TAMPA - The longer I am involved with amateur baseball, the more I see the same cycle play out.
New teams, and new coaches pop up all of the time in the travel baseball circuit. The ones that have been around longer mostly play to win. Their intensity is sometimes off the charts. Guerry Baldwin with East Cobb immediately comes to mind. Anyone who has seen Guerry in action on the field knows he brings "it" every time out. Emilio Fernandez with the Florida Bombers is another guy who is dying to win. Is it a coincidence that these two programs seem to face off annually in the championship game in Marietta?
The teams that are a bit newer and trying to establish themselves seem to care less about winning, and more about the exposure of the players. Their intensity is very laid back, their teams have mixed results, and their recruiting has mixed results.
On the surface, it seems like these old seasoned vets, like Guerry, are in the wrong. I mean, how can a coach possibly care that much about the score of a summer game? It's all about Guerry and his reputation, right? It should be about the kids, right? We'll trade score for scholarships any day.
In the big picture, it's always better for a player to walk away with a college scholarship than a "W".
But here is an important part of that equation that a lot of people don't understand: Winning and competition increases talent level of the opposing teams. Increased talent level on the teams brings more recruiters and scouts to the events. More recruiters and scouts means more college offers, and more college offers means more players benefit from the event.
Could you imagine if every team came out and played "showcase" ball? That's the term I use where everyone comes out and just goes through the motions. It's the selfish style of play where everything is scripted and nobody cares about the score. If you don't care about the score, then it's not a big deal to put a few guys on your roster that aren't too good. Now the team's talent level just decreased, other teams follow suit, and now the event is drawing less colleges and scouts.
It's the mentality of "I'm gonna get my 2 ABs, grab a bite to eat, and see if I can make it back in time for 'Family Guy' re-runs."
If I'm a college coach, I do not want to see showcase ball - especially if I'm a major D1 coach. I am out trying to find players that I can bring into my program that are going to change my program forever. I am trying to find guys that will take my program to the next level. I'm trying to find guys that look like they have 'it'. I'm trying to find guys that won't buckle under the pressure, guys that can handle the big stage, and guys with an endless motor to handle the rigors of being a student athlete. I'm mostly trying to find guys that can't stand to lose and want to be the best every time out.
And when I see a player play 'showcase ball' and go through the motions, I know he's not a guy for me. When I see a player take the field and not care about what people think of him or his team, as long as he gets seen, he's not a guy for me.
How can anyone say they are giving it their all, and that they are a competitor, if they take the field and they don't care about the outcome?
I don't think it's a coincidence that these veteran travel coaches who love to win, also seem to push out more recruits than anyone.
Maybe there's something that these "old veterans" know, that the rest of us should be paying attention to.