THE RUFFNECKS PROGRAM
Over Two Decades! The New England Ruffnecks in 2024
Founded in 2003, the Ruffnecks celebrated their 20th season in 2023! Now we begin our third decade. It takes time to build a tradition and reputation. Our program fields ONE team per age and class at each of five levels of development. We do not field “B” teams, or “prospect/elite” teams. We consider all players in our program prospects. Their goals should be playing high school, and aspiring to play college baseball. We begin on the full sized diamond at 13U. We do not field teams or provide instruction on “Little League” fields or 50X70 fields. We are not AAU. We are an independent, competitive, baseball development program. All our teams compete on a regulation baseball diamond. We are traditional in our team and developmental values. We do not focus on analytics or gimic metrics. We teach the game of baseball as team sport and through the positional skill sets for baseball player athletes.
The Ruffnecks are a team-oriented program. We do not use “temporary” or recruited players for national events. We build our seasons around players who know and work with one another. Indeed our 13U players know our 17U players. They even train together at times. 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 17U/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 40-45 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, bus together, and learn together. The Ruffnecks 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 college coaches know that Ruffnecks players are well prepared for the demands of collegiate athletics.
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. 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. 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 the first 16U Ruffnecks traveled extensively and achieved national attention when they took third place at the Super 7 Invitational Tournament in East Cobb, Georgia. That team 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.
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 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. This past season (2022) saw the 17U Ruffnecks play extraordinarily well. They capture two tournament championships and finished in the Final Four at the Tournament of Champions in Ohio. The 2022 Seniors played 40 baseball games in 48 days!!!
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. 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 some of those events. 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. 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. Three alums have made MLB rosters to date.
Roster Composition – About Our Plans for 2024
The Ruffnecks field teams at 13U, 14U, 15U, 16U and 17/18U, also known as the “Senior” Ruffnecks. Again, the program maintains a policy of fielding only ONE team at each level. We are program oriented, and do not hesitate to move players within our system, which means that we give players opportunities to play and practice with older teams, and sometimes field “combined” rosters. However, we do not take “temporary” 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. Players who have other plans for summer between June and the first week of August should NOT consider participation with the Ruffnecks program.
The 13U and 14U rosters usually have between 14-16 players. As players advance through the program some become pitchers only (PO’s), though not at 13U or 14U. The general formula for roster composition is to have 13-15 position players who get at-bats. We add PO’s beyond that threshold as it makes sense for the overall competitive and development objectives of the roster and individual players. Expectations are clearly presented and discussed.
Even though we have distinct rosters, our program is coached “programmatically” by all of our coaches. This means that rosters often practice together. Coaches from one team often make their way into the dugout with another team… just because they love it. During winter and pre-season workouts, 13U players take reps next to 17U players. The result is a culture of mentoring and learning from others who have been through the program. We do not hesitate to move a player from one roster to another if the need or opportunity presents itself during the season.
The program’s assets include the New England Baseball Complex (NEBC), which was built and funded by the founders and benefactors of the Ruffnecks program. In early June, the Ruffnecks conduct a two week “Spring Training/Pre-Season” at the NEBC. Each day, Monday through Friday, Ruffnecks players and coaches work out at NEBC from 8:00am to 11:00am. The Pre-Season culminates in a Scout Day that is well attended by close to 50 college and university coaches from the Northeast and beyond. 6 professional scouts also attended in 2022. All of the Ruffnecks teams play in tournaments at the NEBC. Many of the most challenging and exposure-rich tournament events in New England are hosted at the NEBC. Our teams travel to top events in Georgia, Arizona, 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 (other than our 17u team). We allocate significant funding to pay coaches and to support our staffs. There are usually three (and sometimes more) coaches working with our teams. We have a Medical Team and orthopedic doctor referral network. Like the professional baseball developmental model, we have several “roaming” instructors. Pitching coaches with credentialed pitching backgrounds work with our pitchers 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 has consistency and stability among the coaching staff. Many of our coaches have served ten 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 Facility (In Needham, MA)
We have our own, private, non-commercial indoor hitting Facility (called “The Facility). We do not sell lessons or rent cages (other than we support some community groups). The Facility is the Ruffnecks “Clubhouse.” The hitting tunnels are for Ruffnecks to use almost any time, on their own or with teammates. We hold Team hitting sessions at the Facility regularly. During the winter, we will hold Pro Scout Clinics that are targeted to Ruffnecks players ONLY with the goal of professional scout exposure, evaluation, and instruction.
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 2024 it is the HS Class of 2025). 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.
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. 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. Expectations are clearly laid out upon enrollment.
Our Mission & Track Record
Our mission is to provide student-athletes who aspire to play college baseball with opportunities for development and exposure to reach their goals. Again, this does not mean we can automatically deliver a college outcome or an athletic scholarship. 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 a respected brand for 20 years on a proven track record. Consider:
- Ruffnecks alums have played at many of the top schools in the country, including all the IVYs, Georgetown, The U.S. Naval Academy, Penn State University, Clemson, Coastal Carolina, Holy Cross, North Carolina, Vanderbilt University, Boston College, William and Mary, Wake Forest University, Stanford University, UMass, UConn; Small Colleges include Amherst, Bates, Bowdoin, Williams, Trinity, Colby, Ithaca College, Johns Hopkins, and others. This is not ancient history… it is ongoing work.
- 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 are non-negotiable and endure as foundational values for success. Success is based on these principles and the effort to adhere to them.
- Our alliances with professional scouts, college coaches, and others throughout the game of baseball provide exposure in real, evaluative ways, not through expensive showcases… which returns 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.
Developmental Philosophy & Objectives
We are a College Development Program committed to travel baseball. Each year builds on the prior year’s experiences, developmental foundations, and principles. We maintain a strong core of players who are multi-year Ruffnecks. 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 anywhere commit comparable resources, a higher proportion of its operating budget, or subsidizes more in development than the Ruffnecks. Our Non-Parent, professional coaching model is for all our teams. We do not permit parent coaches, assistants, or scorekeepers. 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 the first step. 13U Ruffnecks baseball builds a foundation. It can be very challenging. We say, “Baseball begins at 90.” Of course we mean the 90 foot diamond. Hard 90’s; Hard turns; Insistence on doing things certain ways… 13U players 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 play approximately 60 games, including against older competition.
- 14U Ruffnecks: A year of accelerated competition. We commit our team to a VERY demanding schedule. Our model for the 14U Ruffnecks, includes a summer schedule that mirrors the objectives of the Upper Program. We do not play in a league during April in May. We schedule prep and HS JV opponents to challenge our players. From Memorial Day through the end of July, we focus on tournament play and travel. Some players from the 14U roster join the 15U and 16U teams for events after the 14U season ends in mid July (15U-17U summer schedules go through the first week of August).
- 15U Ruffnecks: Mostly rising sophomores: This is a significant transition in the development of Ruffnecks baseball players. The schedule is comparable to the 16U and 17U schedules, often participating in the very same events. A June thru early August schedule includes weekday activity. The program is designed to be an “every day” program in summer for serious baseball players. Historically, on average, two-thirds of our 15U roster will have varsity high school experience prior to the 15U summer. The 15U season may be the most challenging in our program.
- 16U Ruffnecks: Primarily rising juniors. This is a highly competitive 16U-17U program, designed for players who are currently high school varsity contributors. This is an every-day program June thru 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 objectives of the 17U team. Players who perform successfully in the context of this team are followed by college recruiters. We have many recruiting “eyes” on this group.
- 17U Ruffnecks “Seniors”: Our senior Team (Mostly rising seniors). 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. We do NOT claim to be exclusively a D-I college prospect team. 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 solid players who matriculate to outstanding D-I, D-II and D-III programs. We play close to 40 games over a 6-7 week period. It is a grind for players who love baseball. This team is strictly for established high school varsity players. Professional scouts help coach during the winter workouts.
Cost of The Program
Rumors persist about how much travel programs cost. The cost for participation in the Ruffnecks program is significantly below market standards. How do we deliver the Ruffnecks experience? We are subsidized and supported by generous donors and benefactors. Ruffnecks tuition includes travel expenses, tournament fees, and more.
- Our 2023 Tuition was $3,800 ($3,500 for Pitchers ONLY). We do not expect to increase tuition in 2024.
- Tuition INCLUDES:
- Cost of Flights. The Club books and pays airline tickets for all trips (Only exception is that families are responsible for the player’s travel home from the final day, at the final event of the summer
- Hotel. The club pays for room and tax for all hotel stays. Players stay in rooms ONE to a bed!!!
- Ground Transportation. The Club books and pays for vans and buses for transporting players and coaches on team trips.
- Meals. We eat well and healthy. We prepare full meals and late night snacks and nourishment at the Club’s expense. There is no need for players to spend their own money eating fast food.
- Uniforms & Equipment. The Club provides first class uniforms and equipment. This include practice tees, caps, two sets of tackle twill professional jerseys, two sets of pants, helmets for position players. Additional Ruffnecks apparel is optional and available through a team store (shorts, sweats, other cool stuff!)
- We support our Ruffnecks-Only indoor hitting facility with a modest Winter Fee assessed in January each year. This fee also supports the use of other Winter practice facilities such as the Boston College and Harvard “Bubbles” when they are available.
Financial Aid and Outreach Initiatives: In short, every player is subsidized. We are the least expensive, most value conscious program of its kind in our region. Period. In 2023 the Club awarded $27,000 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
We travel as a TEAM. Travel is founded on TEAM principles. We teach self-accountability and prepare players for life in college baseball. We stay together as a team, with the team, and on the watch of the program. Parents do not stay with the players or the team. Players do not peel off to go out to dinner with family. We eat together… All the time while on the road. Parents do NOT have to rearrange their schedules or pay for travel when the Ruffnecks are in an event outside the Northeast region. Of course, parents can and do attend the trips. But they do not get involved, nor do they need to be on a trip.
The travel schedule for our older teams is one of the most comprehensive and challenging in the United States. The Ruffnecks travel model is unique. It 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, but the value of the experience is priceless. Players bond and learn far more about team concepts than wins and losses.
Our teams have historically competed in many states including: Arizona, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Texas, among others. We go where the competition takes us. Of course we also participate in tournaments throughout the Northeast. Travel can be exhausting and challenging. However, the program attracts players who seek a rigorous baseball experience… which means Travel! Our goals in constructing schedules are to balance competitive events, exposure, and opportunities for growth in where we go and what we do.
While on 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. We do not cram players into hotel rooms. We house players ONE to a bed. There is very little “down” time. Curfews are strictly imposed. Roommate assignments are arbitrarily made. We follow a meal plan with the consultation of a sports nutritionist (though deserts are still fun!). We have administrative assistants (often the spouse of a coach) 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 buy or bring teams to “fast food” establishments. We may go out to a team dinner while on the road to break up the routine.
- During travel, the team is on the Club’s watch. We customarily (especially at the younger ages or 13u & 14u) have a parent representative who helps coordinate communication among the core of parents in attendance on a given trip. Not all parents attend all trips. Our parent groups are 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 always, we contract with hotels that have other properties nearby for parents. The Club pays for and coordinates player travel. We do not book travel or hotel rooms for parents.
- Team meetings are held each evening. Meetings focus on fun as well as baseball. We maintain administrative control of the trip: Report times, meal times, laundry, game time changes or adjustments, and more. We avoid the post-game meetings on the field that everyone dreads!
- 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 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 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 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 2024 Ruffnecks season, please call the office at (781) 400-1959 or email email@example.com