It doesn’t matter if a player is a potential first-round draft pick and he desires of being showcased in front of scouts, or if he is an outfielder looking for the perfect blind of academics and athletics at a mid-major Division I program, alternatively, the player can be a shortstop who won’t play beyond high school but still wants to enjoy competitive, high-level baseball as a 16-year-old. Every player, and every parent that is there to support their child, who wants to play travel baseball deserves an incredible experience.
With countless tournaments, scouts scattered throughout the country evaluating talent, college coaches beating the recruiting trail, scores being kept to determine wins and losses, there is a lot a travel baseball organization can focus on and dedicated all resources and times towards. Want a lot of trophies? Play in tournaments with less than stellar competition. Want to play in front of professional scouts? Participate in the elite tournaments, whether or not such level of competition would have a player in a position to succeed.
Inside the world of travel baseball, an organization can be whatever it wants to be. For the Dirtbags it isn’t lost that the organization is there for the players. Coaches can’t go out there and hit, pitch or field, those are the roles of the players. And as the players ultimately are the representation of an organization, it should be of the utmost priority to ensure their experience is always a positive one.
Last month, Dirtbags Baseball owner Andy Partin announced the hiring of Eric Leary as team director. Digging deeper into what Eric’s role within the Dirtbags organization will be, the Dirtbags reaffirmed their commitment to keeping the player experience central to its existence.
As team director, Leary will work with coaches throughout the Dirtbags organization to ensure they are putting their best foot forward at all times; from offering instructional tips, making sure the gameday atmosphere is positive and energetic, to being a liaison between player and parent and coach if even the smallest matter arises. In short, Leary will help coach the coaches so there is consistency in what’s expected from a Dirtbags leader from top to bottom.
“As an organization, we’re always trying to figure out ways to make it a better, make for a more positive experience for every kid in our program,” Partin said. “We’ve got some great coaches. What we want to do is have someone there to support those coaches.”
Leary’s background made him a no-brainer choice for Partin when the role was conceptualize. With more than 20 years of coaching experience as a high school baseball and football coach, nearly a decade of being around the Dirtbags organization, and holistic view or teaching and learning as a world history teacher, Leary readily accepted Partin’s pique of interest.
“Probably from 2010 on, I’ve enjoyed being able to spend the summers helping the Dirtbags in some capacity,” Leary said. “One year I was a roving instructor for the 15U teams. Another year Andy had the idea he wanted to do an instructional league for some teams…Kind of have been a jack of all trades, and when he called for this idea of what he wanted to do next, my availability, I was excited to say yes.”
Now, tasked with coaching the coaches, to ensure what a player experiences at 14 is the same the following year at 15, that a parent’s youngest child walks away from the Dirtbags with the same experience his older brother did, what will Leary bring to the Dirtbags?
“I think getting us all on the same language, giving the same energy source,” the former Mets associate scout said. “I know those are kind of cliche and trendy words, but getting all of the coaches on the same page, however you want to say it, making sure that the experience is a positive one and people are getting out of it what they intended to get out of it.
“There’s structure there already, but we want everybody in our organization to have the same positive experience.”
A peer since 2001, when the two coached high school baseball and met on the diamond as competitors over spring break, Leary said he and Partin remained in close contact, often emailing back and forth sharing insight and tips of the game. The understanding how each other thinks and how they see the game has Partin excited to see what coaches throughout the organization can gain from Leary’s presence, but he too is exited to learn from the newest to the Dirtbags family.
“Eric is a great leader,” Partin said. “He’s got something about him, he’s got that ‘it’ factor. People are really drawn to him, I think he’s going to be wonderful with our coaches.”
And if that’s the case, if each coach gives it their best, then every player, from the future MLB All-Star, to potential Atlantic 10 all-conference pitcher, or just a future doctor who relished his time as traveling the southeast over hot July summer weekends, every player will walk away with a positive, meaningful experience from their time as a Dirtbag.