It’s every child’s dream scenario. Bottom of the 9th, a count of 3-2, and you need a single. That’s the experience you want to see at the state tournament… and it all starts at home. (Press Pros with Photos)

Just back from the state baseball tournament, here are some observations on what we saw, what we heard and thoughts on the future of this and the rest of the OHSAA tournaments.

Probably the most satisfying thing I’ve heard during last weekend’s state baseball tournament came from a Shelby County man who said to me, “What are you going to write about now that baseball is over?”

Gratifying, because he clearly reads and understands that there are those who view community baseball – high school baseball – as something of a greater priority than just a spring obligation. I would like to reach a few more.

Publisher and editor Sonny Fulks covers OHSAA sports and Buckeyes baseball.

The fact is, I know we have already reached hearts and minds who simply choose to keep their opinions to themselves. Why make waves today?

And the reason I know there are people paying attention stems from the number of responses received since last Friday’s post of the Craig Stammen interview about community baseball, and his dedication to improving the baseball culture in his hometown of Versailles. We’ll share some of those emails and FB responses in the next TRS (The Reader Speaks) post, but the overwhelming sentiment was this:: What a great way to give back to the next generation… to share his own experiences with ten year olds who dream of living his experience.

Tribes of course has the frontrunner platform to be heard above the naysayers, and those who simply claim… that there is more to do now than there ever was!

It takes time and dedication… to fly home from the West Coast for a weekend just to observe and encourage kids to keep playing, keep working, and keep getting better. But the example is that any father, or adult, can do it, if he takes the time to simply play a game with a ten year old.

And that is what is now missing in our new and progressive culture. There aren’t as many dads in the house as there used to be, and if there are… there’s more to do now than there was then! It’s clear that men like Tribes grew up in a culture of Versailles fathers who passed baseball on to the next generation… a culture that is still very much alive today.

It’s also interesting that during the state tournament I observed people in the stands who had a deep interest in a particular competitor on the field. And if you asked them, they’d quickly say, ‘We grew up on the baseball field. That was a priority in our home.”

Or, “I played,” said a father. “…because my father played with me, and I played with my own son.”

And there he was, on the field at Canal Park, competing on the biggest stage of his young life, making memories, as Stammen said, that will last a lifetime… longer lasting than ‘there is more now to do there’. was then!”

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I think baseball, like football and basketball, has its cycles and from time to time you see that cycle develop with the play you observe at the state tournament. And I came home this year convinced that the tournament was evidence of a developmental phase in baseball throughout Ohio. Because… many traditional tournament teams took this one out – Ottawa Hills, Walsh Jesuit, Moeller, Newark Catholic and Ignatius, among others. The cycle comes and goes.

A West Brunch fan leads the baseball crowd in a Warrior chant.

There were certainly some gaudy batting averages.

But you didn’t see that many fastballs in the 1990s either. There were certainly kids who could pitch, but they did it with average stuff and above-average control. They knew ‘how’ to pitch.

There were outliers, but perhaps not as many as in previous tournaments. For example, Jake Hanley, from Mason High School, was one who was set to play at Indiana University in the fall. And that same Mason team included a handful of players already prepared to play at some level of college baseball, the most of any participating school. And not surprisingly, they emerged as Division I champions.

The next level was there – Ohio State, along with Marshall, Toledo and Kent State – but there weren’t as many DI colleges as in years past. Or maybe they were there, but not noticeable. And I haven’t seen as many pro scouts as I have in the past, which tells me the cycle comes and goes.

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Was it a good tournament? Of course, it’s always good to see kids playing under the stress of having to be good enough, or better than the opponent, to win. And that’s why it was good to see a school like Lake High School compete for the title… which would have been the first in the school’s history in any sport. It didn’t happen.

Experienced coaches, like Coldwater’s Lou Brunswick (who won five state titles), know that quality wins are more memorable than their quantity.

What’s next, starting in 2024-’25 when the OHSAA expands the field to seven divisions?

Interestingly enough, the OHSAA says that member schools requested seven divisions…but I personally haven’t found one that said it was requested.

My overwhelming concern is whether more divisions actually improve the competitive experience. And based on what I’ve seen over the years, I don’t see how having seven baseball divisions can be any good ‘It’ better. It just makes the trophy business better.

I know there are coaches, like Vandalia Trent Dues, who openly advocate for more division and say, “You can’t have too many champions.”

Another sign of the times, for sure, because when Dues played at Coldwater and I played at Piqua, we both played for guys who cared as much about the quality of wins as they did the quantity. And I know from my own experience as an athlete that I never really cared about beating Otterbein. I wanted to beat Minnesota or Michigan.

I never won a state championship in high school, and I was never part of a Big Ten title team at Ohio State; and I don’t think I’m scarred by that. I just know that at the time I was programmed to believe that championships come from beating the best.

Again, I don’t know what to come of this. I don’t think anyone does that, or that it makes anything better.

Just more of it.

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