took a lot of time getting back to the batter's box. He then fouled off a few more pitches and took some balls but never looked comfortable. And then it happened, Dennis Eckersley gave Kirk Gibson a pitch he could hit and he served it into the right field bleachers of Dodger's stadium to win the game. As he rounded second base, he pumped his arm three times.

The Main Point

Share baseball history with your baseball playing kids.

Yesterday, my son, Nic, injured his knee while playing second base. He was in obvious pain, but the team only had 9 players so he could not come out of the game. The umpires gave Nic time to walk it off. Nic was able to finish the inning. He hobbled off the field and put ice on his knee which was beginning to swell. 

The team started to rally against one of the best teams in Ohio and Nic's turn to bat approached. As he was taking swings on deck, I yelled out to him, "Go get'em Kirk Gibson." I yelled that for the other dads of my age to hear, knowing that they would understand the reference. I didn't expect my 14 year old son to understand, but my son looked at me and gave me three arm pumps and smiled ear to ear.

Nic got to the plate with 2 on base and the team down 5 runs. He fouled off the first pitch. Then he took a low curve ball that was called a strike. Like, Gibson, he was down 0-2. He fouled off a few more pitches and worked the count to 2-2 just like Gibson. Then the opposing pitcher gave Nic something to hit. He drilled a line drive over the short stop and darted past the left fielder. An easy triple if he were not hurt, but Nic hobbled around the first and just got to second base.

It was not as dramatic as the Kirk Gibson HR, but link between baseball past and present and fathers and sons is dramatic.

Here is the entire 9th inning of the 1988 Game 1 World Series.



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