The Weird World Of Baseball

There have been many strange happenings both on and off the field in the world of baseball while many unique personalities and inventions have tried to make their way into America’s pastime. However, I never realized just how many there were. I ended up searching the labyrinth that is Recycled Books in Denton, Texas and found a book called Banana Bats and Ding-Dong Balls by Dan Gutman. The title alone grabbed my attention. It’s a non-fiction book about baseball inventions from the past 100 years. It’s an entertaining look at how the game has changed and I highly recommend reading it but here are a few crazy inventions and ideas that stuck out to me.

  • The Ass Bat from 1864. People actually covered bats in animal skin like donkeys, pigs, and horses. My thought was why??
  • The Exploding Bat from 1902. The idea: put an exploding cartridge in a hole in the bat which would go off anytime the bat hit something. Can you imagine seeing a bat explode every at-bat? To me, that sounds more like jousting.
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  • Ted Williams could feel differences between bats down to .005 of an inch. How can someone feel a difference that small?
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  • The Ding-Dong Base from 1875. The inventor thought it would help umpires determine calls at bases since only one umpire worked per game. The only problem? Every time someone touched the base the bell would ring. In the end, it just caused more confusion.
  • Radio Recreations from the 1920s. Back in the day, reporters didn’t go on the road to cover games so they would recreate them over the air as they got updates through telegrams or over the telephone. Current Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strasser continues this grand tradition by doing a radio recreation at least once every season. It is really entertaining and you should definitely give him a listen.
  • Mystery Mud from the 1920s. Have you ever wondered what the umpires put on the baseballs at the start of every game? Apparently it is Lena Blackburne Baseball Rubbing Mud  which was discovered in New Jersey. It is a highly guarded secret that the Blackburne has kept to this day. They could tell us where to find it but then they’d have to kill us.
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So in short to all baseball inventors and lovers both past and present…..

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(Credit: memegenerator.net)

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Cowtown Classic

I watched college softball action Friday at the annual Cowtown Classic tournament to see my cool cousin play with the University of Houston-Victoria. You guys know I can’t just sit and watch a game so I shot some photos as well.

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About Last Night

The Tyler Junior College softball team has been on fire to open its 2016 campaign. The Apache Ladies have a perfect 11-0 record but we really need to talk about the doubleheader last night against Georgia Highland College. It was pretty crazy with the score of game one being 30-0. I know what you’re thinking. That must be a typo. But I assure you it happened including an 18-run second inning. My poor scorebook was all out of sorts by the time the game ended.

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RIP Scorebook

The squad went through the lineup two and a half times with every player scoring a run. The home half of the second inning alone took about 45-50 minutes. Needless to say, there were some fun and strange stats to come out of the game. Catcher Amber Landry led off the inning getting hit with a pitch. She must have had a target on her back because she was hit in three of her six at-bats during game one. Third baseman Lauren Becker hit her first home run of the season and it turned out to be a grand slam. And in true East Texas fashion, it was retrieved from someone heading behind the stadium on a tractor.

Abby Walker’s final line was 24 pitches through two innings and striking out three while walking none. Alicia Garcia came on in relief to finish the game with 29 pitches through three innings striking out three and walking one.

Game two looked like it might have ended differently with Georgia Highland taking an early lead scoring a run in the second inning. But the Apache Ladies came out swinging in the fourth with a leadoff double from Haley Mills. Tanna Huie singled and Marina Duran drew a walk to load the bases. An infield error and a passed ball brought in two runs and a sac fly from Karli Herron brought scored a third run. TJC scored seven runs in the fifth and came away with a 10-1 win through five innings.

It should be another solid year for TJC Softball and I’m waiting to see if we have another set of games like we did last night. The team heads to Houston to play in the San Jacinto tournament and the next home game will be on February 17th against Weatherford College.

Prospect Helping Prospects: Part III

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every college baseball coach must be in want of players. However, there is one obstacle for both players and coaches when it comes to recruiting.

“If they’ve never seen you play, they can’t recruit you,” former Baltimore Orioles prospect Jake Luce said. “If they don’t know anything about you, they can’t recruit you. If these guys have never tasted chocolate, they can’t miss it.”

Luce was one of those players who initially fell through the cracks and fought us way to playing in college and ultimately making it to minor league baseball. He started The Luce Prospect Group in 2014 to focus on helping the same type of players get their shot at college ball.

“Going to a big high school and earning the accolades that I did, you would think that I would get a lot of offers and attention and that wasn’t the case,” Luce said. “That’s what we try to tell these parents. It doesn’t matter if you go to a big high school or a small one. It doesn’t matter if you hit .400. If they don’t see you, they can’t recruit you.”

Luce has built trust and credibility with coaches across baseball, which has helped him find places for LPG prospects.

“It was cool because I’ve been developing the relationships with all of these coaches for something that years later I never knew I was going to be doing. I know a lot of these guys because they did recruit me,” Luce said. “In the wonderful world of sports you’re judged based on how far you went and what level you got to. I’ve seen what it takes to play on every level. When these coaches call me asking about players, that does hold weight.”

He added that while LPG focuses on helping players, their goal is to also help college coaches and recruiting coordinators.

“We want to do everything we can to make the coaches’ jobs so much easier. They don’t have the recruiting budget to send guys all over the country. They just don’t have it. This isn’t football,” Luce said. “We have to be able to cater to that and if college coaches want access to top prospects in the DFW area, they’re going to get everything they need through LPG. That’s why college coaches and I have relationships and they keep calling back.”

One of those coaches is Erik Gaston, the recruiting coordinator for The University of Texas At Tyler, who has brought on Graham Welch and Blake Ross, two LPG prospects.

“With Graham, I saw him at a camp in San Antonio and saw him play in a few games. I liked what I saw and went through the normal process of doing some research. Through that process is how I found out about The Luce Prospect Group,” Gaston said. “Jake had reached out to talk about Graham and that’s where we started our relationship.”

Gaston said UT Tyler has had nothing but good things to say about the pair.

“With Graham, he made the transition fairly quick and is successful in both the baseball field and the classroom,” Gaston said. “With Blake, it’s been the same type of impression. They have both met and exceeded the expectations we have for our program. We’re confident about them and it builds confidence with Jake. When he recommends a player or says hey, this is a good kid that I believe can help you guys out, we’ve got some background and experience where we’ve had success in the past.”

Head baseball coach Chris Bertrand echoed Gaston’s sentiments.

“We wanted Graham because we knew he could play but how fast he picked up the college game and a lot of the intangible things like body language and the ability to make adjustments, he didn’t struggle with,” Bertrand said. “I think that’s a product of where he’s come from and being part of LPG and what they teach those guys. With Blake, it’s the same thing. We have the utmost confidence knowing that he comes from the same program and that we’ll get the same type of results from him.”

With these types of players, the future of the UT Tyler program looks bright.

“When you bring in young players of that caliber, it allows you to be in a position to have sustainability and success,” Bertrand said. “It means they can come in and compete for your program right away and you know you’ll have those guys for four years. If we can continue to bring in those types of players, we don’t ever put ourselves in a position to rebuild. We just reload and go onto another year and we think that’s where we are.”

Part of the success of LPG has been its honesty when approaching coaches with scouting reports of their players.

“There’s no reason for us to do bad business. If we send players that can’t play just to make our numbers look good, then these college coaches will never call us back again,” Luce said. “It’s all about reputation. We want to make sure we give 100 percent accurate scouting reports so these college coaches know they’ll be getting a report from guys that have been there, not an Internet database, mom and dad, or even high school coaches.”

And with coaches having low recruiting budgets, Luce said LPG wants to help the coaches find these players.

“These college coaches have the ability to say hey, we’re interested in you. Come pay $500 to come to our showcase camp. That’s nothing against the college coaches but that’s simply to say they don’t have the recruiting budget. When they invite prospects to come on campus, yes, they do want to do evaluations but 95 percent of those camps is all about money,” Luce said. “Confucious said that real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance so when parents get to that point of ignorance, who do they go to? Their high school coach isn’t paid to help them get recruited. They are paid to win. It’s not the high school coach’s fault these kids fall through the crack. It’s not the college coaches’ fault because they don’t have the recruiting budget. They can only be at one place at one time.”

By doing this, Luce said he sees LPG as a higher quality prospect company.

“There’s other companies out there that are much bigger than us and that make a lot of money but the question is what is their sign rate,” Luce said. “If you have 150,000 kids a year and 20,000 get scholarships, yeah, that’s a lot of money but what about the other 130,000 kids. What happened to them? They can look through videos all they want but that doesn’t do anything compared to somebody like me or someone on my staff who has played professionally.”

With the trust of parents and coaches, Luce said he hopes his company continues to grow and ultimately help people make the same jump he did.

“In life, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you negotiate,” Luce said. “So my questions to the people that are out there is who’s negotiating for you. All we’re doing is helping these kids and that’s the main thing. What better job is there?”

For more information you can visit them at www.luceprospectgroup.com or their mobile site www.luceprospectgroup.com/?

Prospect Helping Prospects: Part II

College recruiting is big business these days. According to the U.S. Department of Education, colleges spent almost $250 million on recruiting last year with over $160 million spent on men’s sports alone. The college recruiting process, however, is seemingly uncharted territory for high school athletes and their families.

Former Baltimore Orioles prospect Jake Luce experienced this uncharted territory when he prepared for the jump from Allen High School (Allen, TX) to college in the summer of 2007. Since then, Luce has been in professional baseball and in 2014, started one of the fastest-growing high school athlete consulting firms in the country aptly named The Luce Prospect Group.

“I started LPG because I was tired of watching parents and players getting taken advantage of at the high school level,” Luce said. “I’ve seen too many talented athletes fall through the cracks simply because of improper guidance and a lack of exposure to college coaches. As a player, I was in the majority. I was one of those athletes that needed help.”

Luce went to Allen High School, one of the biggest high schools in the country, and won various honors throughout his career including being named First-Team All-District his junior and senior years. He hit over .400 his senior year, and that still wasn’t enough for him to become a highly-touted prospect coming out of high school.

“I was 5’10 and weighed 175 pounds as a senior,” Luce said. “There’s such a thing called ‘projectability’ when evaluating athletes. Needless to say, my ‘projectability’ was, and has never really been, that high. I knew I could play. I knew I could help someone win. But instead, I had to rely on negotiating with college coaches myself. That’s tough to do when you’re 18 years old.”

Luce accepted a full-ride scholarship to Blinn College just two weeks before the first day of the semester.

“It was a stressful time,” Luce admits. “But I’m glad God took me to and through that process. I really learned a lot.”

An Idea Becomes a Reality

Luce founded The Luce Prospect Group in early 2014 with the intent of bridging the gap between college coaches and top-notch baseball prospects. After serving as the Director of Baseball for the Dallas area for a different company in 2013, Luce started LPG.

In just over one year of business, LPG has a 100 percent success rate of helping their prospects earn athletic and academic scholarships. How much, you might ask? Well, with the recent commitment of Luce Prospect Kylen Granson (Austin, TX) to Rice University, the overall scholarship dollar amount has surpassed $1.5 million.

The company’s success rate is something that is attracting attention from parents, prospects, and college coaches around the country.

“We really don’t advertise because we’re confident our parents and prospects will do that for us,” Luce said. “Our mission statement has always been to take care of those that we do have rather than worry about those that we don’t have. Because we focus on doing business the right way, parents and prospects tend to find us on their own.”

A Parent’s Take

Parents like Jason Welch whose son Graham was part of the inaugural class of Luce Prospects in 2015. Graham is currently at the University of Texas at Tyler on an academic scholarship and is slated to start in the outfield in 2016.

“Jake works fast. I made contact with Jake around Thanksgiving before my son’s senior year and he outlined exactly how he was going to help us,” Welch said. “There was one college coach that we were having some dialogue with and, while we were in our initial meeting, Jake picked up the phone and called that particular coach. Before we knew it, my son had received a personal invite to a private workout the following weekend. After that, I knew we had made the right choice with Jake and the Luce Prospect Group.”

That specific school didn’t end up being the best fit for Graham, but Welch said that he had faith in the process because of what he had witnessed in that initial meeting.

“Out of the gate Jake went to work to establish contact with college coaches we all felt would be possible fits. He engaged the coaches and Graham from the get-go and we saw positive results immediately.”

Welch said that he and Graham had both used other online recruiting websites in the past thinking that they’d get the help they needed. But ultimately, the Welch’s realized that nothing was getting accomplished. However, with Luce’s help, Graham ended up on UT Tyler’s radar immediately.

“UT Tyler was one of the schools that we had targeted from the beginning,” Welch said. “We were signed up to go to a camp in San Antonio where we knew one of their coaches would be. Having Jake reach out to that particular coach put Graham on the radar screen for them and the rest is history. My son ended up with a full-ride scholarship a few weeks later; none of it would’ve been possible without Jake and the team at the Luce Prospect Group.”

Luce said it’s one of his favorite parts of the job.

“Receiving that phone call from a Prospect who just accepted a scholarship brings joy to my heart,” Luce said. “Knowing that I have the opportunity to change a kid’s life every day is something I’ll always hold on to.”

Skeptical Parents

Laura Ross is another parent that joined LPG with her son, Blake. She admits to being skeptical because she had seen other recruiting programs fail to achieve desired results for other parents and players.

“To be honest, I was not a believer in LPG at first,” Ross said. “However, I did believe Jake would do what he said he would. And, of course, he exceeded my expectations.”If any parent is on the fence about joining the Luce Prospect Group, trust me, it’s worth the money. Jake and LPG have saved us so much time, money, and stress. There are so many boys in the United States who want to play baseball in college; it’s extremely competitive. Getting on-board with Jake was one of the best decisions we ever made for our son.”

Her son Blake is also committed to UT Tyler on a scholarship and will be joining the team this fall. Even though Blake has already signed, Ross says Luce is still in contact on a regular basis.

“Jake stays in touch with all of the kids and their coaches even after they’ve signed,” Ross said. “And even if they’re in college, he calls them to make sure everything is going well. Jake’s just there for us. It’s truly a great feeling. He pushed for my son, and I know he’ll push for yours too.”

As for Luce, he said that’s what it’s all about.

“It’s not about the money for me,” Luce said. “Sure, everyone loves money, but our vision at LPG is to conduct business amicably and professionally at all times. If we do those things, the money will be there as a result of us treating people the right way.”

And by treating people the right way, Luce said families can focus on more important things like just being mom and dad.

“That’s why parents like Laura and Jason will vouch for us. Laura can just watch Blake play and just be a mom. Blake can enjoy his senior year and not have to worry about anything else. Jason gets to watch Graham grow and develop as a collegiate athlete and young man,” Luce said. “We’re successful not because of where I’ve been or where any of our staff has been. We’re successful simply because we keep our parents and prospects first.”

For more information about The Luce Prospect Group, visit www.LuceProspectGroup.com or call their offices at 972-632-1300. You can also check out their mobile site at www.LuceProspectGroup.com/?