OSWEGO — The game of baseball goes through drastic changes on a regular basis.
From the rules of the game to college recruiting to going pro in the major leagues, baseball players go through a long process when aiming high in their careers.
This notion led to the creation of the Elite Games Top 100 Baseball Showcase, which is run by Justin Arsenault and his father, Jerry. Justin, the New York State director for Elite Games, created the organization in an effort to begin youth baseball players through the evaluation process.
The showcase, in its second year of development, caps yearlong evaluations for players that compete with 11U, 12U and 13U travel teams. The evaluations start on Sept. 1 of the previous year and finish at the showcase.
Each player goes through a measurement process factoring fielding, hitting, pitching, and baserunning, which also helps them stay current in the changing landscape of the game.
“We wanted to take this to the younger age groups, get them measured and hold them accountable so they can get better as players,” Arsenault said. “Hopefully players watch their numbers as they get older.”
The showcase kicked off with an opening ceremony on Tuesday at the Lake Ontario Event and Conference Center in Oswego. Players were drafted and placed onto to five different teams, which included three 11U/12U and two 13U teams.
Local players drafted on to teams were Oswego’s Gavin Ruggio (catcher/second baseman) and Owen Sincavage (pitcher/infielder) for the 11U/12U White team; Fulton’s Tyler Bertrand and Mexico’s Dylan Vecchio for the 11U/12U Blue team; and Mexico’s Brayden Mack, Carter Robert and Phoenix’s Evan Hansen for the 11U/12U Red team. These seven played together on the CNY Elite travel team over the summer.
A three-day event, the showcase expanded to Wednesday and today with a slew of practices, games, and a home run derby.
The Elite Games representatives brought in two guest speakers at Tuesday’s ceremony. Scott Landers, head coach of the Oswego State baseball team; and Steve Grilli, a former major leaguer who currently lives in Baldwinsville; touched on a variety of baseball topics.
One topic the speakers harped on was to enjoy playing the game, especially when goals are attached.
“Keep having fun and keep going forward. Have fun and get 1 percent better every time you prepare or take the field for practice and games,” Landers said. “Never lose track of why you play this game, whether it’s because you love the game or you want to get to a certain point (in your career).”
Grilli added, “Enjoy the moments you have as a player.”
Landers brought up a group of players participating in the showcase. Almost all of the players said they want to be in the major leagues someday. Landers then mentioned how important it is to keep lofty goals where they are.
“Aim high and miss. Don’t aim low and hit,” Landers said. “A lot of people say you’ll never make it as a ballplayer. Don’t listen to them. Keep going as much as you can. The bigger your dreams, the more successful you’re going to be.”
Grilli added, “I dreamed of being a big league ballplayer just like all of you. If you have that dream, don’t let anyone tell you different.”
Grilli went through a different recruiting process compared to his son Jason, also a major leaguer, and the players who are taking part in the showcase.
“You guys are at the starting point of your careers,” Grilli said. “I wish I had this luxury when I was a kid.”
Steve Grilli didn’t have a solid start to his baseball career until his senior year of high school. After starring for his high school team, he moved on to play for Gannon University.
The time came for Grilli to be a possible pick in the MLB draft, but his name was never called. Grilli moved on to play in a summer league where he was noticed by a major league scout. The scout gave him a chance, leading to Grilli having a four-year career with the Detroit Tigers and the Toronto Blue Jays.
“I had a good run as far as being a player,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of great moments.”
Grilli became a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals, a position he held for seven years. As a scout, he looked for two specifics in potential recruits.
“I looked for knowledge and enthusiasm in players,” he said.
Landers and Grilli mentioned how there will be times failure comes into play. It’s important to take on obstacles head-on, they said.
“Persevere when you go through failure, whether it’s going through an 0-for-4 day or a bad outing on the mound,” Grilli said.
Landers said, “Hall of Famers fail 70 percent of the time when they’re hitters. You have to deal with adversity. Use baseball to define yourself as you grow older.”
Players facing difficulties can turn to their parents for guidance and encouragement.
“Your parents are your biggest supporters,” Landers said. “I want you to cherish them and not think it’s embarrassing. Every day you leave the house, tell them you love them because they are your biggest fans.”
Grilli said, “Don’t ruin the reputation of your family. It’s important to represent who you are and where you came from.”
The game of baseball, in Landers’ eyes, is a building block toward a successful life as an adult.
“Baseball gives you knowledge,” he said. “It’s a platform for the real world.”