With the wrap-up of another school year and high school sports season, some thoughts on what I heard and observed at the state baseball tournament…and maybe some things you thought NO ONE cared about!
First, I’ll say, as in years previous…that the OHSAA state baseball tournament is one of the truly underappreciated high school events in Ohio, and on the OHSAA calendar.
The baseball this past weekend was great. I saw a lot of great young players, a lot of college prospects, and more…I saw kids who will never play the game again who simply love baseball.
“This is so much fun,” said one during Thursday and Friday’s semi-final rounds. “I wish it was [double elimination]. I wish it could last longer.”
I also saw people – I met people – who obviously read Press Pros from outside our principal nine-county market area. One from Butler County recognized us, stuck out his hand, and asked, “How do you like the weather today?”, a poke at my season-long diatribe (as another reader recently called it) about moving the baseball schedule later in the spring and summer to afford kids fair and reasonable conditions in which to play.
Another, from central Ohio commented on our daily inventory of baseball.
“There’s no coverage like yours for baseball in central Ohio,” he said, enthusiastically. “Thanks for writing about it.”
But diatribes aside, there comes a point where you need a solution to the problem, and Daniel, from Hamilton County, brought one with him.
“Cut the number of regular season games down to 18 and start the season on April 15,” he shared. “That way you push the season back three weeks, but you play eight less games. If the weather is good prior to that you can play all the scrimmages you want. And if the season goes a week deeper into June it’s no big deal. That way, kids get a three week better chance to play in good weather.”
It makes sense. When I played high school baseball at Piqua High School our regular season was exactly 18 games long. We played, on average, about three games a week, and we didn’t overuse the number of realistic pitchers we had on the team. Dan’s solution is one that has merit.
He added: “That way high school baseball doesn’t interfere with summer baseball, and that’s the biggest threat to moving the season to June and July. People make a lot of money on summer baseball, and they’re going to fight any kind of change that poses a threat.
“If you wouldn’t mind, I think I’ll write this and send it to you for the ‘Reader Speaks’ page,” he smiled.
We wouldn’t mind, and we’ve just saved you the trouble.
Attendance at this year’s tournament was supportive, but not overwhelming. Overall, most who attended were from the participating school communities, family, and friends. And while the OHSAA has made some good decisions on moving the football tournament back to Stark County…and the basketball tournaments to the University of Dayton…people that used to come to Columbus because it was centrally located aren’t attending now because of cost and distance.
“Akron is too far to go just to watch the high school baseball tournament,” said a friend from Scioto County last weekend. “It probably works for football and basketball to be somewhere beside Columbus, but the baseball tournament needs to be someplace more accessible than Akron.”
Speaking of Akron, kudos to the staff of the Akron Rubber Ducks, the AA minor league affiliate of the Cleveland Indians (Guardians), who went out of their way to be helpful with media, parking notwithstanding. Canal Park is a beautiful facility, and people like the Rubber Ducks media relations director Jimmy Farmer put a lot of pride and effort into their hosting responsibilities.
And finally, some words of appreciation for former Ohio State coach Greg Beals, who attended the tournament on Saturday to scout…and shared much of his day, as well as baseball perspectives, with Press Pros.
It’s very obvious that Beals’ out-of-work situation is only temporary, and he talked freely about his optimism and desire to coach again, and coach with an impactful program. He was also open to sharing some of his thoughts about the talent he watched throughout the day – players in Divisions I through IV who have the talent and tools to play college baseball.
Which…again magnifies the relevance of why high school baseball deserves the same priority as football and basketball, if only proportionately. Knowing that a number of participants in this year’s tournament were multi-sport athletes, we asked some of them about which sport they enjoyed the most. The majority answer was…you guessed it…baseball!
Will the OHSAA act to give spring baseball and softball athletes a better competitive opportunity?
No. As Daniel so put it, it’s not beneficial enough for them to do it. And as others who’ve written state…some communities barely have enough kids to play as it is. Moving it to the summer won’t make that issue any better.
But when you see the talent, the pride, and competitive zeal of those who enjoy playing it that much…it does make you stop and think about a more encouraging environment. Because you know if Johnny signs a professional contract someday, makes a fortune, and writes a big check to his home school…they’re damned sure going to cash it!
It’s called paying forward, which presently there isn’t enough of…for high school baseball!