Ruffnecks Fall Baseball began the weekend after Labor Day with 140 players participating at three different levels: 40 new 13U players are participating in the 13U Fall Development program. Approximately 40 players participate in the High School Wood Bat program, including the rising 14U Ruffnecks players. An additional 60 players answer “roll call” each week to participate in the offerings for the College Prep program. The HS Wood and College Prep programs combine a variety of Red vs. Blue games, which are instructive and developmental intrasquad sessions, along with competition in the NEBC Fall Leagues.
Roger Clemens, in town for the Red Sox/Yankees series, an ESPN appearance, and some charity work, chose to attend the Saturday, September 25th Red v. Blue session. Clemens spent the better part of 2 full hours talking real baseball with the 24 Ruffnecks in attendance. This was not a simple autograph show or celebrity appearance. It was out of the goodness of his heart to share baseball insights with baseball players… Ruffnecks baseball players. The session was interactive. It was a lot of detailed, specific, information about hitters and pitchers, and how each work to beat the other. Of course, Clemens approaches the contest from the perspective of a pitcher. But he spoke to how many of the great hitters he faced, Pujols, Jeter, middle of the order guys, that he had to prepare for and work hard to beat. He spoke to grips on the baseball, to core strength, and to simple wrist and forearm exercises players can do while being in the house… without weights!
Eventually, “Rocket” did a demo off the mound. He threw to Ruffnecks catcher James Benestad while speaking to the group about balance, weight shift, but most interestingly, visualization and focus. At 59 years old, he threw 12-15 pitches with “firmness” (ask Benestad). 100 percent strikes!!! He spoke to control, passion, and keeping the game in perspective. Taking time off. Playing other sports. Appreciation for the gift of being able to play at all! The entire day was Clemens’ idea and initiative. He asked to come, and he delivered a fantastic experience. We appreciate his generosity. He has been and remains a true friend of the program. He has even sponsored Ruffnecks scholarships over the years.
The 13U Fall sessions continue on Sundays until the end of October. These are highly instructive, fast paced, workouts to teach the game on the big diamond… as it is supposed to be played. At the HS Wood and College Prep levels, Ruffnecks Fall baseball is more than just rolling the ball out and having fun. It is a time for returning Ruffnecks to take a measured approach to the work they wish to put into the game. Pitchers pitch only in small doses. New players mix in with returners as candidates or just to get a taste of the Ruffnecks program. We play games in the fall to experiment, try new things, get our work in, evaluate. The constants remain, and are what Roger Clemens spoke to: Running hard 90’s and compete to get better. Winning is a byproduct of preparation.
The 2021 season is over. The Ruffnecks program heads into its 19th season in 2022. This is a long time for a baseball program. We have evolved over the course of nearly two decades. The past two seasons presented challenges, but the program continues to learn, innovate, and consider what is best for its players and teams. Meeting those challenges has been an exercise familiar to farmers… Making fertilizer out of manure; The more genteel expression is “making lemonade out of lemons.”
One of our most effective innovations has been the summer “Pre-Season” for players on the 15U-17U rosters. These sessions are conducted in simple, spring training format. Pre-Season was instituted for three weeks during the summer of 2020 when Covid prohibited team activity. This past June (2021) we reprised the idea. Players and coaches arrived daily Monday-Friday at 8:00am and worked out until 11:00am. Three hours every day beginning the week of June 7th! Position players took full BP, worked out at their positions, and conducted drill work to sharpen positional skills. Pitchers conducted long toss, side sessions, PFP, and benefited from the mental approach instituted by Pitching Coach and Coordinator Ace Adams. He even brought the respected pitching coach of the Houston Astros, Brent Strom, to one of the sessions… and it was not for autographs! It was REAL information and work.
So what did we learn from this? Innovating is NOT reinventing the fundamental principles of baseball development. The tools are simple: Repetitions; Routines; Actions; Coaching. No magic potion, exit velocity, spin rate measurements, or recruiting service can replicate playing the game and conducting the routines that contribute to player development. What we also learned is that the New England Ruffnecks still do not do enough! Once we get going with the tournament schedule, we do not practice enough, and we do not get enough of the time-honored routines that keep players sharp, learning, on corrective paths, and on an upward trajectory. We learned we need to be better.
At the end of Pre-Season (Mid-June) the program conducted its own Scout Day for players in the classes of 2022, 2023, and 2024. This was the second year we did so. More than 25 college coaches attended. We had 5 pro scouts attend to conduct the evaluation of players. Yes, we paid the pro scouts. They are professional! They watched, rated, and wrote up our players with unflinching eyes. Theirs is not a “showcase” mindset to make a player feel good and come back for another purchase in another location. The Ruffnecks Scout Day provided an honest evaluation and a baseline for baseball players who are willing to listen. BP was thorough: 4 full, rounds (not just 10-12 swings). If you hit, you show bat control and hit well in BP. Positional work was closely watched by professional scouts who look for “actions” not just gun readings. Three Ruffnecks players were invited to Area Code workouts as a result of the day’s activities, not through backchannel recommendations. And other players earned “follow” status from the scouts. Those “follows” will serve the players well in the future.
Joy and relief defined a summer that was “back to normal.” What that means to the Ruffnecks program is that we traveled out of our region, and out of our comfort zone. Both are important. Each Ruffnecks team from 13U to 17U spent time on the road, experiencing the travel model, playing competitive baseball, and bonding as teammates. “Not always comfortable” means that sometimes the circumstances of competition on a national scale may not present what players and families wish to hear or experience. Sometimes a player finds himself NOT in the lineup for consecutive games. Sometimes pitchers do not get much of a chance, or worse, fail mightily in key situations. “We traveled all this way, and he barely got into the lineup,” is an uncomfortable truth that families may not enjoy. But these are fundamental realities. Ruffnecks coaches work to get everyone better. They work to get the team better. And sometimes players go into slumps, exacerbated by pacing, anxious, parents who cringe at each ground out or strike out. Yes, coaches observe those sideline mannerisms as well as the mannerisms of the players.
The 13U and 14U Ruffnecks traveled to Charleston, South Carolina. Both played in the 14U CABA World Series. For the 13U Ruffnecks, playing “up” on a national stage was new, though not overwhelming. The 13’s hung in there. They learned that speed, strength, and consistency are crucial. Making routine plays is important; not making the routine play leads to trouble. The 14U Ruffnecks learned they need to get better, play more consistently, pitch to pitch, and out to out. The 14’s showed flashes of brilliant play. They also learned that heat, fatigue, and depth play into success in tournament play. No one from New England understands the heat of the South until it becomes a daily factor.
The 15U Ruffnecks were a worthy group of competitive players. Most participated in the Pre-Season (referenced above). The 15’s demonstrated that they are an advanced 15U group by winning an early season (and competitive) 15U event at the NEBC. That event would be the only 15U competition the team would play in during the course of two months; not because there are not worthy 15U opponents, but because they sought and earned a challenging schedule. The team traveled to Georgia for the 16U WWBA and came out strong with two consecutive wins. Just as it looked like the Ruffnecks might actually have a chance to compete for their pool, the team hiccupped, and lost game in which they gave up what looked like a comfortable lead. Three days of rain washed out any further chance to play or make up for their mistakes. What we learned is that when talent faces talent a team must finish. Worthy opponents seek the same outcome… victory. We also sent the 15U team to the Tournament of Champions in Cincinnati, Ohio at the beginning of August. This also presented a challenge against 17U competition. Again, the 15U Ruffnecks learned that being “good” must also include being successful against ALL competition… individually and as a team. “Every day baseball” is a grind. It can also be unforgiving.
The 16U Ruffnecks got off to a strong start at home by advancing to the championship game in the PG 16U Super25 Regional in late June. However, when the team traveled to Georgia in early July for the 17U WWBA the “real” competition began. It was the start of growth and improvement. Georgia was a dose of reality and humility for the 16U Ruffnecks. All of a sudden, a team that had not traveled since their 14U season, was up against the top 17U competition in the country. The start of the tournament was a struggle, but the week-long journey taught the players that performance and opportunity are closely aligned. The team lost games at the beginning of the event; they won games as the week progressed. They returned to New England and played the remainder of the summer in the region, competing in both 16U and 17U tournaments. Coach Fredericks did his usual and masterful job of teaching the game at the same time players learn that performance is the measure by which they are judged. The 16’s performance reflected steady, purposeful, improvement and success.
Travel is the cornerstone of the 17U Ruffnecks experience. Unfortunately, the early season trip to Nashville for the Music City Classic was canceled due to the shift in the Massachusetts High School schedule. The 17’s did get an early travel experience at the Super17 in Flemington, New Jersey where they played well. But that too was tainted by an incomplete roster due to school playoffs. In 2021 the 17U Ruffnecks opted to stay in New England for the Boston Open. It rained the entire week. This had a significantly adverse effect on the lineup and the pitching. Nevertheless, the 17U Ruffnecks traveled to two of the most highly competitive events in the country: The 17U Perfect Game World Series in Surprise, Arizona; and the Tournament of Champions in Cincinnati, Ohio. The PG World Series in Arizona featured only 35 teams. Many were among the best of the West. Players aspire to play at the highest level. For most Ruffnecks, Division I is the goal. The competition in Arizona was unforgiving. And that is the greatest lesson taken from the experience. The Ruffnecks had leads in almost every game. However, the margin for error shrinks as the competition gets tougher. The team learned this in Arizona. 110 Degree heat can also test one’s will and stamina. The PG World Series was one of the best experiences our program has ever undertaken. The positive effect showed in Ohio. Once again, the competition was very good. And while it may have been less concentrated (over 100 teams instead of 35), the Ruffnecks found their rhythm, advancing to the top championship bracket. A 3-2 walk-off loss in the playoffs ended the run, but the team finished strong.
As we head into our 19th season, there is much to look forward to in 2022. We will return to being the national travel team we have always been. College coaches around the country follow us. The experience in Arizona opened the eyes of a new set of college coaches. Ohio underscored why we do what we do. We play as a team. Our goal is to keep the Ruffnecks a TEAM program.
Once the clouds parted during the week of July 18-23, the 16u Ruffnecks had a chance to put together an impressive run, all the way to the Championship of the 16U Underclass World Series. It has been 31 games in 34 days for this group of Ruffnecks… “Every Day Baseball is a challenge, and the 16’s have managed to get that much baseball played in a month where rain has dwarfed sunshine!
In the course of a long season, there are ebbs and flows to lineups, individual, and team performances. But teams do not succeed without contributions from everyone. And the 16’s have demonstrated this over the past two weeks. The 16’s returned from Georgia and the 17u Perfect Game WWBA on July 12. The level of competition at the WWBA served them well. Following an impressive 4 win Boston Invitational “tune up,” the 16u Ruffnecks withstood a challenge in the first game of the Underclass World Series, grinding out a 3-2 victory. They followed with three consecutive pool play wins to earn the #1 seed in the playoff round of 8 teams. On Friday, July 23, the team played three games on the way to a satisfying 7-3 Championship Game win. Pitching and defense is always important, and the contributions from everyone on the pitching staff are too numerous to mention. Of note, Teo Spadaccini performed well in the championship game, and earned the win. Jack Sokhos-Drude came in to close the quarterfinal game in a tight 6-4 win. The offense was steady with contributions up and down the lineup. Of particular note on defense was the outfield play of Daniel Sullivan and Max Gomez. They have been the glue in the outfield, regularly making hard plays look routine, and sprinkling in the “highlight” play when needed. These are difference makers, and are much appreciated by pitchers and teammates. Congrats to the 16’s on a successful run.
The 17U Ruffnecks hit the road for two successive, demanding, trips. They begin in Arizona July 26-31 at the 17U Perfect Game World Series, which is played at the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers spring training facilities. The event is an invite-only event for 35 teams, many from the West Coast, Texas, and Arizona. It is highly competitive. Follow the action on the Perfect Game link. The “Senior ‘Necks” return on July 31 and after a quick dose of home cooking, get right back on the road at the Tournament of Champions in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is a demanding 3 weeks for the 17’s
A last minute opportunity to get into the Tournament of Champions, provides a chance for the 15U Ruffnecks to join the 17U team in Ohio! A committed group of players and coaches, along with supportive parents, came together to pull this trip together in less than 24 hours! The 15’s were washed out of nearly half their games at the 16U Perfect Game WWBA in Georgia. They are itchy to get another chance to experience the road and competition in another part of the country. The Cincinnati trip provides just that chance. Indeed, the 15U Ruffnecks participate in ALL 17u and 18u events for the final three weeks of the season. It is a challenge, but the group is excited and ready.
Coming off their trip to South Carolina, the 13’s and 14’s are using a combined roster to play in several local events. Their season officially ends July 28. Pitchers Jeremy Krendel, Owen Ellsworth, and Brendan Norton are participating with the 15U and 16U teams through the end of of those seasons. All part of the Ruffnecks way!
Ruffnecks teams from 13U to 16U hit the road for trips to the South beginning in early July. The travel started with the 16U Ruffnecks heading to the 17U Perfect Game WWBA in Marietta, Georgia. Playing in an event that is one age classification “up” presents its own set of challenges. After a disappointing “doubleheader day” the first day of the event, the 16U ‘Necks settled into a rhythm and improved steadily over the course of the week long event. The team finished with a 4-2-1 record, which is impressive considering the two losses on Day #1. John Milewski, Max Gomez, Daniel Sullivan, and Huxley Holcombe led the Ruffnecks offense. Jack Sokhos-Drude, Teo Spadaccini, and Dante LeRoy had strong outings on the mound. Most important was the opportunity for this group to get away from New England after a year hiatus. The team effort, living and eating together, and the level of competition provided invaluable perspective and experience to aspiring college players, most of whom are in the class of 2023. Coach Fredericks’ squad turns attention to several events in the New England Region over the next month. The coaching staff welcomes the addition of former Ruffneck Tom Novick for the remainder of the season to work with pitchers.
The 15U Ruffnecks headed South on Wednesday, July 15 to participate in the 16U Perfect Game WWBA in Marietta, GA. The 15’s got off to a strong start with two lopsided wins on their first day of action. In their third game of the week-long event they faltered in a 10-9 loss that puts them in a tough position to advance from pool play. They face the nationally ranked South Charlotte Panthers on Saturday, July 17. Offensively, the Ruffnecks continue to be productive. Nick Andersen, Isaac Lamson, and Aiden Barclay lead the team through three games in RBI with 6, 5, and 4 respectively. Nolan Colby is leading the team in hitting and slugging. The Ruffnecks got good starts from James Dyalchand-Ericson and Nolan Bibbo in Games 1 and 2. The trip is the first in two years for a group of Ruffnecks that has both defensive and offensive talent, speed, and a lot of enthusiasm.
Both the 16U Ruffnecks and the 15U Ruffnecks are well cared for in Georgia. Traveling Secretary and administrative assistant Jackie Pelc is camped in Georgia for two weeks. She prepares, cooks, and serves nutritious and sumptuous meals daily. The boys happily have food that is healthy. Her work is very much appreciated. A steak dinner even made the menu!
The Ruffnecks provide a unique travel experience, and it begins with the July trip for 13’s and 14’s into the heat of the South. For the past 11 years our traditional trip has been to Nashville, Tennessee for the 14U CABA World Series. Both the 13’s and the 14’s participate in the 14U Division of the event. In 2021 the program had to pivot to Charleston, South Carolina for the 14U CABA Wood Bat World Series. It turned out to be a terrific trip. Both teams played hard, yet struggled with the demands of the heat and humidity. But this is part of the journey. Staying together as a team, in the hotel, riding in vans, under the supervision of Ruffnecks coaches… it all requires learning how to prepare and take care of oneself. Each team played 5 games over the four day event. And while neither team managed to get to the championship round, it was an experience the players will always remember. Both squads even squeezed in a day at the South Carolina beach. The important thing is that the young ‘Necks learned about baseball on the road, 24/7, and the demands of the heat. A significant dose of fun helps the process. Both teams enjoyed home cooked meals, healthy lunches and full breakfasts. Of course, they also experienced the traditional Waffle House experience upon arrival to cut into that appetite that follows a long day of travel!
Meanwhile, the 17U Ruffnecks prepare for a trip to the 17U Perfect Game World Series in Surprise, Arizona July 26-31. Based on current forecasts the team can expect temperatures above 100 each day. Follow the updates and action through the tournament link on the team page and in the “Announcements” box on the home page of this website.
The journey back to “normal” continues for Ruffnecks at every level. Tournament activity has been brisk at the NEBC. All Ruffnecks teams have competed well. Late June through the Fourth of July weekend saw a mix of regional travel and a healthy does of participation in Perfect Game and other events at the NEBC.
The 17U Ruffnecks were the first to travel outside our home base as they attended the Super17 at Diamond Nation in New Jersey, June 21-25. The squad did well going 3-1 at the event (no playoff rounds were scheduled). Getting our pitchers untracked and building a team identity were the primary objectives. The team returned from New Jersey to play a competitive doubleheader at Team Cape Cod. June 28-30 the 17U Ruffnecks played in the 17U PG Super25 at the NEBC. While they did not win their pool to advance, the 17’s went 3-1. Following a rainy Fourth of July weekend, the “Senior ‘Necks” begin a stretch with the Boston Invitational and the highly competitive Boston Open, July 4-5 and July 8-12. July is a busy month leading up to the 17U Perfect Game World Series in Surprize, Arizona. The beginning of August sees the 17’s at the Tournament of Champions in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Cape Cod was the backdrop for the first game of the season for the 16U Ruffnecks. After a tough outing at the Cape, the 16’s jumped right into the 16U PG Super25 at the NEBC. After dropping a 3-0 decision in the first game of Pool Play, the Ruffnecks rattled off 5 consecutive wins to reach the Championship game of the event. Coach Fredericks’ squad followed that effort with a quick turnaround. After finishing the finals at 11:00pm at night on Sunday, June 27, the team played Game 1 of a doubleheader at 8:00am in the 17U PG Super25. The ‘Necks split their doubleheader with a 1-0 loss and a 4-1 victory. Rain washed out Friday and Saturday, July 2-3. The 16U Ruffnecks are in Georgia to compete in the 17U Perfect Game WWBA July 6-12.
Barely two weeks into the summer the 15U Ruffnecks have played 13 games with tremendous success. Over the Fourth of July Weekend the 15U ‘Necks captured the Championship in the 15U Uncle Sam World Series at the NEBC. The team also competed well in the 16U PG Super25 June 25-27, keeping all games close with a 1-2-1 record in pool play. While the “team” did not participate in the 17U PG Super25, much of the roster did so. The pitchers participated on the roster with the 16U Ruffnecks. Several position players joined the 17U squad for the event. It is common for Ruffnecks to combine rosters for certain events, and this played out effectively for members of the 15U Roster over the first few weeks. The 15’s gear up with competition in the 18U Boston Invitational and the 16U Boston Open. Then the team packs up to attend and compete (with enthusiasm) at the 16U Perfect Game WWBA in Marietta, Georgia July 14-20.
Coach Beverly(s) and Coach Suchanek have done a marvelous job preparing and teaching the 14U Ruffnecks. The 14’s have played in one 14U event and two 15U events since summer began. They reached the semifinals in the 14U PG Super25 and again reached the semis at the 15U PG Super25. Over the rainy, Fourth of July weekend the team did admirably well in the 15U Uncle Sam World Series. The transition to playing older competition is fundamental to the 14U Ruffnecks experience. No Ruffnecks team was affected more by the Covid summer of 2020 than this class. They have done a terrific job catching up and earning respect. The 14U Ruffnecks set their sites on the first trip of their careers when they travel to the 14U CABA World Series in Charleston, SC July 9-14.
At times undermanned, the 13U Ruffnecks are learning how to grind out baseball games. The 13U Ruffnecks are a spunky group that has enjoyed a full season of spring, and now, summer baseball. The experience of adapting to the demands of Ruffnecks baseball takes time to evolve. The 13U Ruffnecks have found their way with measures of success and hard lessons. The team found their way into the playoff round in both the 13U PG Super25 and the 14U PG Super25 on consecutive weekends. Additional competition against 14U teams continue to challenge the squad. Fortunately, this 13U class gets to experience the Ruffnecks travel model in their first season. The team is excited to head to Charleston, SC with the 14U squad to participate in the 14U CABA World Series July 9-14. More baseball awaits players on the 13s if they choose to participate in combined roster events with the 14s (and possibly some 15’s) when they return from South Carolina.
Ruffnecks Fall Baseball 2021
Saturday, Oct. 16
College Prep Blue Game
Sunday, Oct. 17
13U Ruffnecks Fall Program
8:00 to 10:30
Sunday, Oct. 17
HS Wood Bat Game
Sunday, Oct. 17
Red v. Blue
Sunday, Oct. 17
College Prep RED Game