The World’s Largest Youth Baseball Tournament is upon us, and soon 530-plus teams from all across the country will hit the road to Omaha, Nebraska throughout the month of June. The Omaha SlumpBuster enters its 16th year offering four sessions of competition. The excitement begins on June 14th with Session 1.
This event has become a tradition for countless organizations. In 2018, teams will be traveling from more than 40 states including Hawaii, California, Texas and New Jersey.
Sessions 1 and 3 feature our fun, fire-filled Festival Night. Thousands of people descend to enjoy pin trading, vendors, skills challenges and the appearance of our favorite baseball prodigy, Domingo Ayala. The night will end with a bang with the explosive burning of two 10-foot wooden bats.
As if there isn’t enough excitement at the SlumpBuster, the 2018 Men’s College World Series will also be taking place at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, giving Slumpbuster teams the chance to watch some of the best college athletes in the world compete on the big stage.
Mike Stevens, head coach of the Coppell Cowboys 11u, has been with the Cowboys organization for 10 years and has taken his team to the SlumpBuster every single year.
“Our 11u teams go to Omaha every year. It’s the College World Series trip,” Stevens said. “My older son went three years ago and he’s in a tournament that weekend this year, but he had such a great time at SlumpBuster when he was 11 that he’s forgoing his tournament in Dallas to come watch the 11u Cowboys play in Omaha. It’s kind of a rite of passage for 11u; we go to Cooperstown with our 12’s but our parents say Omaha is much more enjoyable.”
As true Omaha veterans, the Cowboys have learned where to stay and what to do in order to get the most out of their time at the Slumpbuster.
“We’ve learned to stay downtown so it’s easy to go to the Saturday night CWS games and let the kids do the fan experience. Then we obviously go to the SlumpBuster Open Ceremonies. We also do the skills competition and watch the burning of the bats. It’s a trip they’ll always remember,” added Stevens.
Among the vets there are also some newbies, including the Massachusetts Hurricanes 14u team that will be attending Session 3 of the Omaha SlumpBuster. The Hurricanes are traveling from Medfield, Massachusetts with their head coach Mark Nickerson.
“A team in our league, I noticed it on their schedule last year on the website and looked into it. I’ve always wanted to be in Omaha during the College World Series. Selfishly it was an opportunity for me to go watch some CWS games and bring my team there to play as well,” said Nickerson.
With teams flying cross country for this event, an opportunity that those teams take advantage of is the option to play two pre-tournament games. This makes the SlumpBuster a hefty 6-game guarantee, opposed to a 4-game guarantee. The two games count against each team’s innings-pitched limit; however, a win or loss does not count for their tournament record.
“We just figured if we’re gonna travel all the way out there, we might as well play as many games as we can,” added Nickerson. “I manage nine teams. This is the first one of any of our teams to go so if it’s a great thing, which I’m expecting it will be, our other teams will go in the next few years.”
Speaking of next year, early interest is at an all-time high for the 2019 Omaha SlumpBuster. It’s not too early to consider securing your spot in the event. Follow the link below for 2019 dates and jump on the Who's Coming List today by contacting event directors Brandon Hardy or Jason McCoy.
“There’s a lot to keep track of in an event this size, but we are excited about the days ahead and fortunate to have so many passionate baseball families and teams motivated to make this trip,” Hardy said. “With our elite division in Session 1 and our pro-player workout with Iowa Western Community College, the event continues to evolve and offer a terrific summer baseball experience.”
By Bradey King
For more than 20 years, Triple Crown Sports has provided a superior Word Series solution for youth baseball teams looking for that special championship destination.
For 10u teams in 2018, you’ll find sturdy competition and great fun at the foot of the mighty Rocky Mountains in Park City, Utah. Clear your calendar for July 16-21, as we have a thrill-packed five-game guarantee waiting for your team!
The event features a festival with pin trading and a team parade, as well as a show featuring legendary YouTube comedian Domingo Ayala. When you are off the diamond, the diversions are easy to find – hiking, fishing, Olympic Park, Alpine slide, white-water rafting – Triple Crown is ready and willing to help you sort through the options.
Escape the heat and humidity; find your happy spot in the mountains at the 2018 TCS 10u World Series!
Approaching its 7th year, the Lone Star Classic continues to be a big success for Triple Crown Baseball, drawing 160 teams to compete at the Dallas Metroplex this coming weekend.
For over 20 years, Texas has been a baseball staple for TCS events. Texas Baseball event directors Gino Grasso and Adam Kline are excited to see an increase in teams year after year.
“This event always offers good competition. We have a few of the best 14u teams in the country playing this weekend,” said Kline. "The area's league schedules have kicked in, making it more of a challenge to secure fields, but we could tell the market was excited about getting into the Lone Star. We expect that interest to stay high for our other events to come."
More than 450 Texas teams and others around the Southwest kicked off their season at the Texas Season Opener in early March. In case of any inclement weather at the Season Opener, the Lone Star Classic has always served as a great insurance opportunity for teams to get back on the field and stay sharp, but that was not a concern this year.
We look forward to seeing a variety of 8u to 14u teams hit the diamond at the Lone Star Classic on April 6th-8th.
Full schedules have been posted: http://bit.ly/2GxC45n
Texas State Championships: May 25-28, 2018 (https://bit.ly/2Eh4uKD)
Texas World Series Warm-Up: June 15-17, 2018 (https://bit.ly/2EfBa7x)
SportsEngine, a division of NBC Sports Group, today announced a partnership agreement between its tournament management solution, Tourney Machine, and Fort Collins, Colorado-based, Triple Crown Sports (TCS), a longtime leader in producing impactful youth events from coast to coast.
Part of the SportsEngine platform of services, Tourney Machine facilitates team registration, schedule management and results tracking all in one place for fans, coaches and teams. TCS is a leading tournament operations company throughout the US with over 200 events and more than 18,000 teams per year. TCS will utilize Tourney Machine’s scheduling, scoring, and tournament management technology to operate all of their youth baseball, softball, lacrosse and basketball tournaments making Tourney Machine the official tournament technology partner of TCS.
Additionally, Tourney Machine will enable its external API services to allow TCS to consume data from its own tournaments and track team and player participation. The use of advanced features such as real-time alerts, schedule updates and live scoring through the Tourney Machine mobile app, will assist TCS in operating their events more efficiently.
“We’re very proud to become the official technology partner of Triple Crown Sports,” said Justin Kaufenberg, CEO of SportsEngine. “With our shared commitment to youth sports combined with TCS’s solid reputation as the leader in providing premium youth sports experiences and events, we’re excited to empower TCS with with the technology solutions that will help fuel its growth and further their mission.”
“We are excited to form this partnership with Tourney Machine to strengthen the technology, tools and resources we offer to our teams and their families,” said Keri King, CEO of Triple Crown Sports. “Moving away from our own proprietary scheduling software will allow TCS to focus on our purpose statement — to bring athletes and families together in competition and create experiences that embed lasting lifetime memories. Tourney Machine is robust software with the mobile user in mind; it will enhance the TCS experience.”
“We are all really excited for the impact and the value our customers will quickly appreciate with our newest tech partner,” said Elliott Finkelstein, TCS director of fastpitch. “Tourney Machine will help give our users a much improved experience.”
When the temperature and tension rises in competition, one of the best traits a team or athlete can display is predictability. Coaches can cook up fresh strategies and improvise responses when their roster is stable, reliable and not prone to panic.
However, we all love a good surprise in sports – an upset finish, an unexpected rally or the emergence of a mystery newcomer helps us appreciate the importance of not giving up.
While the Mid-Atlantic region recently has gone through difficult and at times traumatic stress in homes and at work, the ability of committed people to rebound, respond and return with optimism can emerge, front and center. And in a place where you might not expect – West Virginia – it’s proving possible to take an unlikely idea and build something with unusual staying power.
The West Virginia Gamers baseball organization, brought to life by hitting coach Craig Brumfield and fortified by the early inclusion of pitching coach Chad Baumgardner, has become a center of influence in region’s youth baseball scene. In four short years, the outfit has blossomed to eight teams, from 9u into the high-school ranks, as Gamers teams start to populate the list of tournament winners and show regular muscle in events both near and far from home.
“We made it about the baseball and not about the money; we’ve been able to recruit the talent I wanted, and it just gets better every year,” said Brumfield, a lifelong resident of the area who played at Marshall University, about 15 minutes from the current base for the Gamers. “We have kids driving three hours just to play with us, past Cincinnati and Lexington, to play in little ol’ Huntington, West Virginia.
“We’re not in a very big area. To have real travel teams and make it work was an exercise, but I knew that we would be able to get the talent because of my connections, the people and kids I knew – we were able to secure a really good 9, 12 and 14-year-old team that first year. The programs around us didn’t start travel baseball until 13 years old, so we started getting kids before others could. And if they are in our program, they’re not interested in going somewhere else.”
Before the Gamers heated up, it all started on slow-boil as parents reached out to Brumfield and asked for hitting lessons for their kids. In that era, Brumfield coached a mix of youth teams and carefully considered if it made sense to leave his 20-year career in the general work force to try and make a living at the baseball academy business.
When he decided to make the plunge, Brumfield secured a modest 35’x70’ space that held one mound and one batting cage and brought in Baumgardner, who played collegiately and had 12 years of pitching-coach time in with Little League ball. Something about the tone and temperament of those two Huntington natives just resonated with parents and athletes who loved the game but struggled to find the right training ground.
“It’s a lot of hard work. If I’ve got a team playing and I’m not (coaching) another one, I’m at that game. I’m present; parents see me, and things are run the way I want even if I can’t coach every team,” Brumfield said. “As a travel organization, we want great players and great kids, and we will teach baseball and also life lessons. I want to get to the fundamentals of life, not just fundamentals of baseball. You can get the best players and talent in the area, but if he’s not willing to buy into being a good teammate and role model, then we don’t need you. That’s how we’ve created a great atmosphere around our kids; when we travel, we’re not the team you have to worry about throwing coaches or parents out.”
“You’ve got the Huntington Hounds on the other end of town – there was a lot of need and interest on our end of town,” Baumgardner said. “We’re sitting two miles from Kentucky and three miles from Ohio, so we are attracting kids from all over the Tri-State area. Our whole goal was to try and get travel ball like when (Brumfield) and I used to play, where you didn’t have to pay $2,000 every time you suited up.”
That’s not just idle reminiscing about the good old days – the 16u team that the Gamers founders played on had 12 on the roster, nine of whom played in college with six moving on to play professionally. There’s a clear picture of what player development should look like, and how to assemble a program that wins games without falling into the trap of hypercompetitive, reckless behaviors.
“We have really blossomed the last few years, and that’s directly reflective of our people. When we start traveling in these major division tournaments, unlike teams around here looking to get a trophy, we’re starting to compete with teams like Beaver Valley Red and beating teams like Cincinnati Flames, Cincinnati Midlands, Ohio Elite – all of the sudden we’re not that team from West Virginia that just shows up,” Brumfield said. “We’re somebody that everybody knows is pretty darn good. Two years ago, that started to take shape, where my 14, 15 and 10-year-old team last year competed and won some extremely big tournaments. It’s carried over, and when people see you winning the right way, they want to come play for you.”
“We have Gamers teams that will travel to the East Coast, and I don’t mean to be cocky, but we win the majority of the tournaments. We won in Myrtle Beach, won in Tennessee, we’ve been getting noticed over the years,” said Cody Davis, who is entering his junior year of high school and has played for the Gamers since the start, and who has an DI scholarship on the table from Miami of Ohio. “It’s exciting; I never expected to be getting offers as I’m going into my junior year. They’ve helped the whole way, and they treat me like their son, so it’s more than just baseball. People just seem to overlook West Virginia; we have some really good baseball players and coaches, and a great organization. We just shock people at tournaments; they’re like, is that team really from West Virginia? It’s amazing, and I love playing for the Gamers.”
It’s an interesting time for the organization as it confronts several important questions – how much, and how fast, should the Gamers grow, exactly? Demand by potential customers is going up, but what pressure does that put on staff, especially when funding the Gamers properly is really more of an art than a science?
The management agrees that it doesn’t do any good to overreach and underprepare for growth that brings more kids to baseball, if the whole thing becomes subject to collapse, and then nobody gets any benefit at all.
“Four years ago, I never would have imagined it being as big as we are now. Who knows? We’re moving in the right direction, a lot of positive feedback, and that’s always good to hear,” Baumgardner said. “Craig’s put great people in place within the organization with good baseball background and experience, and he has a lot of help. It’s very fun here on Wednesday nights, and pretty packed – four cages, three pitching lanes. It’s great; you hear that ball cracking, and it’s awesome.”
“With travel baseball, our goal is to make it about the baseball. Everywhere you turn there are organizations charging astronomical rates; we never understood that, although now that we are in it, you see the unforeseen costs associated with what we do,” said 11u coach and Gamers treasurer Curtis Collins. “We keep it affordable and don’t make a dime. Some of it is, we’re not in it to make money, it’s run as a non-profit, and there are a lot of sacrifices made by our leadership. That’s important to know about what makes it work. The families trust us with what we are taking in; with my team, it’s $850 and they know that money will go to their kid.
“There is room to grow, and there are a lot more kids and families out there we can pull in to maintain what we have and would be good fits for the culture, and we wouldn’t be compromised. You go from the underdog to the team to be reckoned with, and we can do more (branding) there. Craig carries the vision for what the organization can become, and I see myself as they guy to take charge, execute the vision and protect it.”
Brumfield doesn’t have to strain to remember how delicate the balance can be.
“After that first year of travel ball, which I hadn’t done that before, in terms of the financial responsibility … I did not a great job (of charging) people correctly,” he recalled. “I was trying to do it as cheap as possible, just totally have it be about kids and baseball and help kids out, and in doing that the first year I cost myself a fortune. I was trying to do everything I planned and didn’t charge enough. I definitely had to ratchet it down; it was a little overwhelming to see how much was spent.”
Optimistic but measured; competitive yet respectful; confident but humble – living right and understanding those boundaries is what makes the Gamers special. As a prize-winning poker player in the early- to mid-2000s, Brumfield understands how playing the odds, seeing the math, and injecting a little personality into the mix, can lead to success.
He doesn’t really have time for cards these days, but today’s tasks do feature those crossover challenges that require a calm review of options, and some living by one’s wits.
“Getting these kids to college, the scholarship offers we have for some of our kids on the table, kids that are there … to have kids heading to a campus right now is very rewarding,” he said. “Helping kids and their families attain a goal that’s been there for their entire life … we’re not in the wealthiest area, so to being able to help them financially and get an education is extremely rewarding.
“I was a hard worker, but to be perfectly honest I was a gifted guy. I’m 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, ran a 6.8 60, a guy who had some tools. I let them go by the wayside, so to speak … I can’t say I’m the guy who took full advantage of what I had to offer, and that motivates me today. Our kids know that I was successful, and they trust the process. When they see what they are working on is making them better, that makes them want to work harder.”
With two successful years in the rearview mirror and nothing but excitement about the road ahead, Triple Crown Sports and YouTube sensation Domingo Ayala have announced their partnership will continue with the release of the 2018 TCS Tour schedule.
Ayala’s “Theory of Beisbol” series and other videos on YouTube have racked up more than 28 million views. He has performed in a variety of settings, from indoor sports facilities, sports complexes, youth baseball fundraisers, corporate events and even in MLB locker rooms. Ayala’s unconventional journey to excellence as a profoundly skilled athlete provides a great deal of comedic material that sports fans continue to embrace; until that day he signs an MLB contract that properly rewards a player of his profound skill set, Triple Crown Sports is thrilled to have him on location.
“The players, coaches and families who play with us simply get a light in their eyes when Domingo Ayala shows up at the ballpark,” said Joe Santilli, director of baseball for Triple Crown Sports. “We are all about competition and skill-building with TCS baseball and softball, but it’s important to remember how much a good laugh makes it easier to stay in love with the game.”
Triple Crown Sports, which produces a variety of competitive, premier destination tournaments drawing thousands of athletes and their families, welcomes Domingo Ayala to the following events:
Arizona Spring Championships, Session 2 – March 17 (Phoenix, AZ)
Bend Elks Memorial Day Tournament – May 27-28 (Bend, OR)
Omaha SlumpBuster, Session 1 – June 14-15 (Omaha, NE)
Omaha SlumpBuster, Session 3 – June 23-24 (Omaha, NE)
Colorado Sparkler/Fireworks Fastpitch – June 27-28 (Denver, CO)
TC Baseball World Series – July 16 (Park City, UT)
U.S. Club Nationals – July 24 (Atlanta, GA)
TC Baseball World Series – July 31 (Steamboat Springs, CO)
Details on Domingo Ayala’s appearances will appear on the Triple Crown website (www.triplecrownsports.com) and TCS social media outlets; Ayala will also share details on his website (www.domingobeisbol.com) and Twitter feed (@DomingoBeisbol)
About Domingo Ayala:
Domingo Ayala was born and raised in Puerto Plata, DR sometime between 1978 and 1988 (records have not been verified). At a young age, with the influence of his cousin and longtime baseball coach, Vladimir Ayala, Domingo began to excel at the game of baseball. In the Dominican Republic, Domingo has been a 7-time Infielder of the Year and 6-time Outfielder of the Year award winner (two years overlapping when he played both SS and LF in order to hit twice in the lineup).
Triple Crown Sports, a Fort Collins business fixture since the mid-1980s and producer of youth and collegiate athletic events that stretch around the nation and into Mexico, announced this week the official shift of CEO duties from founder David King to his son, Keri King.
The formal transition ends David King’s 36-year stint as CEO, with Triple Crown Sports evolving from its slow-pitch softball roots to becoming the engine behind hundreds of annual championships in the youth sports of baseball, fastpitch softball, girls volleyball and girls basketball. Over time, TCS used King’s relationships within college sports to reinvigorate the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events as well as create the men’s and women’s Cancun Challenge basketball tournaments and WNIT-concept postseason championships in Division-I softball and women’s volleyball.
Keri King, 37, has worked within the offices of Triple Crown Sports since childhood; he was the longtime event director for the 500-team Omaha SlumpBuster and was website/tech coordinator from 2012-14. In preparation for David King’s move out of the CEO office, Keri took over as COO in 2014 and operated as head of the Management Team, with all sports divisions reporting to him. Keri King was also added to the TCS Board of Directors in October 2017; the King family has been earnestly preparing for the changes at the top since 2011, using resources and instruction through the Harvard Business School and the Family Firm Institute.
“I’m very excited to be able to serve the needs of our full-time associates and customers. I’m thankful for the 36 years of service that Mom and Dad provided,” Keri King said. “They have built a company based on a strong culture of family first, respect of all and continuous learning. These values make up the special sauce called Triple Crown Sports. We will continue to focus on creating experiences that embed lasting, lifetime memories for serious athletes. Our sports events will continue to have that founders’ 1982 spirit of ‘doing things right.’”
David King, 61, began Triple Crown Sports with his wife, Annette, in 1982. With its home office located at 3930 Automation Way in Fort Collins, the company currently has 54 full-time employees and franchise operations in California, Arizona, Missouri and Georgia.
“Family continuance of Triple Crown Sports as a national company based in Fort Collins was key to our staff and our family,” said David King. “Keri will add a new energy to our business along with a strong knowledge of our core business in sports. I could not be prouder as a father.”
Working in the Midwest, but far from the middle of the road, the Midland Redskins baseball organization has been producing major league talent for decades and shows no signs of stopping.
Midland takes an old-school approach to the roaring industry of youth travel athletics. In a “parking lot team” world where players and coaches first meet in the rows of cars at their playing destinations, the Redskins have never adhered to this modern way of team building. As it has always been done outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, the majority of Midland’s roster arrives in early June, move in with host families and cement themselves as part of the community.
Jeremiah Larbes was part of that tradition, not as a player but as a host to up-and-coming young stars.
“It is a large part of our community,” said Larbes. “We were always part of the Midland Family when we housed kids, and now I can make an even larger impact in my position.”
Larbes began his tenure with Midland as an assistant with the 16u team. As the years progressed and his network grew, Larbes’ road led him to earning a shot as general manager of the historic ball club.
“It was the longest interview in the history of sports,” explained Larbes. “I came on as the coach of the 18u team with the goal of winning the Connie Mack World Series. After claiming the title this summer, six month after applying for the job, I finally got the job I wanted all along.”
Speak the name Midland around any baseball fan, and the response is unanimously positive. With alumnae like Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin, Matt Carpenter, Matt Harvey and Andrew Benintendi, it’s impossible to argue with the success of the program. Larbes’ new task is keeping that proud tradition of excellence moving forward with a new generation of athletes.
“It was always Joe Hayden’s, or Papa Joe as we like to call him, idea that we keep our mission the same,” said Larbes. “It has been and will always continue to be about the instruction, about the teaching and about the camaraderie.
“He would take care of you and he would take care of this organization. The relationships that he built were phenomenal and they are the foundation of what this club is built on. His passion of respecting the game is something that I hope I can continue here at Midland. On the back of our shirts to this day it still reads, ‘Respect the game.’”
With the pressures of maintaining and building upon what others have done before, the load of such an endeavor would seem insurmountable to most. However, the former policeman, fireman, professional bull rider, current business owner and high school football coach certainly has the resume to deal with the ins and outs of running a successful organization.
“I’ve done a lot of things,” said Larbes. “More than that, I’ve been lucky to have done so much. There is no question that my background has prepared me for what I do now and what I want to do the future.”
Larbes’ latest gig as the assistant general manager of the Cincinnati Thunder, a local minor league hockey team in the NA3HL, may not have involved the same demographic as his current post, but many of the same day-to-day duties remain the same.
“Ultimately, a lot of the work is the same,” said Larbes. “While we do a heavy amount of work for younger teams, our end goal is to have a Connie Mack World Series Champion 18u team. All of the prep work and day-to-day activities look like any kind of team trying to win a championship on any level.
“The biggest difference is in the scheduling. Organizing all these teams to play in tournaments and orchestrating teams that come here can be a little tiring at times but all worth it in the end.”
Larbes and Midland already have one piece of their 2018 schedule inked. As a team who doesn’t travel outside of the friendly confines of Ohio very often, Midland, as well as teams like the East Cobb Astros, Ohio Warhawks and Dallas Patriots, will headline the Pathway Games Upperclass Invitational, slated for June 26-29 in Omaha, Nebraska.
“We only travel outside of our place about three times a year,” Larbes said. “For us, it’s about competition. If we were going to get out on the road, there had to be good competition to face.
“Joe (Santilli, Triple Crown Sports baseball director) has done a fantastic job getting a great lineup for us to face. The better competition we face early in the summer, the better our teams become going forward. We’re not there to necessarily win every tournament we play in; we just want our kids to show their best against the best.”
Triple Crown’s Pathway Games extend much further than Omaha in 2018. Events in Virginia, Michigan, Georgia and two in Colorado are certain to exude some of the best talent across the nation. Pathway’s depth of teams coupled with Santilli’s national connections made it an easy choice for schedule makers.
“I’ve worked with Joe for a long time now,” Larbes explained. “I started working field maintenance for his Great Lakes region tournaments. He’s a guy that appreciates hard workers, and that’s me, too. I think that’s why we’ve developed this partnership over the years.
“He and Triple Crown have done a great job in developing the baseball division over the years, and I fully expect that to continue going forward.”
With more than 30 tournaments used to properly assess each team’s performance, the Triple Crown Sports 14u team rankings have been released. This exercise combined on-field results and assessments from the leading figures in 14u baseball around the nation.
Congratulations to the Academy Select Sun Devils, based in Dallas, Texas!
1. Academy Select Sun Devils (TX)
2. Banditos Scout (TX)
3. Sandlot (LA)
4. Louisiana Tigers (LA)
5. Memphis Tigers-McCommon (TN)
6. Tri-State Arsenal (NJ)
7. East Cobb Astros (GA)
8. Dallas Tigers-Polk (TX)
9. Dulin Dodgers (TN)
10. Dirtbags Black (NC)
11. Team Elite Nation (GA)
12. Team Elite Prospects (GA)
13. Texas Stix-Kennedy (TX)
14. Dallas Tigers-Godwin (TX)
15. Beaver Valley Red (PA)
16. Rijo Athletics (WA)
17. Arlington Heat (TX)
18. Showtime Baseball (WA)
19. Elite Squad Prime (FL)
20. Georgia Bombers-Hill (GA)
21. Tennessee Nationals (TN)
22. Tidewater Drillers (VA)
23. Team Halo (GA)
24. Richmond Braves North (VA)
25. Swingman Baseball (SC)