The 13u and 14u Ruffnecks journeyed to Diamond Nation in New Jersey the weekend of March 18-19. Both teams played in the 14U Division of the Spring Invitational. The wether was outstanding on Saturday, May 18th for both teams to play doubleheaders. The 13u Ruffnecks opened with a predictable “schedule loss” that nonetheless featured some good moments and acheived the objectives for the game. The 13’s nearly won their second game falling 9-7 in the late innings. The 14U Ruffnecks proved that they can score a lot of runs. Unfortunately they went 1-2 on the weekend with all three of their games winnable outings. The 14’s also met the objectives for the weekend. Pitching outings were strictly limited, while defensive roles were a work in progress. The 14u defense will improve as the spring moves forward.
The trip to New Jersey meets both on-field objctives and off-field objectives. For the 13u team it is a time to introduce players and families to the Ruffnecks travel model. For both teams, the bonds of a four month season take hold and players get to know each other. Dinner at the hotel, roommate combinations, and transportation as a TEAM are all parts of the experience that we hope brings the team together. Team meetings offer an opportunity to gather thoughts, have some fun, and talk baseball.
The 13u and 14u Ruffnecks continue preparing for the 2023 season. Outdoor Practices move to regular dates on the calendar. Easy access to the Facility for team hitting sessions or individual work is part of the culture. It seems a short time ago that everyone in the Ruffnecks program gathered for the Banquet to celebrate the 2022 season. Spring seemed so far away that cold December night. Now we have begun 2023!
Despite variations in the winter weather, Ruffnecks of all ages got to experience indoor workouts at Boston College, Team hitting sessions, and pro scout clinics as part of their winter work.The youngest two Ruffnecks teams, the 13’s and 14’s, made their way outside for on field work and playing a 6 inning intrasquad on March 5th. A winter backdrop at the NEBC provided a stark reminder that we Ruffnecks may have to battle through some tough conditions for the first month of our season. Since the beginning of 2023 their preparation has been defined by regular team sessions, including “classroom” work with video and small group instruction. The 13’s and 14’s also joined the older teams in the Winter Workouts at BC.
We wish all our high school aged players success and health during their spring seasons for school teams. We continue to develop the 13u and 14u teams operating through March, April, and May. We look forward to June and the start to a busy summer for all five Ruffnecks teams.
Spring Training begins in February. Right? Yes, for Ruffnecks too. At 6:00am on Sunday morning, February 5th, with temperatures slowly rising from record setting minus zero temperatures, over 80 Ruffnecks entered the relative warmth of the Boston College indoor “Bubble” o begin preparation for the 2023 season. Indoor Winter Workouts are carefully scripted to take advantage of the time and space for positional repetitions and skill work (we leave the hitting tasks to the Ruffnecks Facility. Stations are designed for players to work their primary positions in groups. We put some of the pieces together, such as short infield throws, transfers, and PFPs, but the emphasis is on skill work. The Winter Workouts are quite simply an opportunity to “kick off the cobwebs” and to get into baseball movements. Most significantly, the sessions are staffed by 12-15 coaches, professional scouts, and on Sunday, February 5th, Rich Gedman of the Boston Red Sox worked with the catchers. Geddy is always a welcome presence. The two time MLB All-Star and Red Sox Hall of Fame player is a wealth of knowledge for all who have open ears and are willing to listen.
2023 has arrived and the Ruffnecks Facility percolates with activity. Several alums in college made good use of the cages over the holiday break and during the early weeks of January. 13u and 14u Team hitting sessions continue. During the week, many Ruffnecks make their way into the Facility to conduct their hitting routines on their own or with teammates. The calendar is moving swiftly. Many Ruffnecks play winter sports, which we heartily encourage! Prep and high school seasons are less than six weeks away.
The Ruffnecks “Open Hitting” system permits players to make extensive use of the Facility during the week on their own timetables and with few constraints. Weekly team sessions for the 13u and 14u Ruffnecks combine hitting work, classroom work, and bite-size instructive moments for anything we can accomplish in the confines of our Facility, such as baserunning. We make good use of the space and the time.
On Sunday, January 22nd, several professional scouts led the Team Sessions for the 16u/2025 position players and the 17u/2024 position players. The scouts worked with Ruffnecks coaches. Energy, clear, specific, informative, instruction was the order of the day. Each of the oldest two Ruffnecks rosters had an opportunity to get together as a team, while under the watchful eyes of professional scouts. It is difficult to communicate the level and quality of these sessions. But they were impressive.
Pitchers met with Ace Adams in the classroom to talk, listen, and laugh a little. Most importantly, the pitchers received conservative and meaningful guidance for throwing and preparing for the next 6 to 8 weeks. “Less is more” was the message. Ace knows… and his experience is difficult to match!
Ruffnecks conduct a moderate, yet purposeful period of winter workouts. Not too much, but enough to be confident in our preparation. 2023 is here. The first pitches and swings of the new season are closer on the calendar than the time that has passed since that final Ruffnecks swing last August 7th. Getting ready for our 20th year!
Well over 200 players, families, and guests packed the Needham VFW Hall on Monday, December 19th to celebrate Ruffnecks Baseball and the 2022 season. The Banquet has been an annual “Hot Stove” since 2008, though dormant for the past two years. The tradition resumed in fine fashion for the 13th time. Attendance was at an all-time high. The evening celebrates teammates, friendships, and memories. It is a time to pay tribute to our graduating “Seniors,” the 2022 17u team. It is also an opportunity to welcome the new 13u Ruffnecks, our 20th Ruffnecks class! It is about all that baseball is supposed to be. Fun, passion, chatter, playing together. The evening culminates with the recognition of the Johnny Pesky Teammate Award winners. The only awards the program prefers to recognize. The evening kicked off with some impromptu, heart-felt remarks by veteran pro scout and Ruffnecks coach, John Brickley.
Milton resident and current MLB pitcher Rich Hill was the special guest. Mr. Hill is an 18 year MLB veteran, including several stints with the Red Sox and a memorable World Series with the Dodgers. His message was clear, to the point, and with true humility. Process vs. Outcome. With purposeful process, routines, and mental preparation, he outlasted many players who have more talent. Not a few… Many. In a lifetime of baseball, playing locally, being recruited by Matt Hyde and Ace Adams to pitch at the University of Michigan, and working through the minor leagues, Rich Hill candidly acknowledged that many, many, players simply did not, could not, or wasted the opportunity to get better. Natural, physical, gifts need to be honed by consistent work and a clear mind. It sounds cliche, but it is a fundamental truth. He recommended reading books!
Ace introduced Rich Hill with an entertaining ramble that had kids and guests laughing and smiling. A baseball “Lifer,” Ace shared a few of his own eye-opening observations of life in Ruffnecks Baseball after 35 years in professional baseball. “I never met a parent in pro ball… never saw one! Didn’t know they had them!” Ace went on to say he actually loves talking to parents, asking them what they do, where they went to school, and more. He also shared some comedic insights about his own college experience as a player and as a coach at Michigan. “English Department at Michigan? Didn’t know they had one and didn’t know where it was! Kid wanted to see the English Department?” That recruit was Matt Hyde! But Ace’s ability to connect with Ruffnecks players and parents is obvious and priceless. The players were rolling with laughter. At the same time, they all can’t wait to be around him again in the dugout and on the field. It is difficult to imagine a pitcher (or position player for that matter) not having a richer baseball experience by having Ace in his life.
The program featured three short videos. The first captured the winter work at the Facility and the Spring/Summer seasons of the 13u and 14u Ruffnecks. The second was a video tribute to the 2022 Senior Class, which is one of the most successful and tightly bound classes in our 20 year history. Coach Kevin Casey introduced this portion of the program by sharing his joy in coaching this past year’s squad. 11 of the original 14 players selected for the 2018 13u team were among those in attendance and honored in the video tribute. The final video was a 7 minute glimpse into the summer season for the 15u, 16u, and 17u Ruffnecks. The long-time Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame radio voice of Red Sox baseball, Joe Castiglione, did the voiceover for the dramatic walk-off home run by Noah Jordi vaulting the 15u Ruffnecks to a championship in a 16u event in Ohio on the final day of the 2022 season.
The evening concluded with the Johnny Pesky Teammate Awards. The 13u award went to Alistair Cooper. The 14u award went to Owen Callahan. The 15u award went to Drew Reagan. The 16u award went to Isaac Lamson. Two awards were handed to Seniors: Brennan Barlage and Diego Taveras. Finally, the program honored long-time Coach “KG” Kevin Graber who guided 15u baseball for over a decade. It was a recognition of all that is right and good about coaching. KG sent a warm text greeting to the players on the 15u team from his new position at the Chicago Cubs spring training facility in Arizona. His wife Tina, and daughter Kelly Graber were on hand to accept one more Pesky Award. It was an autographed copy of “The Teammates” by David Halberstam that Johnny Pesky signed prior to his passing in 2012. We thank KG for his work, humor, and passion. He will make a difference for the Chicago Cubs and professional baseball, as he has in the Ruffnecks program.
What a night!
As we head into the busy holiday season, we pause with gratitude for what we do together as Ruffnecks. We are on the cusp of our 20th season as a program. It is worthwhile to consider how we got here. We could not have arrived at “20” without the partnership and generosity of our most devoted benefactors, Stu and Susan Porter. Since 2007, they operated in the shadows for many years (while their sons participated), exhibiting leadership without fanfare, careful to let their sons navigate baseball for themselves. Now it is appropriate to recognize the extent to which we are all the beneficiaries of their generosity. We thank the Porters. Every family makes sacrifices to provide their own, young, baseball player with an opportunity to chase dreams in the Ruffnecks program. We must be mindful that the Porters subsidize all of us! Whatever it costs, it costs less than the value of the program due to the Porter’s generosity and ongoing funding. We are thankful for their commitment!
The 2022 season was an exciting, invigorating, and inspirational return to normalcy for travel and competition. We thank our devoted, knowledgeable, and seasoned coaches who think beyond the ebbs and flows of baseball games and tournaments. Ruffnecks coaches are instructors, teachers, and mentors. Our coaches are generally older and experienced; They bring their experience and passion for baseball and teaching to the field each day. They come to the program because we have good kids… And for that we are also thankful. We have amazing coaches.
Ruffnecks kids come to play. It is not easy to be a Ruffneck. The only guarantees are that we believe that each player must conduct his own journey, compete, and learn self-advocacy. The payback is in smiling faces, gritty ballplayers, and the shared experiences in the dugout, on the field, on buses, planes, in hotels, at meals, and in the moments we spend together.
Our amazing players are terrific teammates. No prima donnas here. Veterans welcome new players, support old friends, and are more selfless on the field and in support of each other than even the most discerning spectator can observe. Their world is THEIR experience… The experience of being a Ruffneck is one we trust players are grateful for.
How is gratitude and thanksgiving shared with parents? The obvious answer is that each player owes a debt of gratitude for the support his parents provide. As an organization we are thankful for the parents who buy into a program with a distinctive “arm’s length” relationship between the program and parents. It takes trust to let go. We thank you. And for the parents themselves, we hope they are thankful for a program that strives to build more than baseball into the Ruffnecks experience. This past season makes us mindful of how fortunate we are to have each other in our lives. We look to the future with thankfulness and optimism. Thank You All!
Ruffnecks Fall Baseball started the weekend following Labor Day with an impressive turnout. Close to 100 new players registered for the three Ruffnecks Fall offerings: 13U Fall Development Program; the High School Wood Bat Program; the College Prep Program. Fall Baseball participation has returned to pre-pandemic levels with all three filled to capacity.
The 13U Fall Development program has long been an instructive effort attended by young players making the transition to the full sized diamond. Or staff covers many small details, spanning all aspects of the game. We break down the instruction in an understandable, yet active series of concepts and skill work. The entire Ruffnecks coaching staff, along with several adjunct instructors, and recent alums, devote Sunday mornings to work with eager players making this significant transition in baseball. Station work, repetitions, situations, comprise a plan that unfolds from week to week. Our goal is to cobble together an understanding and a comfort level for playing baseball on field with considerably more “real estate” than what players are accustomed to. All positions demand greater awareness, keener instincts, and the development of fundamental skills. We accomplish a lot (but never enough) in each session in almost three hours of work. The pace never wanes, which makes for a fun and energetic workout. The program utilizes two full fields to present creative drill work, and opportunities for situations and scrimmages. This year’s group of 50 rising 13 year olds is focused and enthusiastic. The talent is impressive. The time passes quickly each week. Most importantly, the progress shows!
The High School Wood Bat and College Prep programs provide opportunities for an additional 45 new players to enjoy mixing with returning Ruffnecks players in a combination of Red vs. Blue (intrasquad) sessions and some NEBC Select League games. The coaching staff favors the Red vs. Blue sessions where we can introduce or review concepts and teach while we play. Pitchers throw carefully measured outings that incorporate supervised bullpen warmups. Rosters change weekly, as we mix returners and new players. The League games provide opportunities to compete against other opponents in the beautiful fall weather. Including returning players, Ruffnecks Fall Baseball accommodates nearly 150 players in a relaxed atmosphere.
Week of March 20-26
Thursday, March 23
6:00 to 8:00pm
(Practice is ON)
Friday, March 24
Open Hitting at Facility
1:30 to Close
Saturday, March 25
at Deerfield JV – Canceled
9:00 to Noon
at Roxbury Latin
Sunday, March 26
13u vs. US9 Prospects
9:00 at Roxbury Latin
14u vs. US9 Prospects
Noon at Roxbury Latin