Ingredients of a Successful Team: Part IV – Parents

By: Capt. Myles A. Alexander, USAF – December 19, 2013

-To the Parents-

dp logo1I will tread lightly here. I understand that is your son and your pride and joy out there. But please understand this: They are on that team hopefully because they choose to be. They should want to endure the hardship and reap the benefits of being on that team. It will serve them well in life knowing what it means to be part of something bigger than themselves.

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Ingredients of a Successful Team: Part III – Players

By: Capt. Myles A. Alexander, USAF – December 18, 2013 -To the Players- I was once right where you are today. You want to be recognized for your accomplishments and talent. You must first ask yourself what level of commitment you are willing to put forth. Do you want to be on this team for selfish reasons or do you want to work together to achieve a goal. Are you willing to do anything for all your teammates or to pick and choose who warrants your attention? A true teammate is one who will care about ALL of his teammates that have endured the same challenges together and prevailed together. Remember the Titans? Do you think that college coaches and Pro scouts don’t ask this question about a player? They want to know if you only care about yourself. They want to know if you are an arrogant jerk off the field. They want to know how you are in the classroom. They are about to invest in you and they don’t make that decision lightly. You will be spending a lot of time together and coaches don’t need any extra headaches. I recall bus trips in college where my Hispanic teammates would help me with Spanish. Another teammate that was good at math would help who he could. I would help others write English papers. We would play cards and pick at one another like brothers do. Those are the moments that I remember just as much as our on field accomplishments. It’s a lifestyle and a closeness not unlike the military. Coaches will not invite you into that world if they perceive any red flags about you. A selfless teammate will put the needs of his buddies ahead of himself and always have their back. In the military we call that “I got your six.” The term originated in WWII when Wingmen Pilots would always fly in pairs and keep an eye on each other’s six o’clock position which was the blind spot directly behind them. In case you never noticed, airplanes don’t have rear view mirrors. We have the privilege and challenge while on Deployments to Afghanistan to live, eat, sleep, work and fight together. Nothing builds cohesion better than the feeling of “we’re all in this together” so we better work together. If any one member gets out of line, it’s the team’s responsibility to pull them back in line with the goal at hand. It shouldn’t be your coach that has to perform that task. That is called Self-Policing and that’s when you know you are “clicking.” When peers take on that responsibility, it’s much more effective and you will see cohesion and camaraderie develop before your very eyes. When your teammate fails to get the runner over or commits an error it’s the team’s responsibility to “have their six”, and pick them up. Take the 2013 Red Sox. Their motto was “Find A Way.” This is a team that lost almost 100 games last year. It would have been so easy for them to set a goal of just being a .500 team this year. And for many, that would have been considered a great improvement and a successful rebuilding year. But for players such as Dustin Pedroia, mediocrity is unacceptable. He doesn’t do what he does for money. He does it out of loyalty to the team that gave him a shot. He does it to be the best teammate he can be and to help his team win the World Series EVERY YEAR!…Regardless of what last year’s record was. He prepares himself to be the best HE can be, thus challenging everyone around him to do the same. He wasn’t blessed with all the physical qualities of a major leaguer. He is only 5’6”! But he has the most important attribute of all…Commitment. He, better than anyone I have ever seen, willed his way to where he is today through tough determination and self-confidence. Dustin Pedroia is the epitome of Hustle. He is cut out of the same mold as Pete Rose, Jackie Robinson and Ty Cobb. If you don’t remember anything else I tell you remember this…Hustle shows up every day! GET DIRTY! So, the Red Sox started growing ugly nappy beards during spring training way back in March. Why?  Because they had a goal and a vision and wanted to show an outward expression to everyone else of what they felt for one another – A show of Unity. The things we don’t get to see like the locker room time, the meals together or the road trips and plane rides are all experiences that those guys cherished as much as game time itself. I guarantee you that when it was all over, as happy as they were to win a ring, they were filled with bittersweet emotions about leaving their brothers and going their separate ways for the winter. This feeling is not unlike when we go on deployment to war and spend every moment together for months on end. We form a bond. Does that mean we don’t fuss and fight? Of course not! Sometimes we want to punch each other. Sometimes we do! But you know what? No outsider better pick a fight with one of us or they’ll have all of us to contend with! And that goes for our own allies, (especially those darn Canadians) not just the enemy! But when it comes time to leave the war zone it is a bittersweet emotion knowing that you are finally returning home to your family, loved ones and safety.  But at the same time, you are leaving this close knit kinship with your brothers in arms. What you think could never seem normal (living under hostile fire) does, in fact, become your life for so long that it becomes your “normal” reality. Only you and the ones you shared that experience with will have that unspoken understanding between brothers that no outsider will ever understand. Now, …

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Ingredients of a Successful Team: Part II – Coaches

LeylandJimBy: Capt. Myles A. Alexander, USAF – December 17, 2013

-To the Coaches-

We’ve all heard coaches and leaders speak of these terms. But the challenge is how do you achieve it? I believe it all comes down to roles. Leaders have a role and followers have a role. If those roles are clearly defined, and everyone performs their role…that still may not be enough to ensure success.

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Ingredients of a Successful Team: Part I – Definition

AlexanderMylesCaptBy: Capt. Myles A. Alexander, USAF – December 16, 2013

I would like to take a few moments to express my thoughts and feelings on a subject that every scout, coach, player and parent reading this has had some experience with in some form or another…Teamwork. No matter what your life experiences are, there is a 100 percent chance that you have been part of a team of some sort.

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The Fiamingo Salute

By: Micheal McDonald – October 12, 2013 Everyone has someone that teaches them the wonderful game of baseball. Most fathers teach their sons about Babe Ruth, and how he has the most home runs in one season, because he hit 60 home runs in a 154 game schedule. Then they tell them about Roger Maris, who it 61 home runs in 1961, and went head-to-head with his roommate/teammate Mickey Mantle. Mantle who ended up with 54 home runs on the year made a historic chase for the homerun crown. Then thirty years later, Hollywood superstar Billy Crystal directed the movie 61*. The movie that featured Barry Pepper as Roger Maris and Thomas Jane as Mickey Mantle and their legendary chase of the most sacred record in baseball. I’m here to tell you about my grandfather, Frank Fiamingo, who is the reason why I chase the big league dream. I wasn’t instilled with the talent of a Clayton Kershaw or Jose Reyes, but he filled me with the desire to be the best in the game that I love most. My father passed away in a terrible car accident three months before I was born. My sister Deanna who was a year old at the time survived with a broken collarbone. Three months later I was born, almost 8 weeks premature on my fathers birthday. At a little over a year old, my mother decided to pack us up from the home of little league baseball (Williamsport, PA) and move us to sunny Myrtle Beach, SC. We would spend our first few years living with my grandparents where my grandfather and I would watch the Mets on WWOR and we would make the trek out to Coastal Carolina to watch the Chanticleers during the college season. Then come April, we would get to see the likes of Carlos Delgado, Alex Gonzalez, and many others come up through the Blue Jays system with the Myrtle Beach Hurricanes. Needless to say, this is how it all started. While most of you know me as an area scout for The Diamond Prospects, my journey started off at Socastee High School where I was an unheralded prospect/lightly-recruited catcher trying to chase the dream. I graduated in 2002 and attended Francis Marion University where I planned to walk-on and be drafted in the first round and sign for at least a million dollars. However, I was unaware of when walk-on tryouts were and ended up joining Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity and living the frat boy dream. I bounced around getting my grades together and after a while I went to Coastal Carolina, signed on with the Atlanta Braves and helped Billy Best cover North and South Carolina, while doing charts for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans and convincing myself that Billy cared what I had to say, all that really meant anything was that my grandfather was proud of the non-paying position the Atlanta Braves had bestowed upon me. My grandfather is the reason I continue to do what I love more than anything. I am so happy he taught me this beautiful game. While I have worked in baseball ops with the Atlanta Braves, Toronto Blue Jays, Diamond Prospects, and have done Statistical Analysis for Baseball Info Solutions, I just hope that he is proud of what I have accomplished. My grandfather passed away recently at the age of 95, and while I never had to ask him, I know he is proud of what I have accomplished. I won’t say that I did it all for him, but, to say he didn’t have a lot to do with it would be a full truth. I can never thank him enough for teaching me this wonderful game. I will be indebted to him forever because of it. When I didn’t have a father, he was there. God couldn’t have blessed me with a better person to step in. I hope everyone that reads this takes a minute to thank the person that taught them the awesome game of baseball. I know I told him a hundred times, but, while he laid there deceased under an American Flag (he served in the Air Force in WWII)I thanked him again, just to make sure he knew, not only what he meant to me but to thank him for teaching me the game of baseball. -Michael J. McDonald Jr. *A special thank you to Austin Alexander for encouraging me write this tribute.

Enter Sandman: Classy, Humble

By: Austin Alexander – July 16, 2013 The term ‘First Class’ may have many definitions but one picture and one moment in time describe this expression better than any verbage that Webster’s Dictionary can attach to it. If you watched the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday night, then you were able to appreciate class personified by the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history. Set aside his 638 career saves, plus his 42 saves in the post-season, five titles and the fact that he will be the final player to ever wear Jackie Robinson’s number… look at the genuine respect that his peers have for him. Rivera has managed to cut up hitters for 19 years in the Big Apple without public scrutiny or scandal. He is a family man and a tremendous man of God. He is a good teammate and ultimate professional. I have never been a Yankee fan, and generally pull for Rivera to blow saves. But like all of the players in each dugout that spend the other 364 days of the year trying to defeat him, I applauded, albeit from my recliner! Enter Sandman blaring on the PA, no one else on the field, just one man in the microscope of the entire baseball universe, powerful! I watched that moment last night with my oldest son. Perhaps this hits home, my seven-year old turned to me and said, “Dad, is this one of those moments that I will tell my son about one day?” So profound and so true. I was honored to witness it and as a baseball fan, wow, what a classy guy and moment to remember. The guy is so insanely humble. Talented, durable, successful, no doubt. But to have such a decorated resume and remain so classy and humble… It’s a lesson we could all learn from. DP Note: The picture atop this article is from the Tim Carroll collection, for much more info on his work, please do yourself a favor and visit this website:  

MLB Draft Spotlight: Nick Ciuffo

By: Jason Kullman – August 2, 2013 MLB Draft Spotlight: Nick Ciuffo   With the MLB First Year Draft completed, baseball fans begin the waiting period to see which high school athletes will go to the farm and which will be heading to campus. While this happens DP is looking back at the maturation of some of South Carolina’s best talent through the eyes of our scouts.   Twenty-eight South Carolina ball players were taken in the 2013 MLB draft and the first to come off the board was Lexington’s Nick Ciuffo, who was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 21st  selection overall. Ciuffo is a promising catcher and was the second catcher selected after the Pittsburgh Pirates took Reese McGuire with the 14th overall pick. Nick had signed to play baseball at the University of South Carolina but came to terms with Tampa Bay on June 21, 2013.   Ciuffo was such an advanced player that going into his freshman year (at Wando High School, he transferred to Lexington prior to his junior year) he had already committed to USC and, after a viewing during his junior season, DP scout Randy Carlson proclaimed Ciuffo “has a chance to be a rare breed, a catcher that excels both offensively and defensively.”    Our leader here at DP, Austin Alexander, was there for DP’s initial regular season viewing and there was no doubt Ciuffo was the real thing from the beginning. After his first time seeing Ciuffo in March 2010, Alexander noticed a fluid batting approach and a college-level ability to play behind the plate, as Ciuffo recorded a 2.06 seconds pop time to second base when throwing out a runner. Seemingly college ready in March of his freshman year, Ciuffo was just starting his rise to the first round and the top of the 2013 class in South Carolina.   DP next viewed Ciuffo about six weeks later during the lower state playoffs versus North Augusta. During the game he showed some maturity by quickly calming down his pitcher after a no-call and went 2-for-2 off an excellent pitcher in Taylor Guerrerri, who Ciuffo listed as the second toughest pitcher he ever faced. DP scout David List proclaimed that “Ciuffo has a bright future” after his first viewing and, like Alexander, noticed Ciuffo’s defensive prowess from the get go.   DP was on hand just about one year later to witness Ciuffo in the lower state playoffs first round. While Wando lost, Ciuffo contributed big time anyways. He drove in a run and flashed a sub-2.0 secs pop time to second base, showing good improvement from his time of 2.06 secs from just a year before. As usual, Ciuffo impressed the scouts on hand, leading List to note after the game that “tools and body-wise this young man has it.”   After playing his freshman and sophomore years at Wando, Ciuffo transferred to Lexington High School for his junior and senior years. Following two disappointing exits in the playoffs at Wando, Ciuffo was able to help lead Lexington to the 2012 lower state finals and victory in the 2013 AAAA state championship.   During his junior year Ciuffo caught a complete-game shutout by Josh Reagan in a win over North Augusta. Less than a month later Will Cheatham got his turn to view Ciuffo against South Aiken.   Ciuffo went 3-4 with two RBI’s at the plate, while catching another excellent performance from Reagan as the duo allowed just one run. While facing Reagan (a College of Charleston commit) is tough enough, Cheatham noted that Ciuffo “does nothing but make Reagan tougher to beat.”   Catchers with Ciuffo’s dual ability don’t come along often as was noted by Carlson. His ability to bat in the heart of the lineup and play such a demanding position defensively definitely are assets for Cuiffo. Prior to his senior year, Ciuffo was featured in a Player Spotlight (click here to read it) on Diamond Prospects and got to speak about himself.   Going into his senior year he was ranked as the number one player in the state by DP and was widely considered one of the top two or three catchers in the country by national scouting agencies. Ciuffo had also been featured on the 16U national team that won a gold medal in Mexico, played in two All-American games and appeared at the East Coast Pro Showcase.       As his senior year wore on, it was evident that Ciuffo’s mere presence was altering other team’s game plans. Intentional walks and a general lack of stealing attempts by opposing teams show Ciuffo’s impact on a game as a two-way weapon. This was no better exemplified than during his May 13 matchup against Blythewood.   Ciuffo took an intentional walk and drove in a run in the 5-2 Lexington victory. List was quick to note Ciuffo’s defensive impact on an opponent’s running game as he was “pretty much stopping it altogether.”   For his high school baseball finale, Ciuffo led Lexington to a win in the 4A state championship game in 2013. His ability behind the dish to stop would-be passed balls and call a game was just as impactful as his arm-strength and hitting. A defensive and offensive force, Ciuffo will continue to impact games for a long time. As for his immediate future, he will be passing on Columbia and beginning the long, arduous process of climbing the minor league ranks to reach his dream of playing in the majors.

2013: MLB Draft Breakdown

By: Austin Alexander, June 6-8, 2013   In a year that professional scouts will admit there was less draftable prep talent in South Carolina than recent years, only six young men managed to have their names called over the three-day event… but four in the first ten rounds!   The more you peer into this year’s draft, the event itself took on a very different look due to drastic changes within the rules pertaining to signing players and by reducing the draft by ten rounds over past seasons, thus affecting who and how many in-state guys were selected.   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 1,530th 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 July 13th (up from August 16 in 2011) 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 KJ Woods does not automatically vault that arm to prospect status. If a good high school pitcher beats West Florence High School with Akeem Bostick 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 Cory Thompson, that does not guarentee that he will even play past high school. If a fast runner steals two bases off of Nick Ciuffo, 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 tens of thousands of miles riding the countryside away from their families looking for the next Steven Strasburg and Mike Trout. 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 2013? Only time will tell. Below we have broken down the 2013 Draft: *Note: Players accounted for either played high school or college baseball in South Carolina this spring. Selected Day 1 (1-2 Rd) Day 2 (3-10 Rds) Day 3 (11-40 Rds) Total SC Players 2  8 18 28 College players 0  6  16 23  HS players 2  2  2  6  Pitchers 1  4  11  16  Catchers 1  1 2  4  Infielders 0  1  3  4  Outfielders 0  2  2  4  Division I 0  5  13  18  Division II …

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MLB Draft – Palmetto Players Selected

MLB Draft – South Carolina Native Players Selected June 6-8, 2013 {DP Draft Alumni} Day 1 -1st Round- Nick Ciuffo-Lexington HS, C: Ciuffo was selected with the 21st overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays… Ciuffo has signed with South Carolina… -2nd Round- Akeem Bostick-West Florence HS, RHP: Bostick was selected with the 62nd overall pick by the Texas Rangers… Bostick has signed with Spartanburg Methodist College… Day 2 3rd Round-10th Round Daniel Palka-Georgia Tech, 1B: Palka was taken with in the 3rd Round (88th overall pick) by the Arizona Diamondbacks… Palka prepped at Greer HS… KJ Woods-Fort Mill, OF: Woods was taken in the 4th Round (112th pick overall pick) by the Miami Marlins… Woods had signed with Sante Fe CC (FL)… Joe Jackson-The Citadel, C: Jackson was taken in the 5th Round (160th pick overall) by the Texas Rangers… Jackson prepped at Mauldin HS… Cory Thompson-Mauldin HS, SS/RHP: Thompson was taken in the 5th Round (165th pick overall) by the Cincinnati Reds… Thompson had signed with South Carolina… Jake Zokan-The College of Charleston, LHP: Zokan was chosen in the 9th Round (267th overall) by the Seattle Mariners… Zokan prepped at Spring Valley HS… Zach Godley-Tennessee, RHP: Godley was picked in the 10th Round (288th overall) by the Chicago Cubs… Godley prepped at Bamberg-Ehrhardt and aslo attended Spartanburg Methodist… Taylor Grover-USC Aiken, RHP: Grover was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 10th Round (293rd overall)… Grover prepped at Midland Valley HS…   Emilio Pagan-Belmont Abbey, RHP: Pagan was chosen in the 10th Round (297th overall) by the Seattle Mariners… Day 3 11th Round-40th Round Ryan Gunther-Charleston Southern, RHP: Gunther was picked in the 12th Round (373rd overall) by the Atlanta Braves… Gunther prepped at Stratford HS and also played at Spartanburg Methodist… DeAndre Asbury-Heath-Brookland-Cayce HS, OF: Asbury-Heath was selected in the 15th Round (455th overall) by the St. Louis Cardinals… He has signed with Florence-Darlington Tech… Austin Pritcher-The Citadel, RHP: Pritcher was taken in the 19th Round by the Detroit Tigers ( 576th overall)… Pritcher prepped at James Island HS…   Gaither Bumgardner-USC Upstate, RHP: In the 23rd Round, Bumgardner was selected with the 686th pick by the New York Mets… He prepped at Great Falls HS… Trey Wimmer-Liberty, C: Wimmer was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the 23rd Round (693rd overall)… Wimmer prepped at Greenwood HS… Bud Jeter-Presbyterian, RHP: Jeter was selected in the 25th Round (750th overall) by the Arizona Diamondbacks… Jeter prepped at Dreher HS… Adam Westmoreland-South Carolina, LHP: Westmoreland was chosen with the 772nd overall pick in the 26th Round… Westmoreland prepped at Brookland-Cayce… Eli White-Wren HS, SS: White went to the Cincinnati Reds in the 26th Round (795th overall)… White has signed with Clemson… Brison Celek-South Carolina, 1B: Celek was selected in the 31st Round (925th overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays…. Celek prepped at Bishop England… Taylor Johnson-Furman, 1B: Johnson was picked in the 31st Round (937th overall) by the Los Angeles Angels… Johnson prepped at Greer HS and played at USC-Lancaster… Will Callaway-Appalachian St, 2B: Callaway was picked by the San Francisco Giants in the 37th round (1122nd overall)… Callaway prepped at Eastside HS… Ben Carlson-Furman, RHP: Carlson was drafted in the 40th Round by the Los Angeles Angels (1207th overall)… Carlson prepped at Mauldin HS and played at Spartanburg Methodist…

A Champion’s Tribute: Lexington Wildcats

By: Brian Hucks – June 12, 2013


Lexington “Finishes” 2013 with the AAAA State Championship for Kennedy

Lexington-titlepic13Lexington High School finished the 2013 campaign with a 28-5 record and captured the AAAA state championship. Our biggest inspiration and key to our success was Kennedy Branham, a rising freshman at Lexington who has a rare form of brain cancer.

In 2012 we embarked on the WinIt4Kennedy campaign – a mission to win the state championship for Kennedy. We fell just short, losing to Ashley Ridge in the lower state finals. This year, the players made it their mission to FinishIt4Kennedy and take home the state title in her honor. And that is what we did!

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