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.”