By Kyle Koso
Triple Crown Sports
Once the COVID-19 pandemic began to erase plans for softball teams in spring and summer 2020, there was no more “normal” route for getting club players in front of college coaches. Whatever progress you could make came from whatever you could accomplish in an email or shared video.
The smoke still hasn’t cleared from all this disruption, but there are some signs of the recruiting gears getting back in rhythm. To no one’s surprise, Triple Crown’s Ronald McDonald event has been a beacon of hope and excitement, given how it’s filled that role for 28 years. Over the course of two weekends, more than 400 teams in multiple age divisions will make their stand in and around metro Houston.
Ages 18u, 16u and some 14u will run Oct. 16-18; the 10u, 12u and other 14u will go Oct. 23-25. The event donates $100 per team and a portion of merchandise sales to the Ronald McDonald House charity.
The geographical reach of the event makes this one of the fall’s most dynamic events, as teams from Washington to New Jersey and California to Mississippi are locked in for their five-game guarantee. There’s a real sense of relief that accompanies the 2020 Ronald McDonald, with so many teams determined to get their players back on college radars, while also having the depth of their skills tested.
“Every year we come, the girls loved the tournament. It’s fun, and especially so because we get to leave California,” said Rick LeMaster of the SoCal Athletics, who is bringing three teams this year and has been to the event twice before. “We get to see a lot of coaches and face really good competition. That’s the main thing look for, to see that top-notch competition. I don’t mind getting beat if the other team is better than us.
“(Tournament director) Jonathan (Lampl) is the greatest. He does anything we ask, gets back to us quickly, and that’s almost unheard of. So many places, once they get your money, it’s hard to get questions answered, so that goes a long ways.”
From the college coach side, the Ronald McDonald event is a time-honored way to get in step with available talent when most everyone feels like they are playing catch-up.
“We are big relationship coaches, and we like to see the athletes in person to get a feel for them on and off the field. It’s been tough that way, watching athletes from a distance,” said Juliaclaire Plezbert, head coach at Goshen College, an NAIA program in Indiana, who will be at Ronald McDonald for her second time. “The Ronald McDonald event allows us to see a lot of great talent from all over, which is great for us. It’s got high-level competition, and it’s put on very well. We really enjoy that experience — there are a couple kids we have our eye on already who will be down there, and we are looking to open the door for our 2022 class.”
“There’s been a lack of there events to go to, and a lot of girls out there who aren’t getting recruited. I’m going down there to offer some girls an opportunity, and to see if they want to come to North Dakota to get their education,” said Kevin Gall of the NAIA University of Jamestown, who has been with the program 21 years and is coming to Ronald McDonald for the first time. “It’s a great event; I’ve never been to Houston before, but the opportunity to go is here. We talk about that opportunity to go there, and it’ll be like Christmas for us because we’ll get to watch some ball and see some players. There’s a certain level of joy that brings … taking in some softball when we haven’t been able to do that for a while."
Follow the Oct. 16-18 schedule HERE >> https://bit.ly/35d45bZ
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – Triple Crown Sports has entered into a multi-year agreement with BallerTV that will add livestream video coverage to more than 20 Triple Crown Fastpitch events, beginning in 2019.
BallerTV will have coverage of all fields and all games of the following 2019 events:
Bomber Shootout March 2-3
Spring Stampede May 11-12
Triple Crown OKC May 31-June 3
Zoom Into June June 6-9
Mountain Magic June 6-9
Texas State Championships June 7-9
Zoom Juniors June 8-9
Colorado State Championships June 14-16
Valley Invite June 14-16
Sparkler Juniors July 1-7
Chicago Midwest Championships July 11-14
10u, 12u World Series July 12-17
16u, 18u World Series July 15-20
Southeast Championships July 14-18
Southwest Summer Nationals July 18-21
14u World Series July 22-27
Super 72 Sept. 13-15
Ronald McDonald Oct. 18-20
City of Lights #1 Oct. 25-27
City of Lights #2 Nov. 8-10
Don Battles On Nov. 15-17
Visit baller.tv/triplecrownfastpitch for links and notifications for all of these events.
Baller TV will also share coverage at the TC/USA Nationals (July 15-18) with FloSoftball; FloSoftball has eight fields, with BallerTV handling the remainder.
BallerTV was founded in 2016 by co-founders Robert Angarita and Aaron Hawkey to provide live video coverage of amateur sports while creating sports media job opportunities in local communities. As of 2018, BallerTV is now a coast-to-coast operation with a network of thousands of broadcasters across the country.
“BallerTV is extremely excited to be partnering with Triple Crown Sports,” said BallerTV Account Executive Daniel Chun. “As one of the leaders in the fastpitch world, Triple Crown continues to transcend the space and host top-tier events. We’re thrilled to provide a live stream service for athletes, parents and coaches to take their game to the next level.”
“We are thrilled to be partners with BallerTV, which is a forward-looking and dynamic media company that will help more people follow the action at our tournaments,” said Andy Hansen, VP of Media and Branding at Triple Crown. “Our fastpitch events are nationally known for their value to college recruiters, so we expect coaches to be especially interested in using BallerTV to track the progress of players who may end up on their rosters someday.”
About Triple Crown Sports
Based in Fort Collins, CO., Triple Crown Sports has been producing college and youth events for more than 35 years, with approximately 90 events scheduled for 2019 in the arenas of youth baseball, fastpitch, basketball, lacrosse and volleyball. The TCS footprint includes both the preseason and postseason WNIT basketball events and the men’s and women’s Cancun Challenge tournaments in November. Triple Crown is also powering “WNIT” concept events in D-I softball (NISC) and volleyball (NIVC), with those two events debuting in 2017. TCS youth fastpitch tournaments (including the 900-team Sparkler/Fireworks event) draw the nation’s finest club programs, and hundreds of college coaches attend TCS events for recruiting purposes.
The Triple Crown Ronald McDonald wrapped up its final slate of games on Sunday. Tournament directors battled weather all weekend long, meaning the sight of sunshine and blue skies were welcomed by everyone in the greater Houston area.
Sunday’s warm weather also meant those who did not see action Saturday were given a chance to showcase talented rosters in front of a bevy of college coaches. While the large majority of teams represent the Lone Star State and its bordering neighbors, the appeal of the Ronald McDonald has historically allured teams from all over the East Coast and as far west as Oregon and California.
“For us, we had two goals this weekend,” said SoCal Choppers head coach Jason Renteria. “The Ronald McDonald always attracts the best teams in the region, so it’s always a benefit to us this early in the fall to see what we have on the roster.
“This tournament also gave us a chance to get everyone on our roster some college exposure. More importantly, because so many colleges are down here, it gives my girls a chance to get seen from colleges outside our area that have programs that the girls are interested in.”
Players and coaches weren’t the only ones happy with the change in climate. Colleges and universities from all levels flocked from around the country to make it to Houston this weekend for an important window in fall recruiting.
“There’s always a ton of talent down here and this tournament did not disappoint in 2018,” said Syracuse assistant coach Vanessa Shippy. “The Scrap Yard is always the place to be this time of year and with so many fields open today, we were able to talk to all these great teams and coaches who are always willing to help out.”
With over 200 teams in action across Saturday and Sunday, you didn’t have to be a power-five school or even a Division-I institution to benefit from Ronald McDonald’s diverse field of fastpitch clubs.
“We really couldn’t have asked for a better weekend for us,” said Jarvis Christian College assistant coach Olinda Molinar. “We’ve been able to see everyone that we’ve been in contact with leading up to the tournament and we’ve stumbled across some players that we hadn’t seen before.”
At its core, the Ronald McDonald is designed to link college coach and athlete with its slate of games. Over the weekend and through all rain, the tournament’s slow start was left in the dust by its equally high-paced finish.
“We’re always looking multiple years ahead to fill roster spots,” said Molinar. “There’s such a great mixture of talent and diversity among teams that year in and year out the Ronald McDonald is the most important recruiting event in our fall schedule. We’ll definitely be back year after year.”
Saturday morning at the Scrap Yard Sports Complex signaled the official start of the 2018 Triple Crown Ronald McDonald tournament. However, this particular Saturday presents a significantly different vibe than most on the Triple Crown schedule of fastpitch events.
Unlike the infamous Sparkler/Fireworks or TC USA Nationals, the final scores of games played in Houston over the weekend are virtually meaningless. For athletes hoping to play ball at the next level and their coaches trying to get them there, the most important number is one, one college scholarship.
As a player, this may sound simple. Apply the old ‘give it 110 percent effort’ and you’ll get noticed in no time. While the mentality of playing your best likely never wavers, staying sharp and executing in the moment can be a tricky task.
Texas Blaze’s Macy Hamilton knows first-hand what it’s like to play in showcase settings like the Ronald McDonald. Though her team couldn’t separate themselves from Impact Gold, playing to a 4-4 tie, Hamilton’s energy, enthusiasm and effort turned heads in the crowd all afternoon long.
“It’s a different type of atmosphere,” said Hamilton. “You definitely get to have more fun but at the same time, you have to stay focused. It’s easy to get distracted.”
If Hamilton was distracted at any point during the afternoon, she certainly didn’t broadcast it. Twice, Hamilton made diving plays in the outfield and routinely showed her aggressiveness on the bases.
“I know that every time I step on to the field it’s about effort,” Hamilton said. “As a team, we know we’ll be there for each other. Even if someone is having an off day, we’re all there for them, especially at a tournament like this.”
Club coaches, though not the star of the show, have an equally important role in getting their players noticed. Turning over lineups, choosing to steal or bunt, and distributing playing time are just some of the decisions a coach has to plan when trying to showcase their players.
“I definitely have a written plan of attack before the weekend begins,” said Blaze head coach Tammie Davis. “We prepare in the same way as we do for any tournament. During the game, however, I am constantly moving players to get them into the right positions.
“At the end of the day, I’m hoping for all of my players to be seen in the best light. Sometimes, that means leaving a player in for an extra inning when they’re doing well as was the case with Macy. At the same time, I might leave someone in the game after they make a mistake because I know they’ll battle back. It’s hyper situational.”
The last part of the puzzle is the college coach themselves. Navigating the sea of hundreds of players requires proper planning and keeping a keen eye for talent and character.
“First off, I start by tracking down the players that I’ve already been looking at,” said Paris Junior College assistant coach Michael Williams. “I always like to get a second look at someone just in case I do want to make them an offer.”
With so much on the line for both the college and the player, it’s no surprise that it might take more than one look for an offer to come down the pipe. That does not mean that an athlete under the radar can’t catch the eye of a coach, and sometimes their actions don’t have to be softball related.
“Of course, we’re looking for talent but we’re also looking at character,” said Williams. “Things like picking up trash in the dugout, being enthusiastic during warmups and how you treat your parents are all factors that us coaches take into account.
“It’s tournaments like the Ronald McDonald that give us the ability to get looks at the players we like and find ones we’ve never seen. It makes the recruiting part of our job a lot easier.”
Heavy rain may have dominated portions of Friday night at the Scrap Yard Sports Complex but the facility just north of downtown Houston was dripping with talent as Triple Crown kicked off its annual Ronald McDonald tournament with a bang.
Four different camps and clinics highlighted the afternoon, featuring some of the best players of the 240-plus teams who are all trying to take advantage of autumn's biggest recruiting window. Putting a cherry on top of an already Texas-sized sundae, fans also got an early look at LSU and Baylor as the two power-five powerhouses dueled deep into the night.
Friday's camps and clinics all spotlighted talent and allowed college coaches and potential superstars to work shoulder to shoulder. Former LSU All-American Brittany Mack was in attendance for her clinic, Concordia University-Texas ran one of its own, and so to did Blinn College as a host of coaches banded together to give unsigned seniors special instruction.
“I think all of us here want to play at the next level,” said Bailey Barrile, who attended the Blinn College camp. “For me, I think that my relationship with my coach is going to be the most important part in finding the right fit for a potential college. These types of camps let me see what coaches are like during a practice-like type of setting.”
Barrile, who hopes to join her brother down the road in College Station at Texas A&M, is already keen to the multitude of possibilities that a junior college can provide. However, not all youngsters nor their parents fully understand what colleges like Blinn have to offer.
“Parents and kids tend to disregard [junior colleges] because we’re not a four-year institution,” said Blinn’s head coach Rick Church. “Two years ago, Triple Crown and Jonathan [Lampl] allowed us to come in and work with these girls. It also gave us a chance to educate everyone that junior colleges have scholarships, we have great education and we can be a direct path to some of the top softball schools in the nation.”
On the opposite corner of the complex while current LSU players were busy giving a brief glimpse into was its 2019 season might hold, Brittany Mack was more concerned with sharing her wisdom with the next generation of softball greats.
“I love to teach and I love being a mentor to anyone,” said Mack, the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NPF draft. “I also want to make sure girls are doing things right and learning the right fundamentals.”
True to her word, slated to wrap up at 8 p.m. locally, Mack stayed at the complex for almost an hour extra, working overtime to make sure each one of her pitchers left with a sense of progress. With games on deck all weekend and a lengthy list of college coaches on hand to recruit, Mack knows more than most just how important the finer details can be over the next couple of days.
“Ever since I was a little kid, [the Ronald McDonald] has been one of the biggest college recruiting events of the fall,” Mack explained. “There’s a ton of games and a lot of fields with colleges representing every division here to watch.
“As important it is for these girls to demonstrate their skill, it’s equally important to show off who they are as a person. If I left them with anything tonight, I hope that they know they cannot be perfect, ever. No coach would expect them to be.”
Pressure to perform on a high level will heighten on Saturday and Sunday but Friday night’s positive effects can already be seen and heard from those who took the chance to participate.
“The coaches made us feel so comfortable,” said Jacelyn Lees. “I want to play softball in college and I can’t think of a better way to interact one-on-one with these coaches before I get there.”
“If you’re coming to the TC Ronald McDonald, you can’t miss this,” said Kaylee Anzalone. “The coaches take time to tell you what you’re doing wrong or what you’re doing right and how to become even better.”
For over 25 years, the softball community has looked forward to the Ronald McDonald tournament in Houston, Texas as an opportunity to get college coach exposure and give back to charity. This is one of Triple Crown’s finest fall events, long ago becoming a mandatory stop for college coaches from all levels looking to recruit quality athletes.
In addition, this event benefits the Ronald McDonald House (Houston), an organization that helps families with seriously ill children stay close together during difficult times by providing a “home away from home” while their child receives the treatment they need. In 2017, we donated $26,000 and plan to top this amount in 2018. The event assists the charity by donating $100.00 per team, along with 10% of vendor revenue and T-shirt sales.
The 2018 Ronald McDonald format for 14U, 16U and 18U consists of six showcase games played on standout facilities in greater Houston. All showcase games begin on Saturday, October 20th. There will also be practice games offered Friday, where teams will have the option of 1-2 games for $100 each (umpires included). There will also be three Power Pool groups per 16U and 18U at the Scrap Yard. These will be chosen by TCS National Club Rankings.
The following weekend will host the 10u and 12u teams in Woodlands, Texas. The 4-game guarantee begins Saturday, October 27th.
For more details and to register, visit https://www.tcronaldmcdonald.com/. See y’all there!