The 2020 season is in the books! When 85 Ruffnecks players returned to action on June 15th for “Spring Training” at the NEBC there were uncertainties related to Covid and summer baseball. It is difficult to describe the scope of what took place during the first three weeks of the summer on the fields at NEBC. Suffice it to say, we did not reinvent Spring Training. We had tremendous success! First of all, the program is fortunate to have access to three spectacular fields at the NEBC with full complements of screens and machines to execute intense practice plans. By practicing organizationally, players benefitted from exposure to a variety of coaches (over 20 instructors), all with instructional credentials and passion for the game. We simply followed the script used by professional organizations, particularly in the minors and Instructional League. This means each field had a purpose. Each player’s assignment for each day was scripted with a design toward preparation and development. For players in the classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023 it was a week in which players spent 5 out of 6 days on the field from 8:00am to 11:00. For the 13U and 14U Ruffnecks the week featured two 3 hour sessions. Several 14U players also participated in workouts with the older players. The effect of the hard work was visible, especially for the older ‘Necks. We continued in this manner for three weeks! Week after week players were shuffling gingerly to and from the parking lot… but happy to be playing baseball.
Summer ball does not naturally led itself to practice time and preparation for travel teams. For years Ruffnecks coaches have advocated for more preparation… more practice time… more teaching and development. The Covid-19 plan sprung from meetings during the shutdown that included a Coaches Task Force with current, active, college coaches contributing their counsel. Their input, along with the advocacy of veteran Ruffnecks coaches led to the concept of delivering the “Spring Training” experience to our players. “Preparation is key,” remarks Pitching Coach Ace Adams who joined the Ruffnecks with 35 experience in Division I coaching (University of Michigan) and professional baseball, where he worked with Boston, Detroit, St. Louis, and Houston. “These kids need this kind of preparation. Not knowing how this program has done it in the past, I can tell you these kids got a ton of work, in exactly the right way.” Coach Adams embraced the role of “Pitching Coordinator” in 2020, a role familiar to the veteran baseball man. We are thankful for Ace’s presence in the program. An entire field was dedicated to pitchers for throwing, PFP, side work, conditioning… and just conversations about pitching. The pace was reasonable, but the cumulative effect in both preparation and fatigue was significant.
Similarly, the work on Field 1 and Field 2 was specific, purposeful, and calibrated to get players ready to resume game speed actions. Field 1 was the hitting field. BP, hitting drills, base running, and the ever-present shagging dominated the activity. Hitters got plenty of reps. When it was their time to be in the field, position players found plenty of reps on the defensive end of skill work. Field 2 was dedicated to positional play. On Field 2, it was three hours of drill work, body movement, and mental prep for skills and situational drills. Infielders, catchers, outfielders, all found their way around Field 2.
Coaching was the key to the development and objectives of the Covid-19 Spring Training Plan. The program enjoys year to year consistency among its coaches, especially at the 15U, 16U, and 17U levels. The program made an informed decision to increase the coaching staff for spring training (and beyond). This means allocating financial resources to hiring coaches with college coaching experience, current minor league players who are out of work, professional scouts and instructors, and recent collegiate Ruffnecks Alums who returned to share their experience and to learn how to coach for themselves. Our current players were the beneficiaries of the influx of coaches and all the passion they bring to development.
Finally, we got to play games. At every level the program thrived through the Covid restrictions during the summer of 2020. We are thankful for the opportunity to play so many games, most being at the NEBC.
Uncertainties remain. It is a clouded future. But with faith we are planning to resume travel and a full tournament schedule at all levels. However, what we learned is the “Pivot.” We learned that we can deliver baseball in the face of challenges. Ruffnecks players got better during the summer of 2020. We must find a way to continue the instructive focus while applying the merits of travel and tournament play. We will monitor the decisions of the NCAA, high school and prep leagues, and the important work that unfolds to address the pandemic we are in. With good coaching, committed players, and the ability to pivot as needed, we are optimistic for 2021.
The Ruffnecks program is taking advantage of Zoom to conduct college recruiting seminars in one hour increments during the off-season. On Thursday, November 19th, the program conducted its first session. 45 players and families attended the seminar. Babson Head Baseball Coach, Matt Noone, led the session with a fine presentation. His insight and visual slides presented statistics, rule clarifications, and general advice for aspiring college players. Coach Noone spoke directly to the changing landscape as a result of the impact of Covid-19 and the NCAA decision to grant an extra year to current players on college rosters.
Over the course of the winter, the program plans to conduct approximately two College Recruiting Zeries sessions each month. Guest will include current college coaches, scouts, and former college recruiters with a perspective on the process. In some instances the sessions may be limited to 2022 high school grads.
Saturday, Dec. 5
OPEN Hitting at NEBC
8:30 to Noon
(See Winter Page for Guidelines)
(Please Review Covid Guidelines)
Thursday, Dec. 17
College Recruiting Zeries #3
2022 & 2023 Grads
6:30 to 7:30pm