This is the latest installment of our spotlight on some top-caliber and high-character club baseball organizations that have helped Pathway Baseball establish a foothold in tournament offerings at 15u-18u.
Next up, we have Chris Taylor, co-owner and operations/marketing director at Elite Athletic Baseball in Denver. A Colorado native, Taylor played junior college baseball in Kansas, sharpening his skills with 100-plus games, and vaulted to the high ground of D-I, playing at Tulane and UT Arlington. While the opportunity to play professionally never took root, Taylor had always been serious about school and decided to shelve baseball, getting his MBA at Seattle University and then getting into corporate marketing.
Brother-in-law Danny Vais started Elite Athletic; its growth compelled Vais to ask for some support on the off-field chores, and Taylor jumped into the venture, first as a part-time solution and then full-time in 2017.
Q: Was moving into the business of academy baseball and leaving your other position a difficult decision?
A: There were a lot of personal factors that told me it was the right time. I disliked business travel, and I was at a point in my career where that would have happened if I moved up, and I didn’t want to do that with my boys growing up. I had to invest myself back into my development as a coach; just because you were a good player doesn’t mean you can coach. The game had changed a lot, and if you’re teaching the things you learned when you were 12, you are probably behind the times. I got very immersed in it again with my own kids (now ages 9 and 6). That’s what pulled me fully into it, but most of what I do is outside the coaching realm.
Q: What’s the history of Elite?
A: We’re coming up on our five-year anniversary. We started out as a training-only facility, born out of what Danny was doing in elite high-school training, but without a facility. He had a group of high school guys, and he felt there was such a game-after-game-after-game mentality with high school players, they were lacking fundamental strength and the skill work we felt was under-developed. There are high-school tryouts coming up, and we will see high school guys who have worse footwork than my 9-year-olds. They’ve never been taught. Danny took the idea, got the facility, and that was the core. We have 14 teams, 10 on the youth side and four on the high school side.
Q: What compelled Elite to start fielding competitive teams?
A: We got into teams because we saw the training was great, but clubs were getting so dominant that we had to have that. My oldest nephew’s team went out at age 8 and had success, and then we had other teams want to come and be part of the organization. We went from two teams to nine. Teams are a lot to manage, with a lot of admin work, and if we were going to grow, we had to focus on it so it would grow the right way – that’s my role, and we try to not burden our coaches with a lot of that.
Q: What’s the guiding philosophy of Elite Athletic?
A: We were a training-first facility when we started, so it’s the focus on player development. For our high school guys, once the season ends, it’s not a thing like playing a doubleheader on Tuesday and tournaments Thursday through Sunday. We have a Monday-Thursday workout program, doing lifting and skills work, trying to develop the things that can get lost. If you only play games, you’ll see your skill development plateau.
Q: What’s been your experience playing Pathway Baseball events?
A: I’ve been pleased – (director) Gino (Grasso) does a great job communicating with us as an organization and as coaches. We’ve done the Albuquerque events for two years, and the nice thing about that event is … at a high school tournament in Denver, it’s spread out on a million fields all over town, and that makes it challenging for anyone to watch anybody play. The Albuquerque event allowed Gino to get a lot of these (college) coaches in one place. To bring in the right-sized school for a lot of these (potential recruits) … players can flash, be seen, while a coach can watch five fields at the same time and see 30 (high school) teams without driving all over the place. We got the chance to play different teams, different states. We’ve had some guys get seen and start conversations with coaches, and it’s been beneficial that way, too.
Pathway Baseball will move into its third year in 2020 and has put in place a key partnership, as SkillShow will be the exclusive video recruiting provider for all Pathway events.
Look for SkillShow to handle the important work of getting player performance on video, while working closely with Pathway Baseball to make sure the product is delivered with maximum impact to the programs that best fit those athletes.
“We are excited to have such a great partner to provide high quality recruiting videos for the players in our events,” said Pathway Baseball director Gino Grasso. “The growth of Pathway has been very strategic from the standpoint of teams, locations, colleges and partners. Skillshow gives us another element that adds huge value to Pathway Baseball and the organizations that attend. We look forward to partnering in 2020 and continuing the process of helping athletes get to the next level.”
Since 2001, SkillShow has filmed tens of thousands of athletes for the primary focus of providing these players a professional recruiting video. Video is a great tool to showcase a player’s athleticism, mechanics, body type and projectibility for coaches and scouts. It allows players an economical and professional tool to showcase their talents to the next-level schools of their choice.
A SkillShow video has become the standard recruiting video in the baseball world and has been featured on among others ESPN, MLB Network, Baseball America, NCSA and Perfect Game. SkillShow videos have been used by virtually all collegiate baseball programs in their recruiting process and by many MLB teams prior to the annual MLB Draft.
“As a company, SkillShow has been extremely selective with whom we have partnered with over the last 20 years. We are a family founded company and believe strongly in treating our clients with honesty and quality services,” said SkillShow CEO and founder, Tom Koerick, Sr. “We are delighted to form this partnership with Pathway Baseball (a division of Triple Crown Sports), as we know their mission and credibility is of the highest level. Together we feel that we can offer valuable tools for the ballplayer seeking to reach for and achieve their future goals."
In 2019, SkillShow has filmed over 18,000 baseball players from every state in the union as well as players from Australia, South America, Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico making SkillShow the undisputed largest and most respected producer of baseball recruiting videos.
Here’s the 2020 schedule for Pathway Baseball events (more details at www.pathwaybaseball.com):
Pathway Games Albuquerque (June 15-23)
Pathway USBC, Richmond, VA (July 15-26)
Northern Colorado Fall Classic (Aug. 21-23)
Pathway Fall Games Arizona, Peoria (Sept. 18-21)