Skullcandy Crushers prep for Triple Crown
Last year, the Park City-based Skullcandy Crushers baseball squad entered teams in the Triple Crown 10U and 12U World Series tournaments in Park City.
This year, there will be four Crusher squads taking the Triple Crown fields — a 10U and a 12U squad in Park City and an 11U and a 13U team in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
The Crushers held open tryouts for players interested in competing in the Triple Crown tournaments and had a great turnout, according to Skullcandy Crusher Baseball’s Director of Operations Brent Milner. The roster spots for the four teams were chosen based on a series of skill assessments done at The Turf in Kimball Junction.
"We had 180 kids come in and we did an objective tryout for every single kid who came in," he said. "No single coach saw more than 10 percent of the kids try out. All the kids were selected based on 12 different criteria that were assessed based on their performance in an indoor environment at The Turf."
Fielding footwork and pitch selection were the only two criteria judged subjectively, Milner said. The other categories — including shuttle-run time, hard-hit average, pitching velocity, exit velocity off the bat and the results of a quality-hit game, among others — were objectively measured.
Players from across the state were selected for the Skullcandy squad, which Milner said was by design.
"Essentially, Skullcandy made a conscious decision to sponsor Triple Crown nationally," he said. "Because there are no Triple Crown tournaments to qualify into the World Series, we decided this year to promote the Skullcandy All-Utah team throughout the state. We actually had three different states represented in the tryouts — Wyoming, Idaho and Utah, all the way down to St. George."
Though tryouts were open to everyone, Milner said many of the local Skullcandy Crushers had great performances.
"There are eight local players participating on the Triple Crown teams," he said. "There were 10 who actually made the teams, but then two couldn’t participate because of an injury and conflicts."
With a mix of local and region-wide talent, Milner said he’s excited to see how the teams come together on the field.
"It will be an interesting experiment, because the [selection] bias was clearly toward offensive production," he said. "We went deep with pitching depth, but pitching prowess and acumen weren’t necessarily evaluated in the tryouts. The key will be getting the teams to jell together and trying to bring a team of All-Stars together to see if they can play as a team."
Robin Jennings, a former Major League Baseball player and current Skullcandy coach, said the major challenge for the four Crusher squads will be figuring out how each individual player fits in to the team dynamic. With a team full of players who are used to being one of the best talents on their respective teams, Jennings said playing new roles will be crucial.
"The biggest adjustment for the kids will be understanding and knowing that there is a specific role that every player plays on the team, whether or not you’re in the starting nine or whether or not you’re a guy who comes in to pitch or comes in to pinch run or pinch hit," he said. "They need to understand that real rosters in baseball are 25-man rosters, or 23-man rosters in the minors, and everyone has a job to do."
With only a week to prepare, Jennings said the practices will focus on getting back into the groove of baseball after having a couple weeks off following the end of spring seasons.
"It’s not so much about each individual team having a practice as it is about just getting some baseball work in prior to the tournament," he said. "Then we’ll go out there and strap it on for the games."
Having experienced what Triple Crown is all about last year, Milner and Jennings are anxious to see how the Skullcandy squads fare this year.
"The biggest eye opener last year was we had tremendous respect for the quality of play at this level," Milner said. "We saw and competed against some absolutely extraordinary 10U and 12U teams. We’ll be a little bit better prepared for that level of competition this year. It should be a very cool and fun process and hopefully we’ll represent Utah well."
"I think it’s a great experience for these teams and players to come and see a little bit more elite competition," Jennings added. "It’s an opportunity for the kids to see, out of their own region, what kind of talent there is out there in their age groups. Hopefully they enjoy the competition."
The 10U and 12U Skullcandy squads will play July 20-25 in Park City. The 11U and 13U teams will play July 28-Aug. 2 in Steamboat Springs. For more information on the Skullcandy Crushers baseball program, visit http://www.skullcandycrushers.com .
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