Our Perfect Game Showcase review continues into day three and four. (See Day 1, Day 2 (Pitch Smart), Day 3 & 4, And Day 5 Recommendations). Days three and four have consisted of pool play games starting at 8am, 10am or 12pm, depending on your schedule. We have been scheduled for double headers on two of our three pool play days.
Day 3 & 4 Itinerary
Our days have consisted of, basically, the game and then our hotel. More baseball could be watched as there are games both before and after and scouting is always a bit fun. However, it’s simply too hot and muggy to do this with any amount of enjoyment. The idea of an air conditioned hotel room or restaurant is too enticing. Further, Game Changer is running at the tournament, and you can get a good feel for other games just based on their score charts.
While we trudge through the schedule we have thought a few improvements we’d like to see. We comment on those below. But, before we start complaining, we don’t want to give the impression this isn’t fun. The Series Showcase Classic from Perfect Game—especially in the youth (non high school) games—are a relatively new experience for this organization. From what we’ve gathered from some other parents, this year’s event is leaps and bounds better than last year’s. We can confidently assume next year’s will be better than this.
As such, these observations are to be instructive in terms of your expectations. Knowing, full well, the following year’s events could very well address these issues.
Observation 1: Why No Practice?
To date, there simply isn’t enough baseball. Most families, at least not on the Florida teams, have traveled considerable distances to come to Florida to showcase their skills. And while Disney World and the ocean are attractive features no doubt, we are families here to have their son play baseball and get better at it. We can go to theme parks and the movies in the winter.
Why not, we wonder, have more organized baseball time outside of the 2 hour (6 inning) game per day, especially considering the amazing facilities surrounding us? I am sure the kids would love to do it (and many could use it in terms of learning a new position). If the game starts at 8am, then you are done by 10am. Back to your hotel by around 11am. Then what? Watch TV until the next game tomorrow? That’s a long way and a lot of money to watch ESPN in your hotel room.
If we were to come back, more opportunities during the day to play baseball with these talented kids and our smart coach on great fields would convince us. This doesn’t need to entail more games. But some clinics, hitting sessions or general defensive strategy sessions might be just enough to feel like we are at a baseball tournament.
Observation 2: More Coaches?
Teams only have one assigned coach. There are no assistants—even among the parents. Local college players, who clearly know their stuff, is the general resume of the coaches. But, as anyone who coaches youth will know, a one man coaching band no matter his capability is a recipe for missing chances to be a helpful coach.
More coaches per team would increase the amount of legitimate instruction given to the players, and would help the coach strategize better for a higher level of baseball. Not the end of the world in terms of a successful tournament, but if we were to come back, we’d confirm the number of coaches per team and hope they could find another to help manage.
We should note, we think our coach is great. He’s a baller, knows his stuff, and garners a lot of respect from the boys. But there’s more to manage in a 7 game competitive series than one guy can handle. (As the most obvious example, we’ve yet to play with a first base coach).
Observation 3: The Model Biases for a Certain Type of Player
As we mention in our Day 1 observations, many of these players qualified for these teams based on their statistical performance at Perfect Game tournaments throughout the country. This is all well and good, until you realize the only stats they considered were offensive ones. As such, these teams are made up of many exceptional hitters—many of them very big ones. But, as far as we’ve observed, compared to our extensive experience watching 8 to 15 year old’s play baseball for the last 8 years, defensive skills and baseball IQ are wanting at the tournament.
Don’t get us wrong, some are great all around players and see the field well under any circumstance. But defensive errors are way to common in these games to be considered Elite baseball. You could argue many of these errors may be attributed to players not being accustomed to their position (as middle infielders are in great abundance here). Fair enough (and something practice might help). But the number of defensive errors on every team we’ve watched is even beyond what we’d expect from a localized competitive team—not an all-star team from a large swath of the country.
On the whole, the over-emphasis on offensive production in the selection process deflates the general quality of defensive baseball we’ve observed thus far. There are too few athletic basehitter type that hit for singles, rangey center fielder’s where everything is routine or vacuum’s of 2nd baseman. In other words, there is much more to successful baseball play then filling up the OPS column. Yet the perfect game model appears to bias itself out of these players where the entire line up can go deep, but a can of corn to right field is now a 50/50 ball.
Observation 4: Team Talent Disparity
We’ve spent many hours in local baseball leagues attempting to make teams even for more competitive games and better experience. We’ve learned it is a nearly impossible task. Equaling out statistical categories across teams and thinking this will make teams equally competitive is naive. Far too much goes into a team’s success to get that right—especially considering these players are largely unknown defensively and on the mound.
On the whole, this tournament has done a pretty good job, considering the challenges, making the teams even. There are definitely some better teams, which, without surprise, are the teams made up of players who qualified by statistical success in a previous tournament. But with day 3 and day 4 in the books, we’ve yet to see a game get completely out of hand, or where either team wasn’t in striking distance.
Observation 5: Some Great Talent, but not Elite
What may be the most surprising to us is the lack of elite pitching. Every team has at least one player who can throw in the low 60s. 62 mph is the best we’ve seen and 3 or 4 different kids have touched it. Yet while 62 mph at 11U is impressive, it is by no means the best we’ve personally observed in the age group during high level state wide tournaments in our home state. 64 to 67 mph is where these top 4 or 5 pitchers hit with one grazing 70 every so often. We’ve yet to see an 11U at the Perfect Game keep 62+ for more than an inning let alone ‘elite’ levels.
We haven’t seen everyone just yet, so we’ll hold our tongue.
Additionally, we have observed some elite defensive talent at the tournament but it is the exception rather than the rule. Defensive ability, on the whole, is lacking to be considered an elite tournament. These are simply not the best 11U gloves and defensive arms in the country. Each team might have 1 or 2 kids with show stopping glove work. The rest might be above average for sure, but far from elite at their position.
Hitting is where the tournament shines, we’d claim the top 10 hitters in this tournament may be as good as any group of top 10 hitters you could find in the entire country. Massive kids with great balance and impeccable mechanics are found on every team. A couple teams have more than a few of them. It’s really quite fun to watch—and against a dearth of real elite pitching talent there are plenty of deep balls. (Our perfect game bat article might be of interest).