Youth baseball

Youth sports are slowly returning, with plenty of extra precautions. 

Most parents I know can relate to the frustration we have felt over the past few months, wishing we could give our children something as uncomplicated and inexpensive as a dose of normalcy.  Watching our daughters and sons struggle through these uncertain times has been frustrating and stressful, and we want nothing more than to be able to tell them (and ourselves) that all will be fine and their lives will get back on track soon.  

Actions do in fact speak louder than words, and watching a travel team softball tournament – despite being banned from the bleachers and being asked to socially distance – has been more fulfilling than ever. Getting a teenager out of bed at 5:30 a.m. on a Saturday would, under normal circumstances, be a tall order, but in the crazy reality that is 2020, they bounce out of bed much more willingly for the opportunity to see their friends and play the game they love. 

At last weekend’s tournament in Liverpool, the players looked much rustier than they normally would this time of year, but in any other year they would already have 20 high school games and three or four tournaments under their belts. Instead, they missed their entire high school season, numerous tournaments were postponed or cancelled and they have seen little live action. Some of the teams that made the trip to Liverpool are based in the Binghamton area, and given they are a few minutes from the Pennsylvania border, they played in three or four tournaments in the Keystone State while New York was still shut down.

So, as rusty as they were, and as sore as they were after playing hard without their customary conditioning, they looked pretty good from a softball standpoint. More importantly, they looked happy. They looked hopeful. They looked like teenagers should look. 

Some dedicated baseball people are also breathing some summer life into the Grand Game by setting up opportunities for kids to get on the diamond. My buddy Tony Prudence is one of the guys behind Total Baseball Training, said, “There’s a patchwork of teams playing in the area, for example, John Pascarella is running a team out of Dryden and there is the usual group at Ithaca Babe Ruth.”

Anticipating that school sports will not be held in the fall, Tony added, “We are putting a team together and we are joining the District 8 Little League for fall baseball with Steve Woodard of Cortland. We are taking any kids that want to play and we are going to offer a developmental experience—very close to what we did the past two weeks through our camp. We offered games to our camp participants and we played Baseball U Travel out of Syracuse. We played The Cortland Crush at Gutchess multiple times, we played Auburn Bombers 16U and 12U’s and we traveled to Tully for 5 games for our 14U and 16U groups. We also played a combined Candor/Spencer 17U group—assembled by Cliff Pierce—on a very hot Sunday two weeks ago.”

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While some athletes are still uncertain what their collegiate seasons will look like going forward, Morgan Barron of the Cornell men’s hockey team is fortunate enough to be able to go with a Plan B. Barron was selected in the 2017 draft by the New York Rangers, but elected to play at Cornell to further hone his skills. That turned out to be a great decision, as Barron put 98 more games under his belt, scoring 84 points on 34 goals and 50 assists over the course of his three seasons. Believing that the timing was right, Barron opted out of his senior season at Cornell and signed an entry level contract with the Rangers to begin his professional career.  

As a Big Red co-captain last year, Barron earned First Team All-American recognition, putting him in some very lofty company. Matt Moulson (’06) earned that designation, as did Joe Nieuwendyk (’87). Both players went on to stellar pro careers (Moulson has been playing at various pro levels for 14 years and Nieuwendyk is a Hall of Famer and one of the few NHL players to register at least 500 goals and 500 assists). 

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