For the next several weeks, 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 Anthony DeMaria, director and visionary with the Fresno A’s. DeMaria, an attorney, is a native of Lexington, KY, who came to the West Coast initially as a swimmer for UC Davis, where he was a four-time all-conference performer from 1987-91.
Q: There’s not much baseball in your early sporting DNA – what flipped the switch?
A: My baseball story starts in my early 20’s; I only played Little League, never beyond that. When my first son was very young, I got hooked on baseball here in Fresno. We started working a lot with a guy who had played in the majors (Shad Williams). We did a lot of things in conjunction with the Fresno Grizzlies, our Triple A team that I’m now on the advisory board. I coached Cal Ripken baseball, Babe Ruth baseball, and that led to the Fresno A’s.
I’ve found that there is a connection between sports where the key is mechanics and fundamentals … it’s a kinetic chain. The strongest guy with a poor swimming stroke will not go very fast, and the strongest guy with a bad swing won’t be a very good hitter. It’s all tied together. We focus so much on the mechanics, from Day 1, which I’ve done since I started in it around 1999, 2000. That’s been our trademark.
Q: How did the Fresno A’s begin?
A: We started it through the Cal Ripken league. We still have an affiliation with them. We noticed the baseball world was changing, and we noticed the opportunities for players were not so great if they only did league baseball. It was also a limited time for the season. We started elite fall ball, then we decided to provide better opportunities for the better players, so they could get as chance to play college baseball.
We started the Fresno A’s, which originally started as Bullard (CA) Cal Ripken baseball. They’d do both, play their league baseball and then play with the A’s. As time went on, about 10 years ago, we took the Fresno A’s aside and said we’d make teams for every age group and play on a national level, with a focus on recruiting and getting players ready for college. About five years ago, we took the next step and created a summer college team, which brings kids from all around, even Taiwan, in June and July to play that schedule.
Q: What are your driving concerns and philosophies?
A: The key for us, the core fundamental, is to get kids into college baseball. We made the shift from wanting to win tournaments and get trophies … to where, we don’t even care if they’re keeping score or if they have a Bownet with a radar gun and go five batters each inning. For our high school ages, we want to develop them so when they get into high school, they go to events where they are scouted, with colleges present, or where they are gathering information and the players get promoted through that. Nobody else around here is like this. If kids want to play in college and need to be seen, they’ll come to ask and play for us.
It’s very time consuming. You have to prove yourself, the kids have to, and we have to be in a position to be seen. The difference between a good player getting a scholarship and a great player that never goes past high school, is the opportunities to be seen and be scouted. It’s not enough to sit in Fresno and pump out emails saying I have really good players, and look at this video. You have to take these kids and not only develop them, train them, give them the tools they need to compete, but next – we’ve got to put them where they’ll be seen and scouted. If we are there, and perform well, that helps the kids this year and the ones coming next year.
So, we are going to Pathway Albuquerque next summer … before we go to a tournament, we get the information from all the colleges you say will be there and we reach out to every single one. We’ll give them not just the rosters of our teams, but the player informational pages, links to videos, shoot it out in advance. When the schedule comes out, we sent them that, and we ask, what positions are you looking for? These guys will be there … and then you have to show up and perform.
Q: How has Pathway provided value and usefulness for your players and parents?
A: I think Pathway is one of the best. We got to Pathway through Triple Crown; we try to get all our younger teams to go to the youth Triple Crown events as they are coming up. Triple Crown has some of the best events you’ll play in where you develop a love for the game, especially (the World Series) in Steamboat Springs. I think the Fresno A’s have been to that nine or 10 times. We went to Richmond for the USBC several times; there were so many coaches present, there was the workout day with a lot of one-on-one connection to the coaches. If they like something, they’d come see the kids later. That’s something we don’t always see out here in the West, is the college coaches present in a tournament setting.
We got that at Richmond, in Albuquerque, and in Arizona when we went there for Pathway the first time – we will be back again this fall. Gino (Grasso) has great connections … we said something like, we’ve got this kid who’s going to pitch this game, and we think he’d be a good fit for these schools … he goes to the schools and tells them. That’s been great. Pathway Baseball is a great connection for kids and programs like ours, because they connect you to the colleges. The colleges will see what we do. We’ve definitely used Pathway results to help get kids college offers.