Pat Swallows, executive director of the Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association, announced Wednesday that the organization’s upcoming clinic has been canceled because of pandemic concerns.
“We’d been working all fall for this, hoping things would calm down and get, not necessarily back to normal, but at least better,” Swallows said of the three-day event, scheduled for Jan. 15-17 at the Cool Springs Marriott. “We don’t want to put coaches in a situation where – if something were to happen, it would kill me.”
Along with the clinic, the event includes an awards luncheon and hall of fame induction. Former Loretto coach Gary Lamm was to be inducted next month along with Grace Christian’s Brad Myers, Friendship Christian’s John McNeal, longtime Knoxville amateur baseball figure Dwight Smith and Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin.
The inductions will instead take place during the 2022 convention.
“It’s just one of those tough things we’re going through,” Lamm said. “If it has to be canceled, so be it. I’m all for doing what’s right. It’s out of our control. It’s not the end of the world.
“I know it’s a call Pat hated to make, but looking at the numbers, it’s the right call, I’d say. You don’t want to put anybody at risk. I know the coaches I talked to were looking forward to it, but he’s trying to do what’s best.”
Now in its 29th year, the three-day clinic typically draws more than 400 coaches, Swallows said.
“We had 475 last year,” he said. “Our numbers were small (to this point), but normally after Christmas, the first of the year, is when a lot of the coaches register. I felt it was better to pull the plug now.
Amongst a collection of some of the top minority baseball prospects in the country, Tears took a called strike three to lead off the game for the Larry Doby team – named for the first African-American to play in the American League – and drew a walk to load the bases in the top of the third inning, then later re-entered the game and grounded out to second base in the eighth.
“I had some good at-bats, went deep in (pitch) counts,” Tears said after the Jackie Robinson team won a 6-4 decision. “I hadn’t seen live pitching since early October, so I wasn’t terribly disappointed with my performance.
“It was mainly just about having fun. I’ve never been a part of anything like this, with all the best minority players in the country, all playing against each other. I love it.”
Tears was one of two UT 2021 recruiting class members participating in Saturday’s showcase event, along with infielder Christian Moore. Vanderbilt had a trio of representatives in the contest – 2021 commitment Kenneth Mallory and ’22 commits R.J. Austin and Andruw Jones Jr.
Also playing was Knoxville Catholic junior outfielder/pitcher Kaden Martin, the son of former UT quarterback and current Volunteers receivers coach (and Mobile native) Tee Martin. The younger Martin, playing with Tears, went 2-for-2 with a double.
“This is great for our kids,” said Rodrick Tears, Kavares’ father. “These kids can play.”
More than a dozen scouts from across Major League Baseball were on hand for the contest, along with representatives from various college baseball coaching staffs.
“I think it was a great weekend for the guys,” said veteran Georgia high school baseball coach Alexander Wyche, founder/CEO of Minority Baseball Prospects. “For the first year, getting these kids from all around the country, we couldn’t have asked for a better event. It’s great to give these guys an opportunity. We’re really pleased with it.”
Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. E-mail: email@example.com; Twitter: @mopatton_sports.
Calling Gary Lamm after 8:30 or so Tuesday night may not have been the best idea, after the big news from earlier in the day involving one of his protégés.
When the San Diego Padres announced their roster for the National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ryan Weathers was on it – making the former Loretto High School two-sport standout likely to become the fifth player ever to make his Major League Baseball debut in the postseason.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Lamm, the Mustangs’ longtime coach who retired earlier this year after 26 seasons – including a 2017 campaign that culminated, with Weathers as a key cog, in a Class A state championship.
“To make the playoff roster and get that major league experience is great. I know he’s excited, I’m excited for him. (Parents) David and Kelli and the family are excited. All of Loretto, I guess, is excited.”
Game 1 of the best-of-5 series was set for an 8:38 p.m. (CT) first pitch at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
Prior to 2020, only two players had made their MLB debuts during the playoffs – Oakland Athletics second baseman Mark Kiger in 2006 and Kansas City Royals shortstop Adalberto Mondesi in 2015.
That number has doubled in the past week or so, with Minnesota Twins outfielder Alex Kirilloff starting Game 2 of his team’s AL Wild Card-round loss to the Houston Astros and Shane McClanahan coming out of the bullpen Monday night and working the final one-third inning of Tampa Bay’s 9-3 ALDS Game 1 loss to the New York Yankees.
“This year is truly a year unlike any other,” Baseball America executive editor J.J. Cooper said. “Not having (a Minor League) season and only a 60-game MLB season has created an unusual environment, plus no September roster expansion, (to) where we are seeing players jump to the majors in the playoffs.”
Weathers’ situation is more eyecatching when considering that, with the Padres selecting him seventh overall in the 2018 MLB Draft, he has yet to play beyond Class A.
“It looks puzzling, but had this been a normal year, he probably would have and it wouldn’t seem as unusual,” Cooper said. “Say he’d started at (Class AA), had a good first half, moved up to Triple-A and gotten a September callup, for instance.
“Instead, he was at the alternate site, but from all our reporting, he was really good there. From that end, here comes the reward.”
The left-hander was the second Gatorade National Player of the Year picked in the first round by San Diego in as many years, following North Carolina high school product Mackenzie Gore – who, by all accounts, Weathers apparently moved past during this summer’s work at the alternate site.
Despite the lack of experience, it’s pretty clear he’s not just on the roster for the exposure to the atmosphere.
“The Padres feel comfortable bringing him up in the most important series they’ve played in more than a decade,” Cooper said. “You’re seeing teams say, ‘we can have this guy, put a guy like this in the ‘pen, we may get some useful innings out of him’.
“It says a lot for him, but it’s not shocking, considering his background.”
David Weathers, Ryan’s father, pitched with eight different teams over a 19-year MLB career and earned a World Series championship ring with the Yankees in 1996 – three years before Ryan was born.
“They clearly think he can handle a big stage, considering he’s never been on it before,” Cooper said. “It’s a five-game series with no off days. You’re not putting anyone on the roster you don’t expect to use. You don’t put him on the roster if you don’t expect to use him.”
With that said, it’s less a matter of if Weathers will make his debut during the NLDS and more a case of when he’ll do so.
Four longtime high school coaches, including Loretto’s Gary Lamm, and two-time national championship coach Tim Corbin comprise the 2020 Tennessee Baseball Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame class.
The five will be inducted at a Jan. 16 ceremony as part of the TBCA annual convention, which will take place at the Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin.
Joining Corbin – who led Vanderbilt to the 2014 and ’19 NCAA Division I titles – and Lamm will be Grace Christian’s Brad Myers, Friendship Christian’s John McNeal and current Knoxville Grace assistant Dwight Smith.
“It’s a great group of coaches that has had an impact on baseball in Tennessee and the lives of hundreds of kids,” said Pat Swallows, executive director of the TBCA, in announcing the class.
Over 41 seasons – the last 26 at Loretto, prior to his retirement earlier this year – Lamm posted a 552-425 record. He led the Mustangs to four state tournament appearances, including a Class A state championship in 2017 and a runner-up finish the following year, along with four sectional titles, four region championships and seven district titles.
“It was quite a shock when I got the news last week,” said Lamm, whose three sons all followed him into the family business; Luke currently coaches at Huntsville (Ala.) High School, with Paul winning a Class AA state title at Spring Hill in 2016 and Mark pitching at Vanderbilt and in the Atlanta Braves organization.
“My first thought was that there are a lot of people a lot more deserving of me. A lot of people go into (such an honor).”
Myers won a state championship at Battle Ground Academy prior to taking over the program at GCA. In 27 years, his teams claimed 12 regular-season championships and nine regional titles along with a pair of state runner-up finishes. Since moving to Grace, his teams won three district and two region championships while making a Final Four appearance.
McNeal, who also coaches the football team at Friendship, owns a 745-291 record on the diamond over 36 years, the last 30 with the Commanders. His teams have won three state titles in eight state tourney appearances, along with a runner-up finish. McNeal has made 19 sub-state/sectional appearances, winning 18 region championships and 26 district titles.
Smith, a baseball veteran of 55 years in some capacity, has most recently served as an assistant at Knoxville Grace after previous tenures as an assistant at Christian Academy of Knoxville and Powell and as head coach at Karns, where the field is named in his honor. Smith helped establish the Knoxville Stars summer league program, and also umpired summer ball for 15 years. He was previously inducted into the East Tennessee Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame in 1998.
Maurice Patton is the editor for Southern Middle Tennessee Sports. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mopatton_sports.
Lane Burleson simply saw the pitch, hit the pitch as he hit a 2-run homer to give GameTime Baseball’s 17U team a 6-4 come-from-behind win Thursday morning over Gallatin-based Cross Hit Red. The home run came moments after another timely hit that put his team in a position to win the game.
Trailing 4-2 and down to his last strike, Columbia Central grad Jaden Hamm waited on the curveball and connected, sending the baseball to left field.
“He threw me like seven curve balls in a row, and I was waiting on it. He hung it and I put a bat on it,” Hamm said.
Alec Beaman scored easily from third and Summit’s Alex Runk was trucking it from second base. The throw to the plate was off-base, allowing GameTime to tie the game at four before Burleson walked to the plate. GameTime coach Chris Hamm said there was never any doubt Runk was getting the wave to home.
“I told him, if (Jaden) gets a hit, you’re scoring no matter what,” he said.
The game-winning home run gave GameTime its only lead of the entire contest, as they played from behind the whole game, which began at 9 a.m. at Spring Hill High School. The squad was coming off a 7-3 win the night before in Hendersonville that ended at 10:30 p.m. The field conditions were still soggy and muddy when the game began, and both teams struggled.
“With the way the field was playing, we had to adjust,” Coach Hamm said. “We are fortunate to be fast, and we like to run when we get on the bases, but it definitely slowed us down a step today.”
GameTime was 1-for-11 with RISP before Hammm and Burleson got back-to-back hits to win the game. Timely hits were difficult to come by until the seventh inning.
“I told them to keep confidence and just keep hitting, and something’s going to fall,” Coach Hamm said.
Spring Hill’s Dawson Hargrove started on the mound, and pitched around a couple of jams. In the first inning, he threw 33 pitches, walking three hitters. A pick off at second base gave the hurler some relief after a walk and a single to open the game, but a passed ball allowed a run to score before Hargrove got a strikeout and a pop up to end the inning.
Hargrove chopped a ground ball softly to second base in the third inning, making it a difficult-enough play to score a run, tying the game at 1-1. Cross Hit, however, plated a run in the fourth to regain the lead on an outfield error.
GameTime would tie the game in the fifth when Beamen took third and Noah Berndt took second base on the next pitch. Cross Hit attempted to pick Berndt off at second, allowing Beamen to tie the game.
Gavin Burleson, who came on in relief of Hargrove, gave up a pair of runs in the sixth, giving Cross Hit the 4-2 lead, setting up the heroics of the seventh inning.
Chris Hamm knew his team would fight to the end, and when crunch time came, they delivered.
“These kids never quit,” he said. “That’s what is special about this group, and I am proud of what they continue to accomplish.”
GameTime is participating in the Music City Classic, a 17U tournament featuring teams from across the country. Their next scheduled games are at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 2, 11:30 a.m. Friday, July 3, at Drake’s Creek Park in Hendersonville and back at Spring Hill High School on Sunday, July 5, at 11:15 a.m.