Team BLE made several developmental baseball trips this spring and here is a recap! The coaching staff for the travel events was second to none, comprising of the following accolades: 100+ years of Professional baseball experience, 6 World Series rings, 2 MLB All-Star appearances and an Olympic appearance! (Marty Lehn, Bob Didier, Albie Lopez, Shea Hillenbrand, Kyle Dhanani, Joe Sergent and Eddie Marin)
Guest instructors included:
Bill “Mad Dog” Madlock: 15 seasons in MLB, .305 AVG, 2008 hits, 163 HRs, 4-Time NL Batting Champ, World Series with Pirates ‘79
Will Ohman: 10 seasons in the MLB, Int’l competition with the German National Team
Neal McDonough: University of Syracuse Alum, actor on Suits (Sean Cahill) and Arrow (Damien Darhk)
We had a great time coaching the players and enjoying the company of all the families and hope you will join us again!
To see photos of the events, head to BLE’s facebook page or click here: @BLEbaseball
Las Vegas 13U
Team BLE made their way to Las Vegas for the February 18 – 20 weekend to take part in the President’s Day Invitational Tournament put on by the Vegas Valley Baseball Group. An excellent draw of players and teams that saw over 200 teams through various age groups take part in this annual event.
The week started off strong with two great days of practice in Las Vegas that included workouts at the Big League Dreams field plus exhibition games for both 13U teams vs. the Southern Nevada baseball group. As the tournament start day came around we weren’t so lucky, as the area saw heavy rain and the games were washed out and cancelled. However, all was not lost, as we were able to get some productive work done at the Dugout Baseball indoor facility in Vegas. Team BLE then had the pleasure of meeting 4-time National League hitting champion Bill “Maddog” Madlock! He joined as a guest coach and spoke with the guys on hitting and playing the game the right way. Coach Madlock was actually a former teammate of Coach Didier’s in Venezuelan Winter Ball.
Eventually the weather did turn and we were able to start the tournament the next day, but modifications were made to the draw. All teams played a DH’er on the Sunday for seeding purposes and then single elimination playoff games on the President’s Day Monday were in store. In elimination games, both teams showed well but came up short and were unable to continue on. All in all, a great week to get some dirt under our feet in preparation of the Spring baseball season!
11U and 12U teams – Phoenix, Arizona
Three BLE teams were a part of the USSSA Spring Championship Select 30 in Phoenix from March 14-19th and 2 teams came home with rings! The players had a 3-day mini-camp, working on all aspects of the game, including team defense and scrimmages to help create chemistry with the boys. During the mini-camp, Will Ohman, a 10-year MLB vet, stopped by and helped out BLE pitchers! Team BLE took in a Mariners-Dodgers spring training game, as well as a ASU-OSU Pac-12 showdown featuring top tier MLB draft prospects. Neal McDonough, actor and Syracuse alum, was helping out during the week and was invited to sing “Take me out to the Ballgame” with BLE players at the ASU game!
Two of the BLE teams advanced to playoff rounds after the tournament round robin: 11U lost a heartbreaker in the Silver Div Final and 12U took home the Silver Div championship! Though the other 12U was unable to advance, they took three tough luck losses out of four games and came away with their heads held high. From playing at the pool, hanging out at the nearby theme park, catching MLB games and developing baseball skills, the week was a success!
14U Team – Phoenix, Arizona
Spring Training continued in the Valley of the Sun with our 14U team as 15 young men made their way to the Mesa/Gilbert area of Arizona. Finally able to shake off some winter blues, the boys got the chance to play some baseball in baseball heaven. Once again we had a pre-tournament camp in preparation of the USSSA Invitational tournament, not only to shake off the baseball cobwebs but to develop and enhance our skills as well! We took a ton of swings, extended the arms and worked on some of the finer points of the game so that we could compete against teams that already had 20+ games under their belt. It was a strong group of players and as a staff, we knew it would just be a matter of time to have these guys firing like they can and firing they did. Coming out of the blocks with a vengeance, the BLE boys took care of teams from California, Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.
The pitchers commanded the strike zone well in all round-robin games and the bats got hot right from the get go. The boys took a 4 – 0 record into the Semifinal game and had a fight on their hands as a good Denver, Colorado team gave them all they had. Team BLE battled back from a 6 – 0 deficit to finally take the lead in the bottom of the 6th and held on for the victory. Going into the Championship game and playing their third game of the day, Team BLE had a back and forth contest vs a Newport, California team. We made a late charge with the tying run on base but simply ran out of time as we ended up on the short end of a 9 – 7 game. All in all, a great week of baseball as the guys had three days of training, played 6 games in the tournament ( 5 – 1 record) and received some well deserved bling for their second place finish.
Midget Spring Training – March 27 – April 1st
The last leg of BLE’s Spring Training event was with Midget aged players. This was the 3rd year that the Big League Experience ran its Midget camp/tournament and like the last two, a great opportunity to get better for the upcoming season by competing against some solid teams from throughout Western Canada. All in all, 4 teams trained and took part in the event that included the RBI Cobra’s (Regina, Sask), Absolute Baseball Academy (Calgary), SFX Academy (Edmonton) and Team BLE. Team BLE had a mixture of players from the summer ball camp and the Vimy Ridge baseball Academy in Alberta. As the temperature cooled down slightly from previous weeks (24 degrees!), the guys worked hard and listened well. The players were treated to top notch facilities as they practiced at MLB replica fields at the Big League Dreams complex, Gene Autry Fields (former California Angels spring training site) and the Popago complex (Oakland A’s Spring training complex).
As the week continued we saw a great improvement in the play and looked forward to a strong weekend tournament. In the end it was a keen group of players from the RBI academy that prevailed over the SFX group to win the championship.
To see more photos of the trip, head to BLE’s facebook page or click here: @BLEbaseball