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The baseball journey of the Rhode Island scholastic athlete can be as varied as the current weather situation we experienced in February and March. Some players go the recreational route through Little League and Cal Ripken. Then perhaps graduate into a Babe Ruth, American Legion, Connie Mack type league. Others play recreation plus AAU throughout their youth baseball days, all the while playing for their local Middle or High School team. As a youth baseball player ages and their skill level develops, their aspirations to play at the next level (middle to high school, high school to college or even professional) can get really exciting.

If you follow my baseball experiences here in Rhode Island, you will see words like “scout day” and “showcase event” and “showcase tournament” pop up from time to time. I am lucky to have met so many great local baseball coaches over the past 5 years who have invited me to be a part of their showcase event. Typically, I stand around the fringes of the event, taking photos, talking to parents, some coaches, the tournament representatives, and try to paint a broad picture of what is happening. And recently, I reached out to Keith Grant for a more specific view of the showcase event. Keith has a ton of on the field experience with these Showcase events having worked for Firecracker Sports, who according to their bio “serve all baseball and softball travel teams that are looking for quality tournaments, showcases camps and college recruiting resources to promote their players and teams. Our events range from 8U all the way to 19U and include social media exposure, college coaches and premier fields. With Firecracker Sports, your players and parents can finally get the quality convenience they deserve all in 1 place, saving time and money!

I wanted to learn more about the events, who attends, why they attend, what coaches are looking for, and what players new to the showcase tournament phenomenon should expect when they step onto that field for the first time. So, Keith and I had an email and phone conversation about showcase events and here is an excerpt:

1. Based on your experience working at Firecracker Sports, how have college recruiting practices shifted from 10 years ago to today?

Great question! I attended East Providence High School from 2011-2014 when showcase baseball had already laid roots and was starting to take off. Organizations like Perfect Game and Baseball Factory were leading the way on a national level. Organizations like MaxPreps, Hudl, NCSA, and BeRecruited also offered valuable recruiting resources on a more local level. In 2014, I decided to attend Johnson & Wales University. There I met Mark Cooke, who was my pitching coach and is the President/Owner of Firecracker Sports, a fast growing showcase and tournament provider based in Rhode Island. We grew very close over his 2 years at the University and I ended up as an intern for Firecracker. I completed my internship with Firecracker before being hired part-time to manage the social media accounts and film recruiting content at events. 

Throughout my time at the company, I began to notice the abundance of opportunities available to players today. Organizations like Flatground App/Bats on Twitter are completely free resources that allow prospects to post their recruiting videos to a platform of 77,000 followers across both of their accounts. Many are college coaches/professional scouts. Meanwhile, juggernauts like Prep Baseball Report (PBR) and Perfect Game have expanded their efforts to a state by state model with great success. They give their prospects social media exposure in addition to their player databases which draw the eyes of thousands of collegiate and pro scouts. The rise of the showcase tournament has welcomed companies like Firecracker, Pastime Tournaments, Bullpen Tournaments, and Prospect Select into the market. These types of events begin with a pro style showcase at the beginning, followed by a pool play tournament. They are unique because they allow college coaches and professional scouts to identify a prospect at the showcase portion of the event and follow them throughout the tournament. With all of these options available, I truly believe it’s a great time to be a high school or collegiate prospect in 2022.

2. When a college coach or scout shows up at a showcase event or team scout day, what are they bringing for evaluation tools? Notebook, laptop, software, technology?

At a scout day, scouts will have some sort of pad to write on, a radar gun, stopwatch, as well as the list of players for the event with all relevant info like height, weight, GPA, and grad year. At a live game, you will likely see them with an iPad/iPhone in addition to those items so they can capture footage of prospects they’re interested in.

3. In your experience helping to run these events, what tends to stand out to a college representative, performance wise?

Many college coaches and scouts will grade prospects based off of an evaluation sheet. They already have their general information like height, weight, GPA, graduation year, and high school on hand. As a result, they go into the event with some prior knowledge of the prospects and are now looking to learn a little more about the players through performance metrics and the eye test. Many college coaches will be impressed by eye popping numbers on the radar gun or Rapsodo machine but it is most definitely not on the top of their list. A lot of these coaches are looking at the prospects and envisioning how they would fit into their program. 

4. Do the college coaches interact at all with parents or coaches during these Scout Days?

In my experience at Firecracker, the coaches and scouts attending events are always looking to offer advice or help run the event. Some divisions have more freedom with recruiting than others, such as the NJCAA, NAIA, and USCAA. 

5. What role does social media play in the recruiting process?

It seems like a decade ago, social media was used only as a supplementary tool in the recruiting process to determine an athlete’s character. Now, with almost everybody carrying around a high definition camera. It has become an amazing and free outlet for athletes to showcase their skills and attract the attention of whichever baseball programs they want. 

6. What are some important steps for a player here in Rhode Island to gain more exposure in recruiting?

This is a lot easier said than done, but it’s a huge help if you have your grades on point. Put the time in and it will save you money and afford you better opportunities to play at the next level. Join a club. Play other sports. Enjoy all of the social aspects that high school has to offer. 

7. If a student athlete has a sub-par performance hitting, throwing, batting, catching, etc, at a showcase, can this cause a significant drop in their college recruiting potential? 

Absolutely not! A less than stellar performance at a scout day or showcase is what you make of it. If you dwell on your result for too long, it will start to affect your thoughts, beliefs and then your actions will follow. If you choose to learn from it, you’ll be much better off in the long run.

Huge thanks to Keith Grant for your insight on showcase tournaments and scout day events. A few things that stood out – grades, play multiple sports, don’t dwell on a negative play – all non-baseball related points of topic that coaches are looking for when they scout players. Great advice Keith, really appreciate your detailed outline of what coaches are looking at during these events. Players – Coaches are looking for a player to fit into their system in 2 to 3, sometimes 4 years in the future based on your year of graduation. If you show a coach hustle and effort and instincts and character, along with your arm strength and bat speed and 60 yard dash time, you will be showcasing your entire baseball profile.

For more information on Firecracker Sports, visit their website at www.firecrackersports.com.

Published by theribbe

The RIBBE is The Rhode Island Baseball Experience. It is promoting the game of baseball here in the great state of Rhode Island for the entire baseball world to see. The RIBBE is positive stories, photos, videos, and responsible social media posts. The RIBBE is an information resource for families looking for an AAU team or a summer camp or a great place to buy a first baseman’s mitt. The RIBBE is a network of coaches, tournament directors, parents, leagues, and baseball junkies whose passion of the game of baseball is unquestioned. I believe that providing expert analysis, information and directions to ballfields, and coaching advice from some of the top RI baseball minds will help promote the game of baseball here in RI to a whole new level.

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