How Much is Too Much?

How Much is Too Much?

Ruffnecks Try to Strike Balance in Changing Environment

Ruffnecks Ready to Use NEBC in 2015

Ruffnecks Ready to Use NEBC in 2015

New Home is Great Resource

Say Goodbye to 2014 – On to 2015!

Say Goodbye to 2014 – On to 2015!

2015 Schedule & Complex Bring Excitement to Program

How Much is Too Much?

The so-called “Genie” has been out of the bottle for some time now.  Kids no longer ride their bicycles with their gloves on the handlebars to local playgrounds or ball fields to play sandlot baseball.  Many towns kick kids off the fields unless they have a permit anyway!  Kids no longer make up their own rules, their own pecking order, never mind their own batting order.  Indeed, few among the current generation of parents even know the intricacies of fashioning a three on three baseball game where a base hit is an argument, and a home run is anything in the air that goes past the second telephone pole on the right.

In the Ruffnecks program, our coaches enjoy highly focused and skilled ball players.  Ruffnecks are wonderful kids, mostly passionate about the game of baseball, highly competitive, and athletic to varying degrees… but mostly above average.  Yet, each year we are amazed at the low aptitude among players in their knowledge of baseball history.  We play baseball trivia at practices with our new 13s, and are underwhelmed by their ability to recall any baseball history beyond last night’s Sports Center.  Sure, by the time we play our second or third doubleheader, our 13s know who coined the expression “Let’s play two!”  But how many even noted the great Ernie Banks’ passing January 23rd?

So the Ruffnecks march forward as a college development program, tuition-based (though substantially subsidized), and do our best to adhere to principles and values that build young men, reinforce teamwork, and teach the game of baseball.  We travel far beyond the boundaries of town baseball, our home state, and even the region of New England.  We challenge our players and coaches to measure themselves against the best competition, the best opponents, and on the most demanding stages of tournament baseball, regardless of where that takes us.  It is a dream and a privilege to play in a program such as the Ruffnecks, traveling to Texas, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and elsewhere.  Our players devote themselves to developing the skills of the game: They work with hitting coaches, pitching coaches, strength coaches.  They get up before 5:00 in the morning to participate in Winter Workouts at the indoor “Bubble” at Harvard University.  But are we guilty of “too much?”  Are we falling into the trap of specialization, over emphasis, and chasing ridiculous expectations?

The answers are neither obvious, nor easy to discover.  We neither defend ourselves, nor have we been asked to justify our purpose.  Nevertheless, it is important to reflect and consider the conditions of our times, and what it is we do.  And it is crucial to examine ourselves regularly.  An article in the New York Times, published Saturday, January 17, 2015, addresses the factors of money and expectations in youth sports.  “The Rising Costs of Youth Sports, in Money and Emotion,” speaks to the disconnect between playing sports for fun, or the benefits of sport’s learning platform, and the dreams, hopes, expectations, and even pay-back parents seek from their investment.  The article suggests that “experts” caution “The willingness to spend heavily — in money, time, emotion, and a childhood — needs to be looked at more carefully…” It cites data that may dampen the hopes and aspirations of parents and players in the Ruffnecks program and elsewhere.  Specifically, the article references that less than 5 percent of high school athletes go on to play in college, and less than 3 percent will enjoy school financial aid related to that sport.  Even youth coaching is criticized as being often “emotionally illiterate,” of which most coaches are guilty… at least some of the time, including ourselves.

So how much is too much?  We simply do not know.  What we do know is that we attract terrific kids… and good, well-meaning parents who want what is best for those kids, even if some are nervous, anxious, or otherwise too invested in their son’s athletic successes and failures.  Expectations are the biggest challenge we face in managing parents.  And while the percentages in the New York Times article do not correspond with our “success” rate (between 80 and 90 percent of our players go on to play some college baseball), we are challenged to make our program affordable, accessible, and relevant to players from all social and economic backgrounds.  We steadfastly adhere to the old fashioned notion that a multi-sport athlete is a better, more rounded athlete, than a single sport athlete.  Yet we are guilty of Winter Workouts, Fall Baseball, and year-round opportunities to advance baseball skills for baseball players.  And most will say that this is the trend, the reality of youth sports in the 21st Century.  If it is, we hope to teach well, and provide the best possible experience.  We intend to keep it about TEAM first.  And while our fields are now artificial turf, and virtually none of our players arrive by bicycle, we continue to foster an environment in which Ruffnecks enjoy the game and each other.

Ruffnecks Ready to Use NEBC in 2015

As Ruffnecks players begin preparation for the 2015 season in Winter Workouts at Harvard University, excitement is in the air for the first full season at the New England Baseball Complex (NEBC) in Northborough.  The NEBC is now the official home for Ruffnecks baseball, and preparations are under way for a busy summer at the complex.  Tournaments are filling rapidly, with many of the premium events, such as the PG Super25 Regionals already full.  Ruffnecks teams plan to utilize the expansive complex, its accessories, and access to state-of-the-art facilities.  The program is now in a position to schedule quality practices with greater regularity.  The all-synthetic surfaces provide greater reliability and assurances that home games and practices will happen in a timely fashion.  Lights also help to ease the burden of traveling to the complex during rush hour traffic.  In short, the Ruffnecks now have flexibility and greater access to the resources necessary for baseball development.  Indeed, Ruffnecks teams will be spending a lot of time at the NEBC, participating in numerous tournaments, practices, and games during the 2015 season at their new home.

Three Full Fields

The NEBC features three professionally built fields with dimensions that can accommodate collegiate, high school, and youth baseball activities.  Field #1 is on the upper level, near the parking lot, and features dimensions of 315 LF, 385 CF, and 310 RF.  There are also two bullpens with two mounds in each one.  Field #2 and Field #3 are on the second level of the tiered complex.  Field #2 is largest field with a distance of 402 to the deepest part in right-center field.  Field #3 is the smallest field, with a little less foul territory and smaller dugouts, but fences that still are 315 down the lines and 385 to CF.

Spacious Concourses – More Coming

The spacious concourses provide comfortable spectator areas.  Although permanent bleachers have not yet been installed, there are temporary stands for the start of the season.  As spectator and pedestrian traffic patterns evolve, permanent seating areas will be designed and installed.  A fully equipped concession stand is built and will be outfitted for service in the coming months.  Outdoor batting cages for 2015 will be installed while plans are underway to construct the future indoor facility.

Ruffnecks Players to Support the Privilege of Access

The privileges of access to the NEBC facilities also embrace obligations.  Just as the Ruffnecks culture provided exclusivity and responsibility at the former Ruffnecks Hitting Facility, we expect players to use the NEBC fields on their own while contributing to its upkeep.  The privilege of “unscheduled” use belongs exclusively to Ruffnecks.  In fact, several players were on the fields during the unseasonably warm weather during the holidays, observing the “Ruffnecks Rule” of wearing Ruffnecks apparel during use.  Players will be expected to provide volunteer work during busy times such as tournaments in the summer.  Ruffneks players will contribute to support tasks such as trash removal, scoreboard operations, setup, monitoring, and general help.  These obligations and responsibilities will undoubtedly add to the experience of the being a Ruffneck. Opening Day is only 10 weeks away.  Between now and then, Ruffnecks can be found taking advantage of the NEBC whenever possible, as long as there is no snow on the surfaces.

Important Notices

(Updated Saturday, January 24 7:00pm)

Important Notice: Please check this website notice and your email prior to departing for Winter Workouts this weekend.  Winter weather conditions may force closure of the Bubble or cancelation of the workout. 

Sunday, January 25th HS Workout is on as Scheduled.

HS Harvard Winter Workout
Sunday, January 25

All HS Ruffnecks
Havard University "Bubble"
6:00am to 8:00am
Please Note Early Start Time!

Ruffnecks 2014 Season Video


The New England Baseball Complex is located at:

333 Southwest Cutoff

Northborough, MA 01532


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