Working in the Midwest, but far from the middle of the road, the Midland Redskins baseball organization has been producing major league talent for decades and shows no signs of stopping.
Midland takes an old-school approach to the roaring industry of youth travel athletics. In a “parking lot team” world where players and coaches first meet in the rows of cars at their playing destinations, the Redskins have never adhered to this modern way of team building. As it has always been done outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, the majority of Midland’s roster arrives in early June, move in with host families and cement themselves as part of the community.
Jeremiah Larbes was part of that tradition, not as a player but as a host to up-and-coming young stars.
“It is a large part of our community,” said Larbes. “We were always part of the Midland Family when we housed kids, and now I can make an even larger impact in my position.”
Larbes began his tenure with Midland as an assistant with the 16u team. As the years progressed and his network grew, Larbes’ road led him to earning a shot as general manager of the historic ball club.
“It was the longest interview in the history of sports,” explained Larbes. “I came on as the coach of the 18u team with the goal of winning the Connie Mack World Series. After claiming the title this summer, six month after applying for the job, I finally got the job I wanted all along.”
Speak the name Midland around any baseball fan, and the response is unanimously positive. With alumnae like Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Larkin, Matt Carpenter, Matt Harvey and Andrew Benintendi, it’s impossible to argue with the success of the program. Larbes’ new task is keeping that proud tradition of excellence moving forward with a new generation of athletes.
“It was always Joe Hayden’s, or Papa Joe as we like to call him, idea that we keep our mission the same,” said Larbes. “It has been and will always continue to be about the instruction, about the teaching and about the camaraderie.
“He would take care of you and he would take care of this organization. The relationships that he built were phenomenal and they are the foundation of what this club is built on. His passion of respecting the game is something that I hope I can continue here at Midland. On the back of our shirts to this day it still reads, ‘Respect the game.’”
With the pressures of maintaining and building upon what others have done before, the load of such an endeavor would seem insurmountable to most. However, the former policeman, fireman, professional bull rider, current business owner and high school football coach certainly has the resume to deal with the ins and outs of running a successful organization.
“I’ve done a lot of things,” said Larbes. “More than that, I’ve been lucky to have done so much. There is no question that my background has prepared me for what I do now and what I want to do the future.”
Larbes’ latest gig as the assistant general manager of the Cincinnati Thunder, a local minor league hockey team in the NA3HL, may not have involved the same demographic as his current post, but many of the same day-to-day duties remain the same.
“Ultimately, a lot of the work is the same,” said Larbes. “While we do a heavy amount of work for younger teams, our end goal is to have a Connie Mack World Series Champion 18u team. All of the prep work and day-to-day activities look like any kind of team trying to win a championship on any level.
“The biggest difference is in the scheduling. Organizing all these teams to play in tournaments and orchestrating teams that come here can be a little tiring at times but all worth it in the end.”
Larbes and Midland already have one piece of their 2018 schedule inked. As a team who doesn’t travel outside of the friendly confines of Ohio very often, Midland, as well as teams like the East Cobb Astros, Ohio Warhawks and Dallas Patriots, will headline the Pathway Games Upperclass Invitational, slated for June 26-29 in Omaha, Nebraska.
“We only travel outside of our place about three times a year,” Larbes said. “For us, it’s about competition. If we were going to get out on the road, there had to be good competition to face.
“Joe (Santilli, Triple Crown Sports baseball director) has done a fantastic job getting a great lineup for us to face. The better competition we face early in the summer, the better our teams become going forward. We’re not there to necessarily win every tournament we play in; we just want our kids to show their best against the best.”
Triple Crown’s Pathway Games extend much further than Omaha in 2018. Events in Virginia, Michigan, Georgia and two in Colorado are certain to exude some of the best talent across the nation. Pathway’s depth of teams coupled with Santilli’s national connections made it an easy choice for schedule makers.
“I’ve worked with Joe for a long time now,” Larbes explained. “I started working field maintenance for his Great Lakes region tournaments. He’s a guy that appreciates hard workers, and that’s me, too. I think that’s why we’ve developed this partnership over the years.
“He and Triple Crown have done a great job in developing the baseball division over the years, and I fully expect that to continue going forward.”