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.
First up, we have Dom Jefferies from the Salt Lake City Gulls, who founded the Gulls program in 2010 as a way to sustain player growth for athletes coming home from college.
Q: How did things look when you started, and what’s the program look like today?
A: “I’d been coaching high school baseball and was asked to coach a summer college team. A lot of those kids wanted to do other things, like go to Lake Powell with their girlfriends; me and (fellow coach) Dean Vernon said, ‘why aren’t we doing this for high school kids? Let’s put an above-average team together for that age.’ Next winter, we started a workout program that we still run, and it had 12 kids in the program. We said, ‘that’s enough to play a game, let’s do it.’ At tryouts that summer, we had 31 kids, and we said let’s keep everyone and create two teams. We played three or four tournaments, some kids got noticed, a couple went on to college.
Today, we’re much larger, running 4-6 high school teams, and the winter workout has grown exponentially. We should have more 300 kids between our two locations next time. We’ll get to some winter tourneys in Las Vegas and Arizona, get them on the dirt before the high school season. Like I mentioned, we have two strong indoor facilities and now about 10-12 full-time staff. Todd Keen (who joined in Year 3) and Greg Patterson (Year 4) are key components in keeping this together.
Q: Are you looking to replicate how 15u-18u baseball looked in your playing days, or are you trying something different?
A: Growing up, we didn’t have options to do this sort of thing. You played baseball three months, ran around in the summer, picked up football helmets for three months, basketball for three months, then started it all over. Baseball is pretty intense, and more athletes were saying they may play just two sports, and they want more work. That didn’t exist before, where you’d go play in front of 20 college coaches and get a workout. You had to do the legwork yourself, and that’s always difficult.
The group of above average players that might not get a look, we identified. We said let’s get the ones who could play at college or competitive summer ball and help them get the opportunity. We didn’t have it growing up. I thought we could do it the right way, offer kids an opportunity for kids to get more exposure and live their dream of playing college baseball, and more importantly, getting a college education.
Q: What’s the primary philosophy for the Gulls?
A: Family, education and discipline. Period. Baseball is a by-product of that. What we have is a lot of kids who can go onto college, get an education, maybe get some paid for, and further their life to become a functioning member of society. We use baseball as a tool. If someone stumbles into professional baseball, awesome. The reality is, that’s not what I’m preaching. Being a productive citizen, that’s the main goal.
Q: What are your thoughts on the strengths of Pathway events?
A: Gino (program director Gino Grasso) is organized, very transparent, and you know what you’re going to get. We travel all our guys together, we fly and (get) hotels together, and you can imagine that if you have 90 guys on the road with 12 coaches, it needs to be well organized. Gino has made it simple; we know when we’re playing, we know the fields well in advance, and that allows us to put together a solid plan for those 90 guys. In addition, he’s done a great job on social media and how he presents the Pathway product. We’ve been going to tournaments for 10 years, and I can say this is a quality product. We go to some tournaments and we’ll be on awful fields, or we don’t get the schedule until four days before we get there, or they say they’ll have 20 college coaches there and it’s just one or two. We’re pretty selective, we want the kids in the right environment, and Gino and Triple Crown have been very clear.
The reality is we’ll have a couple D-I players, a lot of JUCO guys, so it’s important for us to go to the right places. To see a bunch of high-end programs, we don’t have those guys. It’s beneficial for us to get in a tournament where we know the D-I guys will get a look, then also our D-II guys and everyone else – we want to fill all those gaps. All levels of guys get exposure, and it’s not even getting a scholarship on that day. You get in front of a coach, shake his hand, introduce yourself, build those social skills for the future.