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