Sports Commentary: Why have a draft in youth baseball? A primer for players’ parents
■ Opening Day: Noon, March 1 ceremony at Bronco Field with reps from San Diego Padres. Team Photo Day in the morning.
■ Shetland Registration: Open for ages 5-6 at LJYB.org
By Tom Murphy
La Jolla Youth Baseball
At the beginning of every baseball season, a lot of time and effort is spent on player assessment. Parents often ask the question: “Why do we need to have a draft in rec baseball?” It’s a very good question and there is a very good answer: PARITY.
If the league does its job correctly, the teams in each league are balanced and fair for both age and skill level. There are more players (100-plus) and variables in the Pinto and Mustang leagues, so the integrity of the assessment and draft process becomes that much more important. The burden falls on the league presidents of each division to recruit quality managers who carefully assesses every player on multiple categories that results in a rating system used in the draft. Hours upon hours are spent on this process.
Why all the fuss over parity? So that on any given day, any team can beat any other team. The ultimate measure of success in youth baseball is returning ballplayers. If kids walk away from the game at a young age, they probably had a bad experience with a team or a coach. A good draft leads to balanced teams in a fun and competitive league. The trade-off is a limited ability to accommodate individual requests to place players together by school, neighborhood or carpool.
By the time players enter Pony league, many of them have been playing together for eight to nine years. The familiarity makes for an easier assessment and draft. As Pony President I’m working with several neighboring leagues to form the San Diego Pony Inter-League so that LJYB’s two teams can compete against 10 other teams in similar leagues.
Team Aladdin is managed by Jim Duffy and Team Las Patronas is managed by Bo Solis. The quality of play at ages 13-14 is outstanding and the games are fun to watch.
Bronco President Geoff Longenecker has 48 players (ages 11-12) on four teams with tenured managers and great sponsors. They are Mitch’s Surf Shop (Brian Canino), Morgan Stanley (Bob Meyerott), Performance Titanium (Dave Hammel) and Pharmatek (Tim Scott).
The trend over the past several years is about 50-percent retention from Mustang to Bronco divisions. There is a natural filter for kids this age, who begin to focus on one or two sports they will pursue in high school. With four teams, LJYB schedules home-and-away games with neighboring Mission Bay and Tecolote teams.
Mustang President Cindi Stratton has her hands full with a robust league of 110 players and a plethora of manager applicants for 10 teams. (There were only seven teams and fewer managers just three years ago.) The teams and managers are: Alexandria Real Estate (Dan Ryan), Garden Communities (Ben Grieve), Merrill Lynch (Chris Hobbbs), Qualcomm (Bill Bold), RAK (Troy Latimer), Retirement Benefits Group (Rick Macdonald), San Diego Pools (Emmet Holden), Sector 9 (Dave Klimkiewicz), Southwest Strategies (Michael Solis) and Syntergy (Mike Campagna).
Like Mustang, the Pinto division has more than 100 players and 10 teams. One of the challenges facing Pinto President Walter Birnbaum is the number of managers moving up from Shetland, where scores aren’t kept and umpires aren’t required. There is a steep learning curve for both players (ages 7-8) and coaches. Walter did a terrific job drafting these teams and managers: Baxter Foundation (Bob Uslander), Cottage Insurance Holdings (Mac Armstrong), Cvaldo (Mike Cairns), Natural High (Jon Graff), Party City (Mike Williams), RBC (Mike Gibbs), Red Door Interactive (Aaron Roberts), Rotary Club of La Jolla (Greg MacLean), SD Storage (Rick Boynton) and Voices for Children (Bill Luetzow).
The Shetland division is unique for a couple of reasons. First, the league registration remains open all season because we want as many kids to learn about the game of baseball, and second, there is no draft and teams are formed by schools, circles of friends, and who the manager can round up in the neighborhood.
Players are ages 5-6 and we just want them to have fun. LJYB has learned that the older kids prefer to hit off of the pitching machine and they play on Shetland Major teams: California Bank & Trust (Gwenivere Maxwell & Dawniel Stewart), Hagan Pediatric Dentistry (Jay Hagan), IndoTeak Design (Amy Ragen), Scoma Pediatric Dentistry (Charles Hartford), Sudberry Properties (Colton Sudberry) and Willis Allen (EJ Quijada).
Shetland Minor (T-Ball) teams are: Brockton Villa (Christina Vallin), Donovan’s Steak & Chop House (Satoshi Takagawa), La Jolla Playhouse (K. Ellis), and Murphy Construction/LPL (Russell Murfey) and Voices for Children (Anthony Bregante).
Player and coach development remains a top priority. Board member Bo Solis has been busy organizing weekly “Sandlot Sessions” with professional instructors who volunteer their time to lead age-specific clinics for pitching, hitting, fielding and coaching. LJYB would like to thank Dave Ring (Canyonside Baseball & Softball Academy), Sean Reese and Ryan Lehr for leading out first four instructional clinics of the season.
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