Success on the baseball field is most often measured in the score, standings, stats, and box scores. So it is every morning when we open the sports section of the newspapers or tune into ESPN Sports Center. For the 2015 Senior Ruffnecks the score matters, but it pales in comparison to the experience of playing on this TEAM. Over the course of 50 plus games since June 6th (an intensive schedule to say the least), this group of Ruffnecks has distinguished itself by their cohesiveness and their passion for the game and each other. Make no mistake about it… this team loves to win and compete, and they do so quite well. They are talented. But while team chemistry can often fuel success or failure, the makeup of this Ruffnecks graduating class is special. It is the largest class of Ruffnecks that has played together for all five years in the program (11 players). The journey from 13U to this season is marked and defined by the Ruffnecks experience: Different coaches each year… new additions… some departures… great competition… travel… memories in the hotels, buses, restaurants, and airports… all with teammates. But somehow, being part of the 2015″Senior” year has been a special experience.
The Joy of the Journey
The eleven players who have spent five years have always welcomed new additions. The welcome mat is not unconditional however. It requires an understanding of why, at 13U this team cheered loudly each time a batter was hit by a pitch, “Way to be a Ruffneck!” It requires difficult, and sometimes painful self-examination and personal doubt. It means embracing a teammate who has failed in a miserable way, or has momentarily fallen out of grace with a coach or has been ignored by a college recruiter. What distinguishes this group as much as anything is the way in which new players immediately become part of the experience, and understand!!! Short Stop Connor Lee, and catcher Teddy Beaudet came as 16U players. They are woven into the fabric of the team as if they have been part of it for five years. Lee and Scott Holzwasser form the middle infield with 3-year player Teddy Bakas. Beaudet and 5-year veteran John Simourian form a cohesive catching tandem. First year left hander Holden White, immediately fit right in with his new teammates and latched on to the humor and focus of 2-year ‘Neck Morgan McSweeney. Chris Galland, Ian Herel, Holzwasser, and Alex Dillon form a core of Sudbury players who have banded together for the duration. Five year veteran Zack Horwitz has housed teammates with significant travel issues in his home for the past two years. Spencer Yee did anything and everything to contribute to the team. This is the character of the team. And their joy in playing baseball shows on the field.
Commitments, Colleges, and Competition
Indeed this is a talented Senior class. But it is not defined by college commitments, early verbal offers, and the frenzy of invitations to special events, showcases, and individual accolades. Not all our players are “Division I prospects.” We have excellent ball players capable of contributing at many wonderful, competitive schools with outstanding baseball traditions. And we are fully committed to supporting each player in his journey to play college baseball. Senior Head Coach John Toffey has brought a new perspective and has become a great advocate for Ruffnecks players. Matt Blake, who has been the Ruffnecks pitching coach for the past six years (this year a coach in the Cape League), continues to work behind the scenes for Ruffnecks pitchers with college recruiters. Other coaches have contacts and support the college placement process… Coaches such as Kirk Fredericks and Kevin Graber are consummate educators with distinguished coaching resumes. They care and they work for Ruffnecks players. The entire organization works to support Ruffnecks.
College coaches consistently remark that they love watching Ruffnecks teams play in events. Despite the glut of mercenary events, teams, and showcases, colleges continue to insist they prefer to watch TEAMS like the Ruffnecks play baseball. Comments such as “Your coaches really coach ‘em up,” are the greatest greatest compliment for our efforts. “Your players really go about it the right way,” is a definitive trait for which all Ruffnecks should be proud.
This year’s Senior class has had a blast! Their college commitments are, indeed, impressive. Yet it is neither necessary or important to tout those commitment here and now. Several placements continue to unfold, with players (and families) demonstrating great patience, confidence, and faith. While many programs claim any college player who ever wore a shirt in a game as “one of theirs,” we prefer to celebrate the journey and accomplishments of Ruffnecks who stay and play. For this Senior class, the journey can be defined by a spontaneous (some might say silly) team cheer that arose in the huddle after one of the final games of the summer. “Friendship on 3; Family on 6; Justice on 9; Ruffnecks on 10!” And off they went! They are a loose group, to be sure… they were tough outs… played hard… and they sure had a good time. Thanks to all.