The 2016 season officially ended on Wednesday, August 3rd at Diamond Nation in Flemington, New Jersey. A combination roster of mostly 2018 and 2019 grads joined several uncommitted 2017s in the final game, a 10-6 victory. The Blue Chips Prospects tournament at Diamond Nation is always a fitting end to a long season. After all, New Jersey is where each season begins, usually on a cold weekend in March for the younger Ruffnecks teams of 13U and 14U. And since many players begin their Ruffnecks career at that age, the finale, in the same place where it all begins, is meaningful. 2017 pitchers Henry Ennen, Dylan Presnal, Dario Tarquinio, Will Simeone, and Devin Gates, all pitched at Blue Chips. 2018 pitching prospects Riley Teevens, Anthony Redfern, Liam Rohan, and Jeff Price competed well, while 2019s Jake McOsker, Jaylen Bailey, and Jackson Emus threw with success at the final event.
In addition to numerous baseball games for all our teams, each season provides the opportunity for serious ball players to participate in a baseball experience that brings like-minded players and coaches together. Ruffnecks baseball is not easy. It is both challenging on the field, and challenging to individual player’s expectations. For players on the older rosters of 15U to the Seniors teams, the condensed schedule, the rigors of travel, and the level of competition (internally and externally) are as much as players can handle at this stage of their careers. The Ruffnecks summer schedule is comparable to any of the major college wood bat leagues: Cape Cod, Futures, and NECBL.
The end of the season is not, however, the end of the work for players, coaches, and their families… particularly for players entering their sophomore and junior years in high school. Indeed, many of the 2017 players have already earned commitments to colleges and universities where they can study and play baseball at the next level. Yet for other 2017 grads the journey continues into their senior year at high school. We like to tell the story of Will Toffey, currently a junior playing 3B for Vanderbilt University. Will did not have any offers for college baseball well into his summer season with the Ruffnecks prior to his senior year in high school. Vanderbilt saw Will play with the Ruffnecks as they were scouting another player on the team and watching a player on the opposing team in the Music City Classic in Nashville. Will had a good game and the conversation began. Other schools also began to show interest, including some Ivy League schools. Will was a good student. Yet he did not receive an offer from Vanderbilt until late September of his senior year in high school! Yes, he walked back into the classroom in September without knowing where he might end up for college. Will started at 3B in the College World Series for Vanderbilt in 2015.
The work continues beyond the game schedule. Ruffnecks coaches do their best to manage player and family expectations while being advocates with college coaches. Conferences, evaluations, and reaching out to schools on behalf of Ruffnecks players never ceases. Of course, the player has an integral role in the journey. But the Ruffnecks staff are partners in that journey. Each year, the following of college coaches at Ruffnecks games grows. College coaches consistently comment that they enjoy watching the Ruffnecks, the way we play, and the way our players and coaches conduct themselves. The work continues.