KBC looks to deliver college offers

Tournaments : : Story
Jeff Dahn        
Published: Monday, October 18, 2010

The Perfect Game WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla., is rapidly approaching (Oct. 21-25) with close to 2,000 players preparing to perform in front of hundreds of college coaches and Major League scouts.

Many of those players have already committed to colleges and their travel team coaches are taking them to Jupiter to be seen by the pro scouts.

That’s not the approach Coach Kevin Clary of the Kentucky Baseball Club is taking. When Clary brings a team to the WWBA World Championship, with few exceptions he prefers to take high school juniors and seniors who are still looking for a college.

“It’s based on attrition, but we try to take the kids who haven’t (committed) yet and who need the most exposure,” Clary said. “We generally take mostly seniors but this year most of our seniors have already found a place to play (collegiately).”

Eight of the 18 players on the Kentucky Baseball Club’s Jupiter roster are uncommitted juniors. Only two of the 10 seniors on the roster have committed, including right-hander Matt Spalding (2011, Louisville, Ky.) to Western Kentucky.

Clary is anxious to let his young players experience the World Championship and hopefully get noticed enough that they receive college offers.

“We consider that to be one of the premier events in the country, and last year there were over 500 college and pro scouts that were there,” Clary said. “It’s a great chance for our guys to be seen by people they don’t normally get seen by. Teams from the West Coast, the East Coast, up north – it’s a great, great event for everybody.”

The decision to get these players in front of college coaches and recruiters fits in perfectly with Kentucky Baseball Club’s stated goal of maximizing a young player’s exposure.

“The development of the player is our first mission statement,” Clary said. “We want to get them as much exposure as we can possibly get them and get them the college and professional exposure that they deserve. If our kids want to play college baseball we’ll find them a place.”

KBC was established in 2006, which makes it a relative late-comer to the national travel team scene. Its headquarters are in the Champions Sports Academy, an indoor training facility located in Nicholasville, Ky., just outside of Lexington.

Clary saw a need for the organization.

“Travel baseball in this area was really big in the late ‘90s, but there was a real bad stalemate there for about five or six years where there was not much going on,” he said. “Our whole mission is to promote and get our players into college baseball or professional baseball (and) it started out of our baseball academy.”

Kentucky Baseball Club continues to grow. It fielded eight teams from 13U through 18U this past summer, with each team operating independently within the organization. KBC’s emergence as a championship contender on all levels has been steady and seamless.

“It’s been a really easy transition,” Clary said. “We’ve got really dedicated people involved on our KBC board and we have a great coaching staff. It takes a great effort by everyone involved to make sure we stay on top.”

The KBC 16U team spent two straight weeks at the East Cobb Complex in Marietta, Ga., July 6 through 19 competing first at the Perfect Game 17U WWBA National Championship followed by the 16U WWBA National Championship.

That team finished in the final eight of the 17U event but didn’t get out of pool play in the 16U event despite a 4-1 record.

The KBC 15s finished in the top-four at the PG 15U WWBA National Championship at East Cobb in late July. Both the 16U and 15U teams were ranked No. 9 in Perfect Game’s final 2010 national rankings.

While Clary emphasizes the development of his players, he also expects his teams to be successful. Anything else would be counter-productive.

“Our goal is always to compete on a national level, and it’s hard to do that if your teams don’t perform well,” Clary said. “It’s hard to recruit new players to your organization if the teams that you have aren’t playing at a high level.”

Some of the top players in the program from the class of 2011 are Spalding, who is Perfect Game’s 308th-ranked national prospect (No. 3 in Kentucky), right-hander Spencer Drake ( Louisville) and right-hander Taylor Martin (Lexington).

Both Drake and Martin have verbally committed to Kentucky. Drake is ranked 500-5 in PG’s rankings.

Shortstop Will Hurt (Lexington), catcher Tyler Jackson (Lexington) and left-hander Ryne Combs (Lexington) are among the top players in KBC’s class of 2012 and are among those making the trip to Jupiter.

Hurt is ranked 180th nationally and No. 1 in Kentucky in Perfect Game’s class of 2012 rankings. Jackson is 265-2 and Combs 326-6. Other highly thought of KBC players from the 2012 class who are not on  the Jupiter roster include right-hander Walker Buehler (Lexington, 284-3) and right-hander Matthew Vorbek (Corbin, Ky., 335-7).

More than 130 KBC players have committed to colleges of all sizes in all divisions since 2006. Beyond that, 14 former KBC players have been drafted professionally, including first-round picks Ben Revere (2007, Twins) and Zach Cox (2010, Cardinals).

Clary said KBC’s association is with Perfect Game is essential as the organization continues to grow and turn-out talented players.

“We see continued growth and we formed a partnership with (Perfect Game) and we had our own showcase in Lexington,” he said. “We’re continually looking for ways to continue our partnership with Perfect Game because we have the utmost respect for what (they) do with the promotion of players. I see it doing nothing but getting better and better every year.”

If KBC keeps getting better and better every year, more and more youngsters will be given the opportunity to continue their baseball careers on the collegiate level. That’s the way KBC does business and what Clary thinks sets the organization apart.

“I think it’s our commitment to finding these guys a place to play baseball at the college level,” he said. “It doesn’t matter to us if its juco, NAIA, Division III – if they want to play college baseball we’re going to find them a place to play. We’re going to make sure every one of our kids plays collegiate baseball – if they want to.”

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