High School : : General
Tuesday, January 24, 2012

PG FL Scout League springs to life

Jeff Dahn        
Photo: Perfect Game
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Perfect Game, working on the request of and in coordination with six elite Florida travel team organizations, is announcing the formation of the Perfect Game Florida Scout League, a top-tier league that will play its inaugural season at six tournaments this summer and fall.

PG National Tournament Director Taylor McCollough said he was approached late last year by representatives from several of Florida’s premier programs who proposed the formation of the league.

At its outset, the league’s membership is comprised of the premier squads from the Orlando Scorpions, FTB Mizuno, South Florida Elite Squad, Palm Beach PAL, SWFL Baseball and Florida (FL) Hardballers organizations.

All six organizations will host a tournament in the summer or fall, non-PG events they have already been staging for several years. The six elite teams from each organization have committed to being at each other’s tournaments, and have agreed to bring many of their teams as well. Top teams from other organizations are also encouraged to enter.

“The thought process behind it is that they’ll continue to run these quality events, but will incorporate this league with them to where … they know they’re going to get good games against the top teams,” McCollough said. “With that, they’re going to attract other top teams, because when you can guarantee six of the top teams from Florida are going to be there, it’s going to attract everybody else from college coaches and scouts to other top travel teams.”

Orlando Scorpions owner/operator Matt Gerber said that he, Jered Goodwin from FTB Mizuno and Chad Upson from Palm Beach PAL got to talking about the idea to form a league while attending various PG tournaments over the last year or so. The goal was to ensure their top teams would face other top-tier competition on a regular basis at their own tournaments.

“We kind of kicked around some ideas about doing some tournaments together where we could play each other,” Gerber said. “We brought up the idea of joining up with Perfect Game – obviously having Perfect Game’s name on it gives us more legitimacy and more exposure – and the key for us was having a third party involved that wasn’t a coach or wasn’t part of our group. They would be able to administer and make sure everybody was pulling their weight and doing the things they were supposed to do.”

McCollough is putting together a league schedule that will be posted before the summer season begins that will make sure each team faces the other five an equal number of times throughout the season. The schedule also provides much-needed structure.

“It helps from the stance of getting a preseason schedule knowing you’re going to go into tournaments and who you’re going to play, and setting up pitching rotations and things like that,” FTB’s Goodwin said. “It kind of organizes the chaos; all tournaments are kind of run differently and you never know what the setup’s going to be and who’s going to be there and how it’s going to go. This helps us from a recruiting and scouting standpoint that we can set things up a little better.”

Perfect Game is not charging the organizations for their participation in the PG FL Scout League. It was the organizations’ idea to form the league under the PG banner, and they will benefit by the guarantee of playing one another on a regular basis and gaining added exposure onwww.perfectgame.org.

“The Perfect Game (FL) Scout League has great value in the fact that we’re going to be playing in these events with teams of very high caliber,” Palm Beach PAL’s Upson said. “We’re assured that recruiters and scouts will be at our games not only to watch our players but to watch players from the other team. It’s going to make it easier to help the kids, it’s going to make it easier on the scouts and it’s going to make it easier on the college recruiters to be able to see a number of great players in one game.”

The Florida Hardballers are based in Gainesville in north-central Florida, and head coach and co-founder John Colacci said his group sometimes feels on the periphery of the action.

“When it comes to the travel ball over the summer you have all these Perfect Game events and you have all these dates, quality dates, where you know you’re going to get good competition and you know you’re going to play in front of the scouts,” he said. “But on the off-weekends when there’s (no PG events) scheduled … we’re all kind of spread out, so from a scouting standpoint this will bring us all together and it will be good for the kids.”

John Cedarburg is one of the original founders of SWFL Baseball, a travel ball organization based in the Gulf Coast city of Fort Myers in southwest Florida. He is also a full-time area scout with the Colorado Rockies. 

“I think we’ll benefit in a couple of different ways,” Cedarburg said of SWFL’s involvement. “No. 1, we’re going to get to play the top competition in the state of Florida on a regular basis, and No. 2, I think those teams will help us in bringing in the other top teams from the Eastern Seaboard and we can play the competition from all around the state and from all around the Southeast.”

Like the other program directors and managers involved with the formation of the league, Richie Palmer from the South Florida Elite Squad likes the idea of bringing most of Florida’s top teams together in a structured environment to perform in front of college coaches and professional scouts.

“It will provide exposure and the competition will get us ready for when we do go to the WWBA, the big East Cobb tournaments, Jupiter,” Palmer said. “It’s benefitting us from the exposure standpoint and from the preparation standpoint.”

Palmer also likes the idea of competing for a league championship in addition to tournament championships.

“It gives us something to play for at the end of the day,” he said. “When we play against each other, and obviously in tournaments it always means a lot, but now if we play each other in a pool-play game, it’s not only for seeding but it’s also going to affect the standings in the league.”

The FL Hardballers’ Colacci shares Palmer’s belief that competing for a league title and checking regularly on the league standings and statistical leaders on PG’s website (GameChanger will be used during league games) will add a whole new dimension to the travel ball experience.

“I think that’s going to be very exciting,” he said. “In high school, kids get to play for something … and from a competitive standpoint for the kids I think the games are going to mean a little bit more. It’s going to be neat to see how kids kind of stack up (and) with the competition level, I think the stats will be a little more realistic (then what you see in high school).”

The PG FL Scout League’s tentative 2012 schedule calls for a 16-team League Championship tournament on Nov. 3-4 in Kissimmee, Fla., hosted by the Hardballers. That championship tournament will be played after the PG WWBA World Underclass Championship and the PG WWBA World Championship and will give the players a final season-ending event to look forward to.

“A lot of the organizations that are in it are pretty friendly with each other, but also competitive with each other,” FTB’s Goodwin said. “For one of the teams to have year-long bragging rights, it’ll give the kids something to play for … knowing they still have a league title to win.

“One of the things that travel ball gets a negative reputation for is you’re not playing for a cause but you’re playing for yourself,” he continued. “This is a summer long goal that leads into the fall and that’s a pretty big deal for the kids and I think they’re going to take some ownership. There’s a team aspect to what they’re doing.”

By assuring that at least six of Florida’s top teams will be at every one of these tournaments, the program directors and team managers are betting their tournaments’ stature will also receive a boost.

“We can guarantee that these six elite teams are going to be playing in the tournament and the other teams around will want to play in these events because they’re guaranteed the good teams will be there and that the scouts and recruiters will come and watch,” the Scorpions’ Gerber said.

Elite Squad’s Palmer concurred:

“Knowing that these teams in the PG Scout League are going to be at our events will definitely draw a bigger crowd because who doesn’t want to play against the best competition and in front of the most scouts and coaches?”

“There’s a core group of good teams that have joined the Scout League with us and we’re going into this venture together,” PB PAL’s Upson said. “It’s an immediate connection to good teams being at our event and us being at their events. It will definitely enhance our events.”

In the minds of the team directors, PG’s involvement only adds to that enhancement.

“Perfect Game is just light years ahead of everybody else and I know that they don’t just throw their name on anything,” Colacci said. “They’re well-respected, and for them to back this and be involved, it’s huge for all of us that are involved.”
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