August 19, 2018 Onondaga, NY: While Flames players, families and fans bask in their well-deserved NYCBL Championship afterglow, Flames management is hard at work recruiting for next season. “August and September are very important recruiting months and we can’t afford to sit on our laurels only to find ourselves left at the starting gate.” commented Wayne Walker, Flames President.
Walker explained that each year, as players arrive on campus, college coaches review summer league placements with their players and determine the best next step for them. Factors such as location, desire to play with teammates or friends, expense and competition level all come into play. By mid September the Flames will have a decent idea of who will return from their championship team. In addition to additional pitchers, the Flames will have to replace players who choose not to return.
“Resuming play in the Perfect Game League presents different challenges. The PGCBL schedule is longer and more grueling so, we need to make sure the pitching staff is at full strength. College coaches give us pitch counts for their arms and many pitchers even get shut down before the season is over. With normal injuries, we’ll need 7 or 8 more arms than we had last year.”
Recruiting philosophy varies among summer team General Managers. “Outside of the Cape, which gets first dibs, it pretty much comes down to recruiting for experience or taking a chance on raw talent. We choose the latter.” noted Walker. He pointed out that last year’s Flames Champs had 17 freshmen, 2 redshirt freshmen, 9 sophomores and only 3 juniors. Walker noted, “Its a development league and the greatest development occurs in the freshman year. We can’t be afraid to roll the dice on raw unpolished talent or we’ll miss out on the fun of watching them grow before our eyes. I am always amazed at how quickly they adapt to the wooden bat and the next level of pitching.”
The Flames try to balance their roster with equal numbers from local, regional and national college programs.The Flames have built relationships with top college programs throughout the country. However, Walker quipped, “Things are either getting better or getting worse and if you think they are staying the same, they’re probably getting worse! We need to keep improving.”
Flames management is also constantly watching the local high school programs, trying to identify potential Flames. They will patiently wait for sophomores to blossom and try to throw their hat in the ring early on juniors. Its rare that a talented senior (or their future college coach) doesn’t hear from the Flames before they throw their last pitch of their high school career. “Each year the Syracuse area sends many players to great college programs across the country. If we can keep the local kids here at home for summer ball, we will be way ahead of the game.” said Walker.
“The 2018 Flames team will be hard, if not impossible, to match, but we will be more than happy if we can get close.” said Walker as he held up crossed fingers.