Leagues : : Story
Thursday, October 5, 2017

PGNIL returns for 2 sessions

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game

PG National Indoor League Records

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – The advent and emergence of the HitTrax technology which provided indoor hitting facilities across the country with a “combination of analytics and entertainment” led to the creation of the two-session Perfect Game National Indoor League (PGNIL) in late 2015.

After those two initial sessions in late 2015 and early 2016, and a single session that ran from early January through early March of this year, the PGNIL is ready for another two-session run in 2017-18.

PGNIL Session I will begin on Oct. 28, 2017 at 10 facilities in nine states and conclude on either Dec. 10 or Dec. 17, depending on playoff scenarios. PGNIL Session II kicks off on Jan. 6, 2018 at 11 facilities and will run through either Feb. 18 or Feb. 25. Play will be offered in the 12u, 14u, 16u and 18u age-groups at most of the participating facilities.

“With each season, people are seeing the success that has been building with this for both the players and the facilities,” PG Cedar Rapids Indoor Facility Director/Program & Operations chief B.J. Fish said. “The word is getting out to other players at other facilities, and the league is growing pretty quickly (across the country).”

Perfect Game Indoor Facility (Cedar Rapids), Diamonds Xtreme Training (Kernersville, N.C.), East Coast Baseball Academy (Charleston, S.C.), ProSwing (Port Chester, N.Y.), Southworth Hitting (Omaha, Neb.), Titans Sport Academy (Kennesaw, Ga.), and Player’s Edge (Wayne, N.J.) will host teams in both sessions.

American Batting and Sports, Inc. (Oxford, Pa.), Dothan Baseball Club (Dothan, Ala.) and Ultimate Performance Baseball (Matthews, N.C.) will take part in Session I. Bomber’s Bunker (Troy, N.Y.). The Summit Athletic Center (Marlborough, N.H.), South Jersey Bullpen (Mickleton, N.J.) and Sammamish Baseball Academy (Redmond, Wash.) will join the fray for Session II. There is still the possibility that other facilities will hop on board for one or both of the sessions.

Players are invited to sign-up for league play at the participating locations and the facility will divide them into teams, usually with three to five players per team. Each host facility will crown an age-group champion, which will then move on to regional and, ultimately, national single-elimination bracket-play.

The HitTrax technology records detailed hitting statistics and each player involved will have his participation noted on his own PG Player Profile Page. That page also documents any past or future participation in PG tournaments, leagues or showcases.

When Fish reaches out to these other facilities and explains the premise upon which the PGNIL was created, he finds that most are eager to get involved because the people running the facilities realize that it creates more opportunities for young players, especially those from the cold-weather states.

“The main draw for just about everybody is getting to play against people from across the country” during the playoffs, Fish said. “Also, the players can look at everybody’s stats and can compare the different exit velos, the different batting averages.

“They can be in Iowa and they can see a player in New Jersey who is being recruited or might be drafted, and they can see where they are as a player and how they stack-up,” he said. “I know that’s something that a lot of the facilities really market (as a selling point).”

The PGNIL did not hold a late 2016 session but geared up again in early 2017 for what turned out to be a successful run. The 12u national champion was Sandlot Maroon (N.J.); PG Red (Iowa) won the 14u; PG White 16u (Iowa) was the 16u national champ; and South Jersey Bullpen Red (N.J.) won the 18u title.

Perfect Game All-American Nick Decker from South Hampton, N.J., playing for the 18u SJB Red, was named the PGNIL’s overall Most Valuable Player. It seems certain that next June Decker’s name will go up alongside those of Spencer Van Scoyoc (Cedar Rapids) and Tyler Dearden (Lumberton, N.J.) as PGNIL alumni selected in the MLB June Amateur Draft (although drafted in 2016, Van Scoyoc honored his commitment to Arizona State; drafted in June, Dearden signed with the Boston Red Sox.).

Although successful, the single session that ran from early January through early March this year didn’t seem adequate in meeting the needs of several facilities that wanted to be involved, especially for those located in warm-weather states.

When Fish started talking to the managers of those facilities, they expressed to him that they would prefer a session that concluded a week or two before Christmas. Players from those southern states start to head outdoors in mid- to late January and really don’t have a need for an indoor league that runs into March.

“This year, with this first session that we’re doing, I have actually gotten a lot more southern states involved,” Fish said. “It’s interesting because each facility has something that works better for them because of where they’re (located), and to grow this league you have to (be flexible); it makes it more feasible to have the two sessions.”

As Fish moves into his second season running the league, he has already found that he most enjoys looking at the stats and seeing how the young prospects have developed their games year-to-year. The progress is right there on the HitTrax leaderboards for everyone – including members of the national scouting community – to see.

The number of participants in each respective age-group seems to vary from facility to facility, with one locations having more than a dozen teams at the 12u level but a much smaller number at the 18u, and another one in a different part of the country showing opposite levels of participation; not every facility offers a league in all four age-groups.

As an example, the facility at PG Headquarters in Cedar Rapids had eight 16u and five 18u teams competing earlier this year, but just three teams in each of the 12u and 14u divisions. But the growth has been steady and sure and this winter promises to bring a lot more excitement and a lot more exposure for the young players involved.

“Other than having fun with your friends – which is the most important thing – they can look at different aspects of their game and be able to take something away from that,” Fish said. “They can look at these numbers and take basically anything out of it and focus on certain things that they can work on; that’s the beauty of the HitTrax machine.”

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