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.”