DP Salute: Dusty Rhodes

By: Brett Bullard – December 10, 2010 When the name ‘Dusty Rhodes’ is mentioned, many think of wrestling. As for this writer, I think of a man possessing a huge heart and a smile that always brightens one’s day. No, the man I think of is not the Dusty of wrestling fame, but a man known as Dusty Rhodes whom I still call "Coach" and admire for many reasons, not the least of which is his "love of the game". You see, Coach Dusty is one of the reasons I love the game of baseball and the game of life. And, now, more than ever, I want to honor this man and let him know how many lives he has touched and how many are supporting him in the battle he has so courageously faced the past year and a half.  Dusty Rhodes, a lifelong resident of Charleston, SC, founded The Charleston Storm (now SC Storm), a traveling baseball team, in 2002. Dusty’s mission was to prepare players to play at the high school and/or college level, focusing on academics, attitude and baseball.  Since forming the Storm in 2002, Coach Dusty has sent over 60% of his players to play collegiate baseball. In June of 2009, at the age of 48, Dusty Rhodes was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer that had metastasized to his liver. Surgery removed the cancerous portion of the colon and regular chemotherapy was administered to hopefully shrink the tumors in the liver.  As with many cancer patients, there were good days and bad days. Amidst the surgery and treatments in June and July of 2009, Dusty and his wife Kelly were expecting their first grandchild. Little Charlie was born July 10, 2009, but the birth was not as anticipated. Little Charlie was fighting for his life in the NNICU unit of the Medical University of South Carolina. He, like his grand dad, continues to face many battles with great courage.   After many months of chemotherapy in Charleston, Dusty and Kelly started making trips to Pennsylvania every three weeks for advanced treatments. With medical bills mounting, they were informed by the insurance company  that it would not cover  these treatments. The last treatment in Pennsylvania took an unexpected toll on Coach’s body and he recently was hospitalized and is currently battling back to gain weight to continue his fight.  Thursday  night, a fundraiser banquet was held in Mt. Pleasant, SC, to honor this man and his family who have given so much to young people and their families. Ray Tanner, Head Coach of the National Championship University of South Carolina Baseball Team, and friend of Coach Dusty, was guest speaker. I always love seeing Coach Tanner. On this night, what I really loved, was seeing the approximately 1,000 people in attendance to honor and support  my former coach. But, even more, what I loved  was seeing the smile that lit up the room… Yes, Coach Dusty  battled to be with us and let us know he is still fighting and still keeping the faith. Thanks Coach! To view Dusty Rhodes’ Caring Bridge page, click here.

November Practice Coaches’ Survey

Compiled By: Austin Alexander & Joey Haug – December 2, 2010 The South Carolina High School League declared November to be a month full of baseball for prep programs. Unprecedented, it got our state’s diamond guys on the field for a strong spell of good weather. We contacted a handful of coaches that have a collective 10+ state championships in their pocket to weigh in on what they did like versus what they’d change, if anything. Enjoy there responses from some of our state’s most respected head coaches… Diamond Prospects-What were your thoughts going into this period? Did your mind change during the month?       – For me, there was lots of uncertainty. It was a new horizon for high school baseball in the state. To me it was like being handed the keys to a car for the first time. You know you want to drive it, you just have no idea where you are going with it, or who is going to go with you, but you know you are going somewhere. I had no idea what we were going to get out of it as a team, and as a program. The biggest thing for me heading into the period was I wanted to end it feeling like we had accomplished something, and it was of value to us. To some degrees it was, but not in the way that I originally anticipated.       – I was skeptical but at the same time glad that we were getting some time to get a chance to get most of our guys together and set the tone for the spring. As the fall went on I felt better about what we had going on to get our throwing program in and our team defense in.       – My thoughts going in were…GREAT!!! It gave us a calendar similar to the colleges. I think it was a great experience for our club. We were able to get much of our team fundamentals covered; we usually cover these areas in January and February in extreme weather conditions.       – I was sort of skeptical about the practice at first because I didn’t know how the kids would react, but they enjoyed it and we got the most out of it that we could. Yes, as soon as I saw that the players were excited to get on the field, I was energized to help them out. – I was looking forward to the 3 week period as an opportunity to evaluate our players so that our coaching staff can identify strengths and weaknesses heading into the season.  – I was not a big fan going in. I thought weather would be cold and sessions would not be very productive. After 3-weeks is up: It turned out okay. Weather was great and we did get somework done. It was very productive for young players who are not in the program yet, and allowed us to watch them "play the game" for 3 weeks.      –  Because it is my first year, I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to install my system and get our players used to how practices would be run. We would be able to see where tweaks needed to be made in what we did going into the spring. I think the practices were outstanding and gave us a jump start before we begin in late January.      – I think it’s a lame attempt to "pacify" all sports except football. How can we "practice" without knowing who our players will be? Also, what happens when your "players" are in football and basketball?      – I really did not want to do it. My thoughts did change once we got into it. Diamond Prospects-What were the pros and cons of the November unlimitedpractice for the 3 week period? – Pros: Getting on the field with your team to refine skills for the upcoming year. Being able to go over defensive situations instead of talking about them in person or on paper. We hit with wood all fall, so it allowed some of our younger players to gain experience with wooden bats that none of them had before practice. It was great too, because we really put an emphasis on baserunning this fall because a few games changed with baserunning miscues last year. Cons: Football playoffs and basketball starting. At a small school, you have some players not out there because ofthose two sports.      – Pro’s: With the exception of two rainy days we had great weather. Unlimited number of players is a great plus, and no restrictions on time was a bonus. Personally thought that the kids benefited from this new period more than we as coaches did. Normally we do not get a lot of time with 7th, 8th and 9th graders until try-outs begin. The new period allowed us the chance to see them on the field and interacting with the older players. Also, it’s early February before we ever see any opportunity to scrimmage or go "live speed" and this period allowed us to do that in a controlled manner. To me that was the biggest pro of this whole thing. More kids got more work than they normally would. Naturally, because of this we have a much better idea of where we are heading in to the season. Con’s: Where can I start and how long do I have? #1 – TOO MANY KIDS!!! As long as a kid had a physical, he could participate. No restrictions on who could be there made some things tough. Having to have an "open"practice for anyone made getting some things done a little tough. For instance,we did a BP on the field one day, we had other rotations involved, but all of the kids got 8 live swings on the field and it took us about an hour and a half to run through all the kids on the field. That only happened once. Getting everyone a decent amount of reps was real tough. #2 – Uncertainty of whose arm was ready to go. This made for no opportunity to scrimmage live with pitchers because you had no …

Read More

A Father’s Day Tribute

By: Austin Alexander – June 20, 2010 To a Baseball Father- A baseball father can be a very special person in the life of a young boy. He can also be the perfect teacher and example to follow as the years pile up. He taught us how to grip a ball and play ‘catch’… the correct way. He taught us how to swing the bat and field a groundball. He taught us how to run the bases hard and read a box score. He taught us how to sort and organize our baseball cards. He taught us how to play ‘pepper’ and ‘500’. He taught us how to act on a baseball field and wear the uniform properly. He taught us how to use two hands and introduced us to eye-black. He taught us how to win and lose with dignity. He has been our catcher, batting practice pitcher, athletic psychologist, umpire and fungo hitter. He has waved us home and held us up at second base too. He gave us his time. He gave us the equipment we needed to play. He gave us encouragement. He also gave us the swift kick in the fanny at the right time. He kept us grounded. He gave us a sense of baseball history. Then he gave us even more time. We’ll never forget all of those mornings, afternoons, evenings and Sundays after church! Thank you for getting cable TV and a VCR to tape games we missed. Thank you for squatting, throwing, teaching and being a pillar of support. So sorry for the three knee surgeries but you are still the best catcher ever! Thank you for your willingness to dodge balls through the L screen, ricocheting off poles and taking bullets off your love handles! Thank you for seldom missing a game, at least the ones in our time zone! We call him dad and we’ve called him coach too. He taught us how to be a man, a dad and a coach… in that order. On this Father’s Day, we salute all of the baseball dad’s across the land! Coach, thank you for your sacrifices, knowledge, influence, patience and passion. Dad, thank you for being my father.                                                                  -From a Baseball Son

Draft Breakdown: 2010

2010 MLB Draft Breakdown By: Austin Alexander, June 7-9, 2010 In a year that professional scouts will admit there was more prep talent in South Carolina than recent years, eleven young men managed to have their names called over the three-day event. The longer you follow the draft, the more you think you understand it. Just the opposite is true, however! Any baseball sage will tell you it is really a crapshoot! Many variables come into play when you sit back and look at the picks, the rounds they fell in and the names that get passed over. One term people must understand is “signability”. Especially near the top of the draft. In many cases, most of the players selected in the first 4-7 Rounds are similar in ability. Maybe in the Top 15 Rounds? Conventional wisdom tells you that the first pick in the draft must be the best player and that the last pick is the 1,525th best player in the country. Not so. A player’s signability can vault him near the top of the board; low signability can force that player to fall through the draft entirely. Scouts often spend more time researching a player’s signability than they do evaluating their talent. We’ve all heard of clubs that take a kid in the top two rounds and cannot come to terms with him. Sometimes it is because the area scout has not done his due research or he would have known better than to select that player that high in the draft. But it has also happened before that a player and his family or advisor was not truthful as to their dollar figure. Sometimes a player’s "advisor" or his known desire to attend school will force his draft stock to fall, though he may be a first rounder ability-wise. A couple of examples: In 2006, Florida University first baseman Matt LaPorta fell to the 15th round and 433rd pick of the draft. It was believed LaPorta was a sure-fire first-rounder but in the days before the draft he hired agent Scott Boras to represent him. Boras’ reputation with big-leaguers is well-earned as he has some of the top clients in the game. But, some big league organizations had begun a trend, however, of steering away from his players in recent drafts to avert expensive, drawn-out negotiations. As high school seniors, South Carolina products Justin Smoak and Reese Havens were projected to go high in the draft. In the moments leading up to early picks for the Boston Red Sox, both were contacted once more in an attempt to agree to terms before they were selected. Both declined lucrative deals citing that their intention was to play college baseball. As a result, Smoak fell to the 16th round, Havens to the 29th. Both were later selected in 1st Round as college juniors out of USC.  In each case, though for opposite reasons, these players had a “low signability” tag, thus falling to lower rounds. Clubs have until midnight of August 15th to agree to terms with a draft pick. Some of the early rounders will forego the drama and sign quickly so they can begin their journey to the big leagues. Others will drag it out until the deadline in an attempt to drain every penny out of a club. Many players chosen will continue to be under the watchful eye of the organization that selected them in case they make a significant jump during the summer, in which the club may, then, offer a contract or "up the ante" in an attempt to sign the player. Draft picks are made largely on a players present “tools” and how he “projects” down the road. Many selections will turn the heads of baseball people. More selections will blow the mind of casual fans because the layman only sees black or white, ie. base hit versus out, win versus loss. Understand, just because a pitcher strikes out Daniel Palka does not automatically vault that arm to prospect status. If a good high school pitcher beats Stratford High School with Chris Hanna on the mound, it does not mean he will see his name on a draft board. When a "punching judy" flairs one into the outfield off of Drew Cisco, that does not guarentee that he will even play past high school. If a fast runner steals two bases off of Joe Jackson, it does not necessarily mean he has a future in professional baseball! See where I am going with this? Scouting is not a science. Players do get over-scouted and some do get over-looked. By in large, however, these guys who scout for a living are good at what they do. VERY good, in fact! They run up thousands and thousands of miles raiding the countryside away from their families looking for the next Derek Jeter and Josh Beckett. Sure, they’ll miss on guys from time to time but they are still smarter than most of us and their eyes keener than you can imagine. Did they find the next MLB All-Star in our state in 2010? Only time will tell. Below we have broken down the 2010 Draft: *Note: Players accounted for either played high school or college baseball in South Carolina this spring. Selected Day 1 (1-3 rds) Day 2 (4-30 rds)  Day 3 (31-50)  Total SC Players 2 29  16  47 College players 2  24   12  38 HS players 0  5   6  11 Pitchers 1  16   12  29 Catchers 0 1   3  4 Infielders 0  7   1  8 Outfielders 1  5   2  8 Division I 2  21   8  31 Division II 0  2   3  5 Junior College 0  1   1  2  HS 4A 1 1  1  3  HS 3A 0 2 3  5  HS 2A 0 1 2  3 Rd 1-10 11-20 21-30 31-40 41-50 * 9  13  9  9  9  By College: 7-Coastal Carolina, 6-Clemson; 6-South Carolina, 5-College of Charleston, 3-Citadel, 3-Francis Marion, 2-Furman, Five others with one apiece. -2009 MLB Draft in Review- Selected Day 1 (1-3 rds) Day 2 (4-30 rds)  Day 3 (31-50)  Total SC Players 2 25  16  43 College players 1  22  10  33 HS players 1 3   6 …

Read More

Diamond Notes: The Value of Predictions

By: Austin Alexander – March 25, 2010 Foreseeing bad hops, clutch hits & pitching match-ups + predicting the unexpected Predicting standings! Las Vegas makes mega-millions each season, weekend and night based on how things will play out… sometimes it’s a coin flip, sometimes it’s the length of the National Anthem at a given event. There are all kinds of things to weigh in on, including the NCAA basketball brackets. How do your NCAA brackets look right now? Keep in mind, when ranking the tournament field, the body of work was seeded by those whose full-time job is to lock in on which teams are legit and who is not. Based solely on which teams he liked the sound of, my 4-year old was 27-5 in the first round. Currently he has 9 teams in the Sweet 16. Conversely, Dick Vitale was 17-15 in round one, and only has 8 teams in his standing bracket. Point being, the ball bounces in directions that are always unpredictable. How else do you describe a toddler completely out-dueling a cagey veteran whose life revolves around the sport that he is widely heralded as an authority on? And basketball is much easier to predict than baseball! I really wish that it would be professional enough to publish my email inbox. If it were, then every person’s voice would be heard as unaware of all the anomalies that can happen in this sport. But I guess that is what message boards and blogs are for? I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked to explain a games outcome or how in the world DP could have picked a certain team to win their region versus missing the playoffs. Baseball is the most unpredictable sport without a doubt. Upsets pop up all over college baseball every single day. Who predicted the Rays to play in the World Series two years ago? Two years ago Fresno State had a sub-.500 season, then a great conference run before making a regional, super regional and later winning a CWS title. Now let’s reel it back to where we are in this thing we call high school baseball. Just in the first month, we have seen monumental upsets as it pertains to ‘prospects’ versus others that ‘fly under the radar’. Some teams have emerged as legit contenders, some have disappointed thus far. But that is simply what knowledgeable baseball people refer to when they say that ‘anything can happen’ in this game. Injuries do happen. Balls are lost in the sun. Good young players come out of nowhere. Legit performers get pitched around. Weather adjustments may also produce pitching mis-matches. Bad hops, bloops and bleeders arrive at every game. How about the high school romances and parental restrictions that can sidetrack a teen-ager? Suspect calls by umpires, questionable coaching moves and suspensions occur. I could go on and on but you get the drift. Predicting what will happen in a baseball game is as sure of a thing as a weather forecast. Everyone loves a good list, poll or ranking. But part of the reason that baseball can survive any sort of crisis and has stood the test of time is because everyday that we pull into the ballpark, there is no telling what may happen between the white lines! Nowhere is that more true that at the prep level. So while your NCAA brackets may remain in ruins, enjoy the baseball season for what it is… a brand new day. Every single day is an opportunity to take in a very healthy game played by kids who love putting the uniform on to match wits with an opponent!

Diamond Notes: Michael Patrick

By: Kyle Liebler – March 16, 2010 Overcoming the Odds: The Story of a Silent Spirit Making a 4A Varsity Baseball team as a sophomore is something challenging in itself, but Michael Patrick who attends Northwestern High School in Rock Hill deals with challenges every day. Just looking at him or watching him play you would never know there was anything different about him, but Patrick has a severe sensorineural hearing loss or in layman’s terms a severe permanent hearing loss. Although he has a disability, this does not stop him from competing at the top level. This year Patrick has a shot at a starting position in the outfield for the Trojans who will be defending their Region three championship this season. Other players with his same disability as Patrick have succeeded at the highest level. Curtis Pride, who briefly played in the major leagues for the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees and also had a long successful minor league career, is also profoundly deaf. Like Pride, Patrick plays outfield a position that is very communication based. While it would be easier if he played a position or even sport with less communication, Patrick not only gets the job done, but is one of the best young outfielders I have seen in the upper state. You may be wondering to yourself how Patrick communicates with his teammates on and off the field. Patrick who wears hearing aids off the field, chooses not to on the field because of a couple of reasons, first of all he says they are not supposed to get wet and when he sweats it might mess them up and second he states that when he wears a hat or a helmet they do not fit or work properly anyway.  Although he can hear some when he is not wearing his hearing aids, he has become really good at reading lips and body language to understand what players and coaches are telling him. While Patrick cannot hear the ball off the bat, you would are unable to tell by the way he tracks downs baseballs waiving his teammates off in centerfield. Because of his disability his teammates use hand signals to communicate for just about everything, whether it is calling for a baseball or shifting for a certain hitter. While it would be easy for someone with any type of disability to give up or use their disability as a crutch, Patrick does not believe in excuses. He has always been taught to battle through adversity and work hard toward goals he has set for himself on and off the field. Patrick explained that it is important to wake up every morning and say to yourself, what kind of person do I want to be and what kind of attitude are am I going to have each and every day. Patrick told me "The biggest thing that motivates me is that I hate losing more than I like winning, and I sure like winning. Using my disability as a crutch would be a loss for me."   This past fall Patrick played centerfield and batted third for the CBC Diamond Rats, a premier team out of Charlotte, North Carolina. He batted .375 with a HR and 19 RBI in 18 showcase games as his team played in some of the Southeast’s top tournaments. Over the past year with intense strength training Patrick has put on twenty pounds of solid muscle. He stands at six feet tall and weighs 170 pounds. In addition to weight training, weekly speed and agility training has helped him drop his 60 time almost a half second. He is one of the hardest workers I have ever seen and there is no question in my mind that Patrick will attain his main goal to play at the next level and to get a college degree. Patrick is known for not only his play, but his hustle. He might be the last out in an inning, but somehow he is the first one to his position, as he hustles back to the dugout and sprints to his position. This is one of the traits that set him apart from some of the other young players in this game. Hustle and desire are not something you can teach a ball player and Patrick has both. This is the reason why it is a privilege for me to write about Michael Patrick, as it is not his disability that makes him stand out, it but also his passion, motivation and love for the game of baseball.

Diamond Notes: 4 Days in Haiti

By: Brent Walsh – February 7, 2010 College of Charleston coach rushes to aid Haiti Victims  In 2003, I went with a group of students from the University of South Carolina’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes for a week long trip to St. Marc, Haiti. This trip opened my eyes to a world far different from the comfortable life that I was used to in Columbia, South Carolina. I came back humbled and yet more appreciative of even the smallest luxuries we encounter on a daily basis here in the States.  In 2004, I returned with my mother, sister and a few friends for ten days to help give of our time and resources to a full-time missionary living in Haiti serving the local people. In 2005, I again returned to Haiti, but this time stayed with a Haitian family in Port au Prince and remained there for almost 40 days. I will tell you that these were certainly some of the hardest days of my life.  I had no windows, and no AC in about 95 degree days and 85 degree nights. We were fortunate to have electricity every 2 or 3 days for about an hour. I washed in the backyard with a bucket and a basin used to collect rain water. I won’t begin to describe the absence of a toilet to spare you the details of that dreaded activity. Needless to say, I had a small glimpse into what it must be like to be a young man growing up in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Over 70% of all Haitians live off of less than $800 per year and over 60% are unemployed. Without getting into all of the statistics and all of the problems of Haiti, let me just say that life is extremely difficult for the majority of the 9 million or so that live there on a daily basis. The main purpose for my trip in 2005 was to get a better glimpse into their culture, do some language study, speak at a few churches and also talk to a few government officials about bringing the game of baseball to Haiti. A little geographical lesson for you, just in case you don’t know. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share the same island called Hispaniola in the Caribbean. The game of baseball flourishes in the DR like no where else in the world. Ever since my first trip, I’ve had the desire to give the Haitian children something to take their minds off of the daily grind of life. I’ve always loved baseball and baseball has always been a major part of my life so I wondered why Haiti didn’t have it? I met with a few government officials who were extremely excited about the idea and even had armored guards take me and my translator out to a plot of land that they said would be the perfect spot for the very 1st baseball diamond in Haiti. I came back to the States, got back into the routine of life here and slowly the visions of Haiti faded from the forefront of my mind. I kept in touch with a few friends from there but that was about it… …Until a few short weeks ago. On Tuesday, January 12th the country of Haiti was shaken by an earthquake that would devastate an already devastated land. My heart broke for the Haitian people as I watched the constant news feeds and the death tolls continue to rise. All of my memories of the trips to Haiti came pouring back and I couldn’t help recall the smiling faces of so many innocent children who laughed and played almost unaware of how bad life really was all around them. I felt bad that it took an earthquake to remind me of how fortunate I really am. I prayed for my friends still there and hoped that they were alright and could find their friends and loved ones amidst the crumbled city of Port au Prince. A few days later, a minister from Columbia that had organized my initial trip back in ’03 called me and asked me if I was able to assist a team of doctors who were looking to go help in Port au Prince. I talked with our Head Coach Monte Lee, and told him that I had been asked to go. In this profession, as a college baseball coach at the level that we are on, it was an extremely difficult time to be leaving just two weeks before official spring practice began. Coach Lee might be one of a handful of Head Coaches in the country who understood this unique situation and allowed me to go.  Early in the morning on January 20th, myself, my wife (a nurse), two doctors, two ministers, a pilot and a Haitian friend of mine found ourselves sitting in the tarmac loading over a thousand pounds of medical supplies onto a plane. Right before loading the plane, we received word of a 6.1 aftershock and they delayed our flight to make sure it was still safe to land. The realness of the situation ahead of us probably set in at that very moment.  A few hours later we received word we were ready to leave. We actually flew out on NASCAR’s Hendrick Motorsports plane that was donated for a while to make trips back and forth to Haiti. We could see some of the devastation from the plane but things really didn’t seem that much different from the norm in Haiti from the air.  We setup our tents in a friends yard as this would be our home for the next four nights. No running water, no electricity. The first place our team went was to a tent city of 5,000 people who had received no medical attention and had all lost whatever they had in the earthquake. There was a nearby clinic that was usually used to treat people with AIDS and there was a school turned into a triage hospital attached to the clinic. The US 82nd Airborne had set up inside the …

Read More