Monday, June 28, 2010

Editorial: 2010 All-Star Game Summary, Some History, and Some Thoughts for the Future

Many thanks to Tom Perry (Colchester Head Coach and North All-Star Coach), and Doug Couchon (Grounds Crew) for their support of the 2010 Senior All-Star game at Colchester on Saturday. We survived steady rain and saw some great performances from the players on the field. Our thanks to the players for representing their schools and communities, not only for the All-Star games but through their high school career. We had a great turnout of parents, siblings, relatives and friends to support the All-Stars as well. For the players families it's the culmination of countless hours of dedication supporting their children to play high school sports. In all it was a great tribute to our departing Senior class and we wish them great success in the future.

All-Star games draw much criticism from our association and the Legion circles over the last five years. Bluntly, many of us have wondered if the North South All-Star game is worth continuing. Here's are some thoughts beginning with a quick synopsis of All-Star baseball classics in Vermont.

The North South All-Star Doubleheader evolved from the Twin State Classic. Twin State was a three game series where the best 18 players were selected in Vermont and they squared up against the best 18 in New Hampshire. We designed the games to rotate by State year to year, one year in Vermont and then off to New Hampshire the next series the following year. For the players it was all expenses paid: Practices, hotels, meals, snacks... a minor league experience. A match-up of the best 18 in Vermont vs the best 18 in New Hampshire made for some outstanding competitive baseball.

Two times in the year-to-year rotation the VBCA was called on to keep Twin State alive as New Hampshire could not afford the event. The financial burden on the VBCA was substantial but the events went off successfully in 2001 and 2002. The discussions escalated in the VBCA about Twin State folding and what could possibly be the next step. New Hampshire rejuvenated it's effort primarily through leadership of BJ Neverett (Nashua) and Bill Dodd (Souhegan) and the games resurfaced for two more years in 2003 (Holman Stadium, NH) and 2004 (Montpelier, VT).

All along there was one consistent problem. High School Spring sports season carries one important variable: There is no break when the season ends. Fitting in events after high school championships and rounds of graduations is a challenge. Folks have zillions of things going on. Seniors have already committed to colleges or the workplace. Many have moved on to jobs and other ventures. Legion has evolved significantly in Vermont over the last eight years and along with Babe Ruth (and that's a good problem to have), and Summer seasons crank up immediately following the high school season. Twin State not only became cost prohibitive but both States struggled to gather their premier players. When you select 18 of the State's best to match-up with another State, it's essential that your premier players show up. With all the avenues for players after the high school season it became clear that grabbing the premier talent in Vermont or New Hampshire for the series was unreliable and after the series in 2004 (hosted in Montpelier, VT), both the Vermont and New Hampshire coaches associations decided to part ways.

The North South Senior game was created and it's first run was in 2005. We just completed our fifth year and the event is still not without controversy. Like Twin State, some of the State's premier talent bows out every year for a wide variety of reasons I spent a good deal of time walking about the sidelines this year speaking to parents and also with players from both teams. One thing rings true though... the Seniors who do play, the coaches who participate and the families who attend all have fun. The North South games create opportunities and rekindle our sense of nostalgia. It's a chance for our players, coaches, families and fans to celebrate their high school baseball careers. For the Seniors, it's a chance to see their peers. It's a chance to see a rival or that kid who's name you see in the paper game after game as a teammate...  and then square up against the best from another region in Vermont. The MVP of these All-Star games might come from any division. Ultimately, it's a higher caliber of baseball. For a coach and supporting families, it's a chance to see one of your players, your sons in a high school uniform one last time. It gives us a chance to do something we all say we should do more often: Get together and celebrate.

I believe the Senior game is good for baseball and that we should continue the effort... until it's time for another adjustment. When the players and fans stop enjoying it, then it'll be time to adjust. If we continue the Senior game though, there's no doubt it should be our best effort.

It's not to say that we shouldn't entertain new directions. There's a glaring need in our sport now, a new thread for our association to answer: A Junior Talent Showcase.

There were many discussions brewing this last weekend about creating a Junior Talent Showcase along with a Senior game in 2011. We'll be hammering out the details over the next few months and announcements on this new event will be coming out in late Summer.

With exciting new directions in the future... a few notes about this past season:

Out best wishes to Steve Ferreira, the retiring Essex Head Coach, for his dedication to the VBCA, the Essex Baseball program and Vermont baseball. The Essex Hornets sent Steve off with a Division I title this season, a great way to end Steve's storied coaching career. We're excited that Steve will continue to work with us here at the VBCA.

We saw former South Burlington ace Casey Harman (Clemson) and St. Johnsbury Ethan Paquette (Hofstra) get drafted! Harman helped pitch Clemson deep into the College World Series and it was thrilling to watch all his hard work and dedication over the years pay off. Congratulations as well to Clemson Coach Jack Leggett (a South Burlington Alum and former UVM Coach) as well.

Many thanks to everyone for crafting up another excellent high school baseball season. We have a lot to celebrate and new adventures to look forward to.

Here's the writeup from Rutland Herald writer Chuck Clarino below on this years North South game.

Feel free to leave a comment here for all to see or to contact me with your thoughts on the All-Star games. See you around the diamond if not before, Adam

North, South settle for All-Star split

By Chuck Clarino Staff Writer - Published: June 27, 2010: Rutland Herald:

COLCHESTER – As a general rule, all-star games have all the allure of watching paint dry. With all the substitutions and the crunch to parcel out playing time, with guys playing out of position and teams running out of pitching, the games usually degenerate into blowouts, or something worse.

But Saturday' s North-South Senior Baseball Series was a happy departure. The North rallied for three runs in the bottom of the sixth to take the opener 5-4, while the South got outstanding relief and a key hit from a pair of players from Leland & Gray to capture the nightcap 9-4 in a pair of crisply played contests at the Colchester High School diamond.

For the rest of the article:

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