SPOTLIGHT: Summer baseball isn’t what it used to be

THE BOYS OF SUMMER: The Northwood summer baseball team celebrates after a win in Omaha. 

By JOHN JAMES MARSHALL, Journal Sports

The summer baseball season is entering its final week, yet another indication of how things aren’t like they used to be.

Gone are the days of full-scale American Legion and Dixie programs that lasted, in some cases, all the way to August. Nobody is worried about missing a player in the playoffs because they are attending Boys State.

There is a league for summer baseball teams, but nobody is worried about standings. Where once summer baseball was a season unto itself, now it is little more than an extension of the just-completed high school season.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Basically, there’s a different plan for every different high school program this summer. Some may have two teams, some may have four. Some are trying to recreate next year’s starting lineup and some are more focused on developing the players who didn’t get a lot of playing time on the varsity during the 2022 season.

There are games in which two teams from the same school play each other.

Northwood has two teams, one that plays during the week and another that plays on the weekend, which has played in games in Lake Charles, Hattiesburg, Miss., Ruston, and Omaha, for example.

It’s basically his own travel team for Coach Austin Alexander and is comprised of what should be the 2023 Falcons. The sub-varsity plays in the Bossier Dixie league, which plays games on Tuesdays and Thursdays for five weeks. Some teams may play twice a night; other schools have a “5:30 team” and a “7:30 team.”

But it doesn’t mean that the varsity players are sleeping in on Monday through Thursday. “They come in during the week and get their throwing in and so they are ready for the weekend,” Alexander said. “Plus, that’s when they get their lifting in, too.”

However, there’s another factor that Alexander – and almost every other school – has to deal with. “A handful of them play multiple sports, so they are doing football in the morning and may have a 7-on-7 tournament,” he said. “They may play football in the morning, drive back and play baseball that night.”

Haughton has brought a new approach in its summer baseball program. Where once the Bucs would have as many as four teams, this year they are down to two. Coach Glenn Maynor will only have five seniors returning next year, but football and injuries have reduced that number even more.

“Our most valuable teams are the younger teams – the incoming freshmen and the freshmen from last year,” Maynor said. “Guys like (seniors-to-be) Colin Rains and Austin Anderson are already playing on other (weekend) teams. I don’t need to see them play to know what they can do. It’s not a make-or-break thing for them and gives them some time off.”

Obviously, travel ball has become a big factor in summer baseball, and Captain Shreve coach Todd Sharp has embraced that.

“Just about all of our guys play travel ball in some way,” he said. “I coach travel ball with some of those guys, but I’m not going to tell them they have to stay here and play on our teams and deny them the opportunity to go somewhere like Atlanta and play on a high-level team.”

Different methods, but the same basic goal.

“We are just trying to get better for next year,” Alexander said. “In my opinion, you don’t win in the spring, you win in the summer. You implement all the things you want to do. Your summer is everything to see what you’ve got and get excited about what’s next.”

“I want to get our kids on the field,” Sharp said. “Just get them playing together and some repetitions with Shreve players. It’s all about development. If we send a pitcher out there, we put a cap on his pitches and then he’s done. We can learn how to run bases. Our freshmen can do things and learn the systems and the upper-level guys can establish themselves for next year.”

Contact J.J. at  JohnJamesMarshall@yaoo.com

Photo courtesy of AUSTIN ALEXANDER