For the next couple of months, we’ll be shining a 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 Phil Price, president of baseball operations at 3n2 Evolution Baseball, based in his native Worcester, MA region. Price, 39, helped the Worcester Heat program become a leading presence for travel baseball in his 15-year run there (2002-17), an impressive journey from his start as a middle-school coach.
After the Heat changed names and affiliations, he decided it was time to hang his own shingle and start 3n2 Evolution. There’s a full-on baseball field 20 yards from the door of the Evolution indoor facility, and Price runs that facility solely for kids in his program, with no outside lessons or rentals.
Character development is emphasized with as much emphasis as baseball, and players must learn the core values creed (Determination, Accountability, Community, Integrity and Desire) before they get to wear the Evolution decal on their helmet.
Q: Any time you leave the familiar to try something new, it’s stressful. How did it feel starting a new baseball club?
A: It was scary. I was established in the local industry, had a lot of relationships with coaches, families, players and venues. I was hoping for 6-8 teams that first year. As soon as I left my old program, there was some bad blood, as you can imagine in that industry, especially being so involved there. One of the things I made a vow to myself, I wouldn’t (poach) players. I kept it very quiet, what I was doing; I wanted to break away, and I wasn’t looking to pull kids, I wanted to do it with my own effort.
There’s a lot of animosity between travel baseball programs and town or Little League programs. I wanted to bridge that gap. As a kid, (my family) wouldn’t have been able to afford a (travel) program. So my vision for Evolution was to go out and be a part of the community, rather than be an enemy of the community. In building Evolution, I had two guys come with me (Frank Cooney, VP Baseball Operations) and Anthony Perry (Director of Marketing) and we made calls to local Little Leagues who were forming their All-Star teams and volunteered to go there and help coach, help train the coaches, and put ourselves out there. It was way to promote ourselves, but more importantly, provide instruction and development to kids who were looking for it. That’s kind of how we created a buzz. We announced our tryouts shortly after, and we had 300 kids come out, which was pretty insane. We ended up with 14 teams and a complete program from 9u through 17u. It was a special year.
Q: With that fresh start, you had the chance to put your own stamp on how a club would execute its mission. What were your priorities?
A: Being in the industry so long … there were maybe 12-15 teams when I started, now there are like 70 teams. One of the benefits from being in it at Day 1, I saw a lot of teams begin and a lot end, a lot of pros and a lot of cons. There’s a dark side to this industry, where if someone had a checkbook, they could play travel baseball. When I started, to play on those teams, you had to be elite, and there was a sense of pride. Now there are a lot of watered-down programs, not all of them. But around here, it became something where your son gets cut, you just go start a program for your son and his friends. Get a couple of dads to come in and coach, and you have an organization, right? That’s what it became, and I didn’t want Evolution to be that.
I wanted to change the landscape of what travel baseball in the Northeast had become. Make it where it meant something to be on these teams.
Q: What motivates you and your staff, day in and day out?
A: There is a responsibility for development. At 9u and 10u, we don’t cut. No one is that good at that age, they can barely catch and throw, and it’s our responsibility to develop that. At 11 and 12, they’ve had some time, and they’re (making progress) or not, and we think about cuts. At 13 and 14, it’s the high school prep program, and the last phase is college prep … one of the things we do is help families find the right fit. The change I was trying to implement was to have a program that was complete from 9u to 18u, where you show the evolution of a player. By the end, they are a sound baseball player who follows certain concepts and fundamentals that prepares them for the next step.
We have GMs at each level; Frank Cooney (College Prep), Chris Gouveia (9’s and 10’s), Advanced Development is Anthony Perry (11-12), then Aaron Kaska (13-14, HS development). Those four guys hold it together. They run the program, implementing my concepts. It’s structured, which we find it to be special and unique.
Q: How has Pathway Baseball provided value for your teams and families?
A: (Director) Gino (Grasso) has been awesome. Our first year, summer 2017, we came to Richmond and got our first taste of it. The organization is really good, and you had the sense Gino knew all the teams and all the coaches. We wanted to make sure it was part of our schedules every year moving forward. The communication is great, social media is solid. Gino has highlighted players who committed (for college), both at your event and at other events.
That type of personal touch is really important and part of the service that will separate Pathway from other organizations. The extra steps in service level … Gino is very involved. Hopefully you keep growing and we grow along with you guys.