About Ruffnecks

ABOUT THE RUFFNECKS PROGRAM

The New England Ruffnecks in 2021

The Covid-19 season in 2020 turned out to be a productive experience for Ruffnecks at all levels.  The program was able to pivot by virtue of a strong infrastructure, coaching, and the amazing field facility of the New England Baseball Complex (NEBC).  2021 is the 18th year for the New England Ruffnecks program!  Founded in 2003, the program continues as a non-profit 501-c-3.  At our core, the Ruffnecks is a College Development Program, not a collection of teams. We enjoy a reputation as a well organized and respected program throughout the country… regarded and recognized by college coaches across all levels of play and conferences. Ruffnecks baseball provides a standard of development, consistency, longevity, and experience.

The program fields ONE team per age and class at each of five levels of development.  We do not field “second” teams, “B” teams, or “prospect/elite” teams.  We consider all the players in our program prospects for development with the goal of playing high school, then college baseball (at some level).

Our program begins on the full sized diamond at 13U.  We do not provide teams or instruction on “Little League” fields or 50X70 fields.  All of our teams compete on a regulation baseball diamond.  Our schedules provide team-oriented baseball.  We do not use “temporary” or recruited players for national events.  We build our seasons around players who know and work with one another.  We attract focused players and expect a lot from them.  At 13U and 14U we play between 60 and 80 games a year.  At the College Development Levels (15U to the Seniors Roster)  the program combines highly competitive, exposure-rich events for players seeking to play college baseball.  The summer schedules for our older teams are an “every day” baseball commitment.  These schedules can pack as many as 45-55 games into an 8-9 week period between the end of the school year (June) and the first week of August.  “Off Days” are seldom, yet welcome, on the calendar.  Our travel model is unique, and demanding.  Teams travel together, stay together, eat together, and learn together.  The Ruffnecks program is a comprehensive baseball experience that prepares players for college.  We do not promise a college scholarship, and we cannot promise a “slot” on a college roster.  The journey can be challenging, but colleges know that Ruffnecks players are well prepared for the demands of collegiate baseball!

A Program With A Plan

ONE team per each developmental level means that we focus on each roster as part of a class progression.  The Ruffnecks program is like a school curriculum, with players moving through the Ruffnecks experience as a “class.”  Our 13U and 14U rosters are primarily for 7th and 8th graders (some young 9th graders).  Our 15U, 16U, and 17U rosters are built around high school graduation class and age distinctions.  We find this most effective for both development and for communicating with colleges.  We refer to our oldest team as our “Senior” team (also our 17U team).  Each summer the “Senior” roster is comprised primarily of players who are rising seniors in high school.  Some are PGs (post grads attending prep school).  Most find their college commitments sometime between the end of the junior year in school and December of their senior year.  Timetables vary for individual players.  Almost all go on to play college baseball at some level.  We work in a committed, deliberate, and professional manner to support our players and families in the college recruiting process.  We do not have a “magic wand,” but our success rate and track record are respected.  Players and families with self-awareness, good listening skills, and realistic expectations, often have the most positive experience.

History of the Ruffnecks: Development & Success

From 2003 to 2005 the Ruffnecks fielded teams of 12U to 15U rosters.  In 2006 the program took its first step toward the “College Development Program” it is today.  The 2006 16U Ruffnecks traveled extensively and achieved national attention when they took third place at the Super 7 Invitational Tournament in East Cobb, Georgia.  The 2006 Ruffnecks also advanced to the championship round of the 16U Perfect Game WWBA Championships.  Although the Ruffnecks are not the first program to field 16U teams (and older) in New England, we are currently the oldest in continuing existence.

Isan Diaz with 13U Ruffnecks in Nashville – Just three weeks prior to MLB debut with the Miami Marlins in 2019

Historically, the 13U and 14U Ruffnecks have been high achieving and highly competitive teams.  Ruffnecks 14s have won several national titles including the 2015 and 2016 CABA World Series in Nashville, Tennessee, an event where the ‘Necks reached the finals on five other occasions (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).  In 2013 the 14U Ruffnecks won the Premier World Series championship in Springfield, Missouri against competition from many of the finest programs from the Southwest… including Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

The 15U, 16U, and 17U “Senior” Ruffnecks play demanding schedules and enjoy considerable success.  In 2013 the 16U Ruffnecks captured the USA Baseball Cup in Cary, North Carolina.  In June of 2014, the 16U Ruffnecks took home the Championship at the 17U Super17 in New Jersey, which is one of the most highly recruited events on the east coast.  In 2013 the “Senior” Ruffnecks participated in the first-ever Music City Classic in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Music City Classic events, at 17U and 16U, are attended by all of our upper level teams (15U-Seniors).  In 2018 the “Senior” Ruffnecks captured the Boston Open Championship beating an outstanding team from Florida in a field of over 100 entries.  Our 15U Ruffnecks regularly play against older competition in 16U and 17U events, finding their way to playoff rounds in those tourneys.  The defining aspect of the program is the history of players (see Alumni page) who have gone on to play in college, and some who have earned the privilege of playing professional baseball.  Many former Ruffnecks alums played professionally in the past year.  Several have made it onto Major League rosters for spring training.  Isan Diaz, became the first Ruffneck player to play in the Major Leagues when he was added to the Miami Marlins roster in 2019.  He homered in his very first MLB game..

About Our Plans For 2021 – Roster Composition

The Ruffnecks field teams at 13U, 14U, 15U, 16U and 17/18U, also known as the “Senior” Ruffnecks.  The program maintains a policy of fielding only ONE team in an age classification.  We are program oriented, and do not hesitate to move players within our system.  We give them opportunities to play and practice with older teams, and sometimes field “combined” rosters.  However, we do not take “temporary” players or mercenary players to bolster our rosters for tournaments, games, or for any purpose.  We play and develop the players in the program, period. We have robust rosters.

The 13U and 14U rosters usually have between 14-15 players.  As players advance through the program some become pitchers only (PO’s).  This provides opportunities to expand rosters at the 15U through 17U levels.  The general formula for roster composition is to have 13-15 position players who get at-bats.  We add PO’s beyond that threshold in numbers that makes sense for the overall competitive and development objectives of the roster and individual players.  Expectations are clearly presented.

The program’s assets include the New England Baseball Complex (NEBC), which is owned and operated exclusively by the founders and benefactors of the Ruffnecks program.  In 2020, during the reopening phase of the Covid-19 crisis, the Ruffnecks enjoyed a three week “Spring Training” at the NEBC.  Each day, Monday through Sunday, Ruffnecks players and coaches at all levels utilized the 3 fields at NEB from 8:00am to 11:00am.  It was among the most productive periods in the history of the program.  The Ruffnecks continue to practice, play, develop, and train at the NEBC… our home.  All of the Ruffnecks teams play in tournaments at the NEBC.  The most challenging and exposure-rich tournament events in New England are hosted at the NEBC.  Our teams travel to top events in Georgia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, and any place we feel we need to be. We play a lot of baseball!

Coaching & Competition

There is no parent coaching in the Ruffnecks baseball program.  Indeed, there are no roles for parents in or around the dugouts at all.  We do not keep books or statistics.  We allocate significant funding to pay coaches and to support our staffs.  There are usually three (and sometimes four to six) coaches working with our teams.  In 2020 we hired a full time trainer to be around our older teams (15U-17U).  Like the professional baseball developmental model, we have several “roaming” instructors.  Pitching coaches with credentialed pitching backgrounds work with our pitchers on each team to ensure that pitchers and battery mates are well prepared and coached.

Our coaches do NOT move with rosters from year to year.  We believe there is much to be learned from different coaches who share the same developmental and competitive values and principles.  The Ruffnecks program is fortunate to have consistency and stability among the coaching staff.  Many of our coaches have served five years or more in the program. At the  older levels our staff works hard to coach, travel, and develop players in a manner consistent with what is expected at the collegiate level.

Although we continue to use age designations for our teams, our program is really divided into two developmental components:  13U & 14U provides the foundation for development and matriculation to high school baseball.  The “Upper Program” of 15U through “Seniors” is for College Development.  At the younger levels, our 13U Ruffnecks play a challenging schedule that is development oriented and features competition in 14U events.  While volume is not the defining characteristic of the 13U experience, there is a considerable amount of baseball that may not be appropriate for all young players.  Development is intensive in the 13U and 14U part of the program.  We tell our players that we “coach to instincts.”  This means we teach them to think for themselves.  We ask players to learn instinctively and not to depend on an overload of coaches signs and directives.  At all ages 13U to “Seniors” the Ruffnecks is a serious travel baseball program.

The travel schedule for our older teams is unmatched in the Northeast and one of the most comprehensive and challenging in the United States.  Our teams compete extensively across the country, especially in the South during the summer months.  Ruffnecks teams are invited to many invitation-only events where top programs participate in high exposure competition.  Our commitment to travel is a function of our goal to put our players and teams in front of the best competition, wherever that may take us.  Our resources and subsidization are significant, supported as we are by several generous benefactors who help to provide opportunities beyond what tuition can reasonably pay for.  We also use several important fundraising initiatives to offset our costs.  Accordingly, every player is subsidized.

Selection

The Rufffnecks do not hold traditional “Tryouts.”  We build our rosters slowly and deliberately.  Our 13U team is our “New Class” each year.  We use the 13U Fall Baseball Program as a selection mechanism for building our 13U team each year.  The Fall program is a sincere effort to teach and develop players in the six to seven weekends during the Fall.  Our objective for 13U Fall Baseball is to provide players with a “taste” of the Ruffnecks experience.  We staff Fall Baseball with between 15 and 20 experienced coaches for plenty of instruction.  As we offer enrollment opportunities on our 13U roster for the following season, we conduct an interview process.  Again, we are slow and deliberate with our selection process.  We look for the player with “I will” along with IQ.

Our full staff of coaches are involved during the selection process in Fall and Winter for our older teams as well.  Roster decisions are organizational and are not made solely by the decision of a specific team coach.  We consider graduation class as well as age, positional roles, and the ability for each player to contribute to a given roster.

Generally, the “Senior” College Prep roster is for rising seniors (For the summer of 2021 it is the HS Class of 2022).  The 16U Ruffnecks roster is comprised primarily of rising juniors and some younger rising seniors.  Accordingly, our 15U Ruffnecks are mostly sophomores and younger juniors.

Again, we do not believe in, nor do we conduct traditional “Tryouts.”  We have no set tryout dates, nor do we do private evaluations.  It is best for new candidates to participate in our Fall Baseball program (outside) or our Winter Workouts. The Winter Workouts are repetition-oriented sessions held indoors at Harvard University and Boston College.  They are by invitation only.  Our network of professional scouts, high school, and college coaches also provide recommendations for players who may benefit from the Ruffnecks experience.  While new candidates are encouraged to participate in Fall Baseball, attendance at all the sessions is not required; we only ask that players wishing to join the program make an effort to get involved as much as they can.  We add players each year to a core of returners at each level.  We have rosters of ample size to compete.  Our College Development rosters may have as many as 20 (including players who only pitch).  Expectations are clearly laid out upon enrollment.

Our Mission & Track Record

Ryan Westmoreland was the first Ruffneck to be drafted. Pictured on signing day with Ruffnecks Tee – 6th Round Boston Red Sox in 2008

Our mission is to provide student-athletes who aspire to play college baseball with the opportunities for development and exposure to reach their goals.  Again, this does no mean we can automatically deliver a college outcome or an athletic scholarship even though we have “high band” baseball players who are devoted to the game.  The program is integrally involved in the recruiting process, guidance, and school placement with players and their families.  The results speak for themselves… on field results, kids going to schools, Area Code selections, and even drafted players.  Other programs may make promises and claims, but we have built this program for 14 years on a proven track record.  Consider:

  • Ruffnecks alums have played at many of the top schools in the country, including Harvard, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, Princeton, Penn, Yale, Georgetown, Lafayette, Penn State University, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Holy Cross, North Carolina, Vanderbilt University, Boston College, William and Mary, Wake Forest University, Stanford University, UMass, UConn;  Ruffnecks at Small Colleges include Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Williams, Trinity, Colby, Ithaca College, Johns Hopkins, and others.  This is not ancient history… this is ongoing.
  • Over 50 Ruffnecks have been drafted by MLB organizations since 2008.   Ryan Westmoreland was the first as a 6th round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2008.  We have had players selected in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Rounds.  In 2014, Isan Diaz became the highest draft pick for a former Ruffnecks as the 2nd Round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He made his MLB debut in 2019.
  • Our teams are successful in terms of wins and losses, not because we demand victory, but because we ask players to prepare and conduct themselves by standards of excellence that have endured over time.  We succeed in high-profile tournaments because of these principles and the way in which we conduct ourselves in travel, preparation, and effort.
  • Our oldest, “Senior” team continues to be a model for rising seniors.  Our 16s, 15s, and 14s similarly participate against the best competition in the country.  Their travel schedule is unmatched.  Even our 13s and 14s, where teaching is our primary objective, distinguish themselves in high level competition.  Winning is a product of what we do, not the dominant objective.
  • Players are observed over time and through our year-round activities, not simply in a tryout.  Our alliances with professional scouts, coaches, college coaches, and others throughout the game of baseball provide exposure in real, evaluative ways, not through expensive showcases… which brings us to the underlying foundation of the Mission… Develop players and young men on and off the field.  Expect to be seen, and go about your business as if someone is always watching and evaluating.

Developmental Philosophy & Objectives

We are a College Development Program (CDP) committed to travel baseball.  Each year builds on the prior year’s experiences, developmental foundations, and principles.  Indeed, we have a strong core of players who are multi-year Ruffnecks.  Yet we add new players to our rosters each season.  The most important  criteria is that they must fit in, and we must have an opportunity for them to develop.  We tell our players that if they want to find out how good they are, we will put them in front of the best competition, wherever that takes us.  Few programs in the Northeast commit comparable resources, a higher proportion of its operating budget, and subsidizes more in development than the Ruffnecks.  We are committed to Non-Parent, professional coaching for all our teams.  We do not permit parent coaches or assistants.  We are founded on this principle and we ask parents to support our goal to have each player become his own advocate on the baseball field.

Age and Class are factors in deciding which roster a player is assigned to.  A summary of those objectives follow below:

  • 13U Ruffnecks: This is a year of transition to the big diamond. It is also a year of separation of talent as well as preparation for high school baseball.  We like to say, “Baseball begins at 90.”  Of course we mean the 90 foot diamond.  13U players need to re-learn the game of baseball.  Success on the small diamonds of Little League does not necessarily translate to success on the big diamond. Our 13s played around 70 games, including against older competition.
  • 14U Ruffnecks: A year of accelerated competition and travel.  We commit our team to a VERY demanding schedule.  The 14U developmental curve is challenging.  We will continue to evolve our model for the 14U Ruffnecks, including a schedule that includes significant baseball activity in the summer that mirrors the objectives of the Upper Program.  From Memorial Day through the end of July, we are focused on tournament play and travel.  We play good, competitive, opposition.
  • 15U Ruffnecks (Mostly rising sophomores – Class of 2024 and some younger 2023 grads): This is the most significant transition in the development of Ruffnecks baseball players.  Competition is against older players and teams.  Very little competition is age-specific for 15U players.  We design a schedule comparable to the 16U and 17U schedules, often participating in the very same events.  A June – early August schedule includes weekday activity.  The program is designed for players with the talent and focus to become significant varsity level high school contributors.
  • Ruffnecks College Prospects – 16U: ( Primarily rising juniors – 2023 grads and some 2022’s): This is the equivalent of a highly competitive 16U-17U program, designed for players who are currently high school varsity contributors. This is an every-day program June – early August.  While many of our players are developed from within our own system, each year we consider new candidates. The competitive objectives are consistent with the same exposure objectives as the 18U team.
  • Ruffnecks College Prospects – 17U: College Prospect Team (Rising seniors – 2022 HS Graduates): Designed primarily for rising seniors identified as likely college-bound prospects. This is a team-oriented competitive program. It is high exposure and high intensity. If you perform successfully in the context of this team you will be followed by college recruiters.  We do NOT claim to be exclusively a D-I college prospect team.  Nor do we offer claims that we can get players a college scholarship.  We work hard and honestly with each rising prospect to be his advocate, and to advise him with regard to his college aspirations.  We have many very solid players who matriculate to outstanding D-II and D-III programs. It is an every-day program mid-June through the beginning of August. This team is strictly for established high school varsity players. Professional scouts help coach during the winter workouts.  While we have enjoyed several professional signings from our ranks, this is a college development program first and foremost.

Travel & Costs

Ruffnecks teams travel extensively.  In 2021 Tuition remains $3,400 (less for Pitchers ONLY).  Tuition INCLUDES all travel and arrangements for the players: Flights… Hotel costs… Food… Ground Transportation.  This means that parents are NOT responsible for booking travel or add-on costs per event.  Tuition and subsidization covers these travel expenses.  Ruffnecks players are housed in hotels, ONE player to a bed.  We do not cram players into hotel rooms.  The Club also assesses a modest, incremental, Winter Facility Fee to support our indoor activities at BC, Harvard University, and cage time at the NEBC.

Financial Aid and Outreach Initiatives: Each year the Club awards nearly $20,000 in financial aid to players who otherwise could not afford to participate.  The Ruffnecks have reached into the greater Boston community over the past several years to enable players from inner-city backgrounds to enjoy the experience of travel baseball.

How We Travel

The New England Ruffnecks travel model is unique and unparalleled among travel baseball programs.  The way we travel is a defining characteristic of our program.  Ruffnecks players embrace and enjoy the experience of being a Ruffneck on the road during the summer.  It takes significant organization, funding, and effort to plan and execute our travel model.  Travel is done as a team.  It is founded on the TEAM dynamic.  Other than for local games, parents are not involved in team travel.  Parents are not required to travel to tournaments with their sons.  Our teams travel extensively in the South and compete  at venues such as Auburn University; Clemson University; the University of South Carolina; University of Virginia; Vanderbilt University, Lipscomb University, among others.  We have spent time in Ft. Myers, Florida; Marietta, Georgia; Illinois, Indiana, Tennessee, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, and anywhere the competition takes us.  Of course we also participate in tournaments throughout the Northeast.  To be sure, the travel in our program can be exhausting and challenging.  However, the Ruffnecks program attracts players who wish to commit to a rigorous baseball schedule… which means Travel!

  • While on major road trips, players fly or bus with their teammates.  We stay in hotels, eat, and transport our players to and from games in team vans or buses.  There is very little “down” time.  Curfews are strictly imposed.  Roommate assignments are arbitrarily made.  We have devised a meal plan with the consultation of a sports nutritionist.  We have administrative assistants travel with our teams who prepare home cooked meals.  We eat well.  Our coaches ensure proper hydration and do their best to adhere to the guidelines of good nutrition while on the road.  We do not frequent “fast food” establishments.  We usually go out to one or two team dinners while on the road to break up the routine.
  • When traveling, the team is on our watch.  We  customarily (especially at the younger ages) have a parent representative who helps coordinate communication between the activities of the team and the core of parents in attendance on a given trip.  Of course not all parents can attend all trips.  Our parent groups have traditionally evolved into very supportive partners in our effort to make sure each player has someone looking out for him while on trips far from home.
  • We exercise careful accountability for players.  The hotels we designate as “team hotels” are for the players and coaches.  We discourage families from staying in the team hotel.  Almost without exception, we contract with hotels that have a second, nearby property for parents.  The Club pays for and coordinates player travel.  We do not book travel or hotel rooms for parents.
  • We practice on the road.  We make it part of the daily routine whenever the game/tournament schedule provides an opportunity to do so.  We also make arrangements for strength training while traveling.

We encourage all players and parents to understand that the team experience on the road belongs to the players.  It is our intent to teach them how to live, interact, bond, and work out their differences with each other.  Accordingly, we work hard to keep the team together while we travel.  We do not permit players to “peel off” and go out with parents or friends while traveling as a team.  Occasionally parents will organize a team function or dinner while on the road.  We try to maintain a focus on baseball.  Activities such as a team movie, attendance at a professional baseball game, or other non-playing options are done as a team.  The Club often pays for a portion of these activities or they are paid for by a contributor to the program… parent or otherwise.

For additional information on how to become a candidate for the 2021 Ruffnecks season, please call the office at (508) 409-4106 or email neruffnecks@gmail.com