The Baseball Showcase will be held on Saturday, Aug. 16. Photo by Dave DeLuca.
The Third Annual Underclassmen Baseball Showcase is set to take place Aug. 16 at the North Collins Sports Complex.
The softball showcase takes place the next day on Aug. 17 at the same venue.
“Over 100 kids over the last two years are playing in college, so it’s really a successful thing that I’m excited about,” said Rob Catalino of North Collins.
The annual showcase is the only All-Star game format in the area for baseball players, gearing towards players who may not have decided which college they want to go to yet.
“They used to do one for the seniors, but the way I like to do it is give the opportunities to kids that want to play in college.”
Catalino coordinates the baseball and softball showcases by himself, with help from sponsors, coaches and others who pitch in what they can.
“It’s a lot of work but I enjoy it because I like to see all the kids when they’re playing in college,” he said. “It’s a crazy two days, but I enjoy it.”
The games began in 2012 as a one-day event. Two baseball teams squared off and two softball teams took part in a separate game on Aug. 11, 2012.
The event grew to about 160 players in 2012, forcing the baseball and softball players to be split up between four teams that played over the course of two days, playing for a championship at the end of their respective days just before their fall sports seasons begin at school.
“I love it at this time because all of the kids are done playing other sports,” said Catalino. “No baseball tournaments, Monday morning they all begin their high school sports seasons, so they’re all off that weekend. Just take off for one day and finish off their summer.”
If the event continues to grow, Catalino hopes to move the games to Coca Cola Field to give the baseball players a special experience while competing for bragging rights and college scouts at the showcase.
“My goal is to get the baseball game played at Coca Cola Field someday,” Catalino said. “Let the kids get to play on that field. I like to show off our facility [at North Collins], but if it gets big enough then we should move it to a bigger place.”
Catalino would also like to see the games be featured on television like some other local All-Star games are.
“I’d like to get the games televised on Time Warner where they show it a couple of times, like they do with football,” he said. “Then the kids would be getting exposed all over the state.”
At the 2013 showcase, Catalino said that there were 22 college coaches that watched the baseball games.
There are even programs at the games which provide contact information, high school honors, college plans and a players’ favorite athlete to help other players, parents, and specifically college coaches, know the players better.
Other changes Catalino would like to see in the future are consolation games, awards and fun competitions during the day, like a home run derby.
“I want to get, maybe, the top five power hitters and have a homerun derby, or have some of the faster kids run the bases for time. Things that will help the kids get into college,” Catalino said. “There’s a kid that run the bases in 12.5 seconds, a college coach may hear about them and want to watch them play.”
The weekend will also serve as a good time for North Collins to raise funds for the batting cages that are being planned for the spring of 2015.
“We’re going to have a chicken barbecue on both days to help finish paying for some batting cages,” said Catalino, who will also be running a golf tournament in September with North Collins baseball coach Paul Kellner.
“That should give us enough money for the batting cages that will open up in the spring,” Catalino noted.
Catalino hopes that he can get enough help from sponsors to give out award for the players that make the all-tournament team or win an MVP award.
“Ultimately, I’d like to give the kids some awards instead of a t-shirt. Maybe give them a wooden bat to put on their mantle,” he said.
Baseball players are selected to the showcase based on their honors from the 2014 spring season. First team All-WNY selections are considered first, followed by All-WNY honorable mentions, then first team all-league players are next followed by second team all-league selections.
“Once in a while, if I need to, I’ll find a kid who wants to play, but it’s not a full proof system,” Catalino said. “I’m trying to fill teams. I’m trying to fill the roster. I’m trying to get the best teams.”