SARASOTA, Fla.—The recruiting process never ends for college coaches. However, parents and players are a large part of the equation as well, and Wilson started its Premier Championship East Tournament this summer to ease the process for all.
For the past three weeks at the Baltimore Orioles’ spring training home in Sarasota at Ed Smith Stadium, and their minor league complex a few miles south at the Buck O'Neil Baseball Complex, Wilson hosted tournaments for rising seniors, juniors and this past week for sophomores.
Tournament director Matt Bliven said the idea for the event was to acknowledge many of the organizations that are part of the Wilson Baseball family, such as travel teams like the EvoShield Canes, Elite Squad (Miami), Team Elite (Georgia), the Dirtbags (North Carolina) and the East Cobb Astros (Georgia).
"We wanted to run an event for them to celebrate that partnership (and) to give them an opportunity to showcase themselves in front of college coaches," Bliven said. "We wanted to create a unique experience for the college coaches, parents and players."
The invite-only, 32-team tournament showcased many teams that are part of the Wilson partnership programs. However, other teams outside the Wilson family also participated.
It afforded young high school players top-notch competition and college recruiters the opportunity to view them in a pro-type setting.
While college coaches and recruiters can't speak with parents or players during these types of tournaments until they are rising seniors, they were out in force.
"What you're looking for at this age is to find the kids that have athleticism and arm strength," said Mike Martin Jr., recruiting coordinator for his dad, longtime Florida State coach Mike Martin. "You want to let them see you're here and interested even though you can't talk to them (until July 1 of their senior year) unless they come to your campus or attend one of your camps.
"It's alarming sometimes to see how good they are at this age. I'm talking about the man-child, the no-brainers that anybody can pick out to recruit. The school that gets to them first and establishes a relationship increases their chances of getting a commitment."
Martin said he wanted to attend this tournament to follow up with kids already in FSU's database and for those players to be seen by others on FSU's radar.
"This is a well-run, quality tournament," Martin said. "There are a lot of good players here. It's definitely worth our time."
Parents felt the same way, appreciating the opportunity to have their sons viewed by college recruiters early in their high school careers.
"We played in two tournaments before this and no scouts were there," said Mike Janeczek, watching as son Brighton Taylor from Timber Creek High in Orlando pitched in one of the games. "This is nice that he can get some exposure here."
The players reveled in testing their skills against some of the best talent in their class from throughout the country.
"It's a great tournament because you see all these great teams from all over and they're well-coached and play well fundamentally," said Trippe Moore, a center fielder and pitcher for the Gamers out of Georgia. "That's how you get better. Plus, you get to show all these recruiters what you've got and you get to play at great facilities."
East Cobb Astros centerfielder, shortstop and pitcher Dalton Strickland echoed those sentiments, noting the intensity of the tournament games.
"Some teams might not play again this summer, so this helps you end on a good note and gets you ready for fall ball," Strickland said.”