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Belmont Bandits 11U baseball team

 

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Apr 15, 2019 - Shipyard weekend recap

Travelball 247 touted the field as this:

11u

It was a loaded 11u field at Shipyard this past weekend. North Carolina #7 Belmont Bandits went 1-1 in pool play, scoring a 3-2 win over the Ditch Chickens (GA) before falling 7-6 against South Carolina #1 Charleston Revolution - Whittle. This left the Bandits with the #4 seed for Sunday. Five Star DeMarini (FL), who is currently ranked 30th nationally in USSSA 11u Majors National Power Rankings, received the #2 seed for bracket play with a 12-3 win over Mission Vipers Gold and a 9-6 win over the Ditch Chickens.

In the #4/5 play-in game in the Gold bracket on Sunday, Mission Vipers Black notched an 8-5 win over the Belmont Bandits. In the semifinals, Five Star DeMarini scored a 7-4 win over the Charleston Revolution and the Georgia Bandits blanked Mission Vipers Black 5-0. In the finals, Five Star DeMarini finished off an impressive 4-0 weekend with a 9-3 win over the Georgia Bandits.

 

That was it in a nutshell for our time in Charleston. There were a whole lot of very good teams that can play with, and beat anybody 11u, in the country. We were proud to trot our little dog and pony show out there and be able to compete against these Goliaths. In true baseball fashion, we scored our only win in our least well-played game. The two other games played were against #1 in SC Charleston Revolution and the Mission Vipers Gold/Black outfit. At least two of the Viper names were the same this weekend as the last time we played them a week ago.  I'm not sure which team we played; it may have been the Canadian national team - all I know is their players are good...that's for sure. So, every team we saw down there was top notch on the field, and well coached.

We won the first one at 8am on Saturday, as both teams slept walked through the game. We woke up and had to face a beast in the Revolution at 12pm and led the entire game until the last inning. They got some momentum and went ahead by one run. We were the home team, but weren't able to cash in with runners ready to score in that last frame. It's usually never bitter when a great team beats you when you've played well, but that one really feels like it slipped through our fingers. That loss left the Bandits 1-1 on the day, and the overall #4 seed.

Ultimately it's my fault, because I like to try to keep everyone at home as long as possible so our people aren't worn out too much for the games - so our 11:15 arrival request time proved to be a little too late for the baseball gods. The game before us was a blowout, and combined with starting our game an entire hour early AND there being an hour and a half time limit...we got pinched a little bit in this game. All of our people weren't there yet, so I took the visitor role and that ended up coming back to bite us. Long story short - we competed well in this game, and lost the lead in the last inning. We were getting close on time, and could not make a pitching change due to the precious time ticking away as the opponent made an offensive run. Credit to the Viper hitters - they strung together 3-4 straight hits to keep the clock ticking. We were made to start the 12pm game at 11am, and even though our watches showed something different, the only watch that mattered was the ump's mechanical corsage as he called "GAME"  about two seconds after we got the last out in the bottom of the fifth inning. We saw that we had 2-3 minutes before the hour and half time limit was up, but it didn't matter. Despite a couple of dandies helping push us out of the game early, a really good team beat us... and I'm proud of how we played. We executed a couple of plays this weekend that I don't see on any other travel ball (and most HS) fields, so our boys are getting a true baseball learning experience as I believe it should be. We practice things that others don't;  so some little nuances of baseball from long ago will hopefully continue to exist in our corner of the world going forward.

The approach for this team isn't the modern, robotic approach that sees every kid as a future major leaguer;  it is a tougher approach. Knowing your role on the team is demanded, and understanding it may change in an instant is part of what we do. We had a guy pitch this weekend (Green) that has about 20 total innings pitched in his life. Every other kid who pitched at that ballfield this weekend has probably about 200 innings pitched by this point in their "career". So, we had a rookie pitcher lead us defensively the last couple of tournaments. Things change. He wasn't a pitcher one day, but he has become one now. He never complained about not pitching;  he just seized the role when he got a chance to prove that he could do it consistently. We ended up 1-2 against great competition and some unlucky breaks. Life goes on, and we will try to build positively on our little successes and failures that we experience in competition baseball.

Apr 8, 2019 - Bandits lose in Gold Championship game.

Well it was a tough weekend for more reasons than one. The Bandits ended up 3-1 on the weekend. On day one we played great in the field and hit the ball pretty well overall. We scored 32 runs and gave up only 5 on the day. Bug Green had a great day pitching in one game against the game Carolina Cannons. I love their team makeup and play. They can hit with anybody. We beat the Cannons 12-3. We had some great plays in the field. Patrick Blee and Walker Spargo both made big league plays. We also beat the Dubbs team 20-2. Chris Wurster came up big and nailed a runner from RF at home with a throw in this game.  We secured the #1 seed going into Sunday.

Day two we had to see the Cannons again. Bug pitched another masterpiece, and we hit the ball and made some great offensive plays along the way as well. Everybody on the team hit well for the better part of three games leading up to this championship game. In game two on Sunday we ran into a buzzsaw  - The Mission Vipers- Black team. They're a really strong team, and can play with anybody. They got a strong effort from their starting pitcher, and had good defensive play behind him. We didn't help ourselves much, and they probably think we're a sorry team given our performance in the field (mostly infield play). One bright spot on defense was Brody Crawford in CF going about 35 yards in full sprint and back toward the fence in the alley and snagging a ball. Our IF usually plays like that too....so I'm not sure what got into us in that second game on Sunday. I counted 13 plays that are routine for us that we absolutely didn't make. So...when you make the mistakes we made against a really good team, they will pounce on you and cruise to victory. We look to show we are better than that in games to come. Later in the game we found our comfort zone on offense, and rapped a few doubles back to back to back. It was too little too late though, and we have to go get better on the practice field. Mission - Black is a really good team that deserved to win. They made the pitches, plays and strong hits that earned them the victory....and our miscues just exacerbated the score.

We had some devastating news hit right before the Gold series Championship game on Sunday. The information was received that Richard Comer had passed away. He was the beloved father to Melissa Comer Pruitt, grandpaw to Zeke and father-in-law to Sam. So, Melissa and Sam had to be at that championship game while dealing with the scheduling details of what comes after a loved one's death, all the while knowing they would have to find a way to relay this to Zeke and attempt to make sense of it afterward. It takes strong people to stand upright in situations like this....much less watch and coach a ballgame supporting their son who will receive the most crushing news of his young life to date.

This is a team baseball site so I don't often put my personal family business on here. But, Richard was one of those guys who loved unconditionally and genuinely pulled for everyone. Those are my favorite fans in the stands. At one of our football games two years ago, my wife was able to catch a video of Brody scoring two or three TDs on consecutive possessions. Our favorite part of that video...without question...what can be heard in the background. You hear Richard's elevated voice get louder and louder as Brody broke the line of scrimmage and got closer to the end zone each time he scored. TouchDOWN.....TouchDOWN.....TOUCHDOWN....TOUCHDOWN!!!!!! There is no question that Richard was pulling for Brody. 100% unconditional love and support. We broke the news to Brody last night, and the first thing he talked about this morning was Richard's voice on "that video". We had forgotten about that game, and those touchdowns. But none of us hadn't forgotten about that voice. He may as well had been shouting "I LOVE YOU" because he did, and you knew it.

I believe that part of heaven is how you are remembered by the people who loved you, and how those same people you influenced carry on your presence and memory through their lives. I loved Richard, so that thought gives me comfort....knowing Melissa, Sam and Zeke will carry on with their lives with him in their hearts. Still....A little girl lost her daddy. A grandson lost his grandpaw. It puts baseball and a lot of other things in perspective.

Apr 5, 2019 - Texas Hold 'em

We are set to play this weekend and are anxious to get ready for play. We may win some, and we may lose some. I am excited to see everyone that comes out to support us. There is a lot of preparation that goes into these weekends, and the roller coaster of emotion that it sends us all on is a pretty cheap ticket in all actuality. Travel ball weekends are better than any $10 movie I’ve seen in the last ten or twenty years. Forgive my stream of consciousness drivel. I don’t like to spell check or re-read much of this stuff. Sometimes I stay up too late, too…and this is what comes out.

There is a big tournament going on in the Charlotte area with another organization this weekend – and there are a lot of extremely good teams participating. I would estimate that 95% (or more) of those participating teams’ rosters are made up with players from areas that are at least 100 square miles or greater. We play against many of these teams every weekend, and we will see them at “travel” events in Myrtle Beach, Charleston (Shipyard), Pigeon Forge and Savannah. Consider that our neighboring city of Gastonia is the largest city in Gaston County at 46 square miles, and most of these teams we are talking about are from areas much larger than what a Gastonia All Star Travel team would be if constructed similarly. This does not mean those teams shouldn’t be proud of how good they are, or any accomplishment. It’s just a reminder to us parents of how our team is purposely built, and that we ask our boys to rise to great occasions numerous times during our baseball season. Belmont is 10 square miles. Our families on this team live within about 3 square miles of each other. Please take the time to show your appreciation to your boy(s) about how much is expected on a daily basis at such a young age in a sport. I feel like Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire…. It’s a Mission Statement…..NAY! It’s my Manifesto.

All of our kids play multiple sports. There are a lot of newcomers to our town, and many think it’s a football town. It IS….but it was a baseball town first. Go look at the banners. It is a football and baseball small town. Still – even amidst the concussion scares and expert head injury armchair doctors that work a day job, football continues to thrive in our town. All of our players play football. Many of them do other sports throughout the year in the respective seasons:  soccer, basketball, swimming and motocross. So, this ongoing debate from random “baseball” people who are overnight sensations in the realm of arm care, medicine, psychology and professional baseball preparedness is maddening. You think you can hurt a kid’s arm throwing curve balls, or throwing too many pitches in a “weekend” of games? Sure… you can over an extended period of time. I’ve coached against people/teams for about fifteen years now and have seen plenty of that. The team that trots out a “curve baller” who throws it 75% of the time. In another time (when pitch count limits only existed in Little League) travel ball teams would ride one main pitcher to four wins per weekend. There’s a little truth in most everything in life if you look hard enough to find it. I’ve seen a whole lot of other players from teams we faced every weekend go on to have significant arm troubles as they got into their teens. But, do you want to know the real problem…from one armchair QB who doesn’t know anything to another….(you)…..here it is:

Playing baseball for 9-10 months out of the year is the problem and main reason these arm issues continue.  “Training” during the 2-3 months off from baseball when you play 9-10 months already is the problem. Not developing other muscle groups and interests is the problem. One of my favorites…playing on 2-3 teams simultaneously just to make sure you are constantly playing (and maybe being the #1 pitcher on two of those teams maxing out the pitch count for the respective tournament) is the problem;  we all know the parents who play on multiple teams – whose fault is it really when that kid’s arm breaks down at age 14-15?  It isn’t the coach who threw him 7 innings once a week in Middle School. It isn’t the coach who threw him 8 innings over a two-day period in travel ball. The kids that I’ve seen with real arm problems have one thing in common: 

They played too much baseball without any true breaks away from the game. The physical toll it takes on a body, and in a game that is failure-riddled even for the very best of players, it takes a mental toll on the mind. It breaks down great athletes in the Major Leagues every year…why would some random 11 year old kid be any different? So, year round baseball….I appreciate the hustle. But – don’t be surprised when the second Tommy John surgery happens at age 20.

Practice is paramount. We have not had nearly enough practice this year for my liking, but weather is a great equalizer in life for many situations. We aren’t a “facility” team. Again….nothing wrong with those teams that are;  we just aren’t. I spoke of expectations previously. A big part of how and why we operate is designed to NOT burn out kids from baseball. We practice hard, we practice with a purpose and results show positively more often than not. But, our coaches and parents are not contemplating a college or pro career for their player at age 11. We don’t have a young Ken Griffey Jr or Mike Trout for anyone reading this as a scouting report. If you have really been around any actual baseball, you know that the “can’t miss” guy will miss, and that the progression as a baseball player is a marathon…not a sprint. Now, in a practice, I would estimate that our players throw a baseball as hard as they can at least one-hundred times minimum in a (roughly) two hour practice. To date I haven’t seen the picket signs out protesting this across the country like the pitch/inning count people do. I am for pitch/inning counts, and about all the ones I’ve seen in place in various leagues and organizations are just fine. But, as a parent or coach, if you’re worried about a “pitch" or  a "throw” count….if you’re REALLY worried about that…then you need to hang up your spikes. The teams that are really good, made up of highly skilled players…sometimes with a lot of talent and ALWAYS with competitive parents – seem to be most interested in pitch counts, but also practice the most throughout any given year. I guarantee you those teams practice more than 95% of other teams their same age (11u, HS, whatever age). Seems antithetical that those same parents worried about arm care also put the most time in throwing a baseball. So, the picket sign people might as well start considering “throw counts” in there too, because pitching off that nice ledge, downhill gives you a whole lot easier delivery of a thrown ball than generating 100% arm/body action on a ground ball hit into a tough spot on the infield. Just one or two of the throws that require immense torque and un-natural movement of a play made there should scare the daylights out of anyone seriously worried about “arm care” and "baseball futures". Practicing some of those tough plays, and throws, doesn’t seem to jive with the very same people I know are putting more practice in than others. So….you say “practice smarter – not harder”. Let's give the actual professionals - who have put in 100,000 reps of the same movement that responsibility, because their devotion and ability is obviously different than a young player's situation. Somebody is already working smarter AND harder. My point is….most boys/young men have about 10 years to play baseball. So if you want to practice, pitch, swing and throw....go do it. There are 1000s of small colleges around, so if you’ve got enough skill/talent combo and and “in” somewhere, you can go play college baseball if you were a top 3-4 player on a really good HS team. A pitcher throws with his whole body...not just one arm. Nobody is championing the poor hitters of baseball for overuse of the hips and shoulders when they take 500 cuts per day. But, if you are worried about arm care at age 11, 12, 13….let’s call a spade a spade. You think you have a lottery ticket, and are hell- bent on not leaving it in your jeans for the wash. The self-righteousness and mass delusion in all of this leaves me puzzled.

Maybe I’m revolutionary in this thinking (I’m not…sarcasm) but throwing a baseball in an overhand motion is an un-natural movement. If you do an un-natural movement far too many times, for far too long a period of time you just may crack the piston. So, people with arm strengthening programs may work….or they may not. Results usually tell the tale. I have good friends that I totally disagree with their throwing program. They’re smart, have put a whole lot of time and study into what they believe to be doing right. Who am I to judge? Who am I not to judge? We are still allowed opinions, so I will choose to deliver mine. I totally understand that my theory goes against what is popularly accepted as gospel regarding arm care these days, but pitching nine innings over a two-day span – whether it’s 40 pitches or 240 pitches- is fine. Over 15 years coaching baseball and multi-hundreds of players, I’ve never had one arm problem. I’m not bragging…that stat could flip tomorrow. I take a practical, old school method to playing baseball and I do so unapologetically. My case study will go on as I continue to observe and care for my players as young men, and not as potential $100,000 poker chips.

Mar 25, 2019 - Gold Championship secured

It was a pretty weekend, and an ugly two games on Sunday - but the Bandits found a way to squeak by to capture another “American” Gold championship. Saturday games were a little better played, and we set ourselves up for a number one seed to begin Sunday games. We scored 37 runs, and allowed 4 on Saturday. We saved our sloppy play for Sunday, but managed to overcome a couple bad innings in the end. 

We defeated the Dubs team and LBC Hammerheads on day one. On day two, we showed our lack of practice by throwing the ball away a couple of times, and made some bad fielding decisions several times. The Carolina Cannons gave us a scare in game one of Sundays action, and after beating them we went on to defeat Legacy Baseball in the championship game. We won that game 14-7....and it was a roller coaster ride. We fell behind by four runs in the top of the first inning, but then found a way to get the tour bus back onto even pavement. We ended up finishing much stronger in the last few innings despite the old slow down tactics approach versus our team, and dominated the clap happy opponent after our initial terrible inning of play. I’m glad our boys came to play ball, and figured out a way to get rolling. We have a lot of work to do, and are not playing great baseball right now. That rough play will catch up to us soon, so we had better get our act together soon or else we will be fishing a whole lot more than we want to during this time of year.

Congrats to the boys on finding a way to win. But we have a lot of practice ahead of us.

Mar 20, 2019 - Easy come, Easy go

It comes and it goes. The Belmont Bandits are ranked #7 in the 247Travelball NC state rankings this week after our first full weekend of play - and that is great. The kids will love it- and beating the teams we won against is something to be proud of, which opened the door to this high ranking. But, baseball is a fickle lady. It is the most humbling sport on earth. You can be great one day, and a bum the next. While that website is really cool, we need to pay attention to what matters most in our baseball world. Focus on getting better at baseball while we are practicing and playing - just like we ask our kids to do their best in school, church, community.

We have not had a whole lot of time to practice this year, which is what we typically hang our hat on when entering these tournaments. We have had a few years of good skill development which we lean on for sure, but we need to really push to get better from the place we currrently reside. I'm not talking about polls either;  I'm talking about the things we work on in practice. We haven't done much small skill stuff this year, and are rough in a lot of areas. It is time to push, and really sharpen our edge as we enter a stretch run of condensed tournaments with solid to great compeition every weekend we play until July.

Our team is not made up of the best player in every town amongst three counties. We have to give a great effort in practice and games every time out....the Bandit way. The sun, the lights, the weather, the field conditions...none of that is an excuse we are allowed to use. Our boys are taught to find a way to change those elements. The pretenders will joke about it. The baseball players will find a way. We have steep hills to continuously climb to even be able to compete with some of these best teams in NC and SC that we will play regularly. In addition to that, we have upcoming regional dates in other states that will offer even more great competition. Now isn't the time for fishing. Now is the time for grinding. We need to win today at practice, and every day we spend time on baseball, to make sure we can give our best effort when the game is live. We really have not even started working hard yet - but we are about to.

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