* 2B Denzel Perez (Scarborough), (left to right) who runs a 6.5, 60-yard dash, 3B-1B Michael Haggan (Etobicoke), who has a bat exit velocity of 90 MPH and INF Taka Ryan (Toronto), who runs a 6.7 60, are set to play for the West Toronto Wildcats 18s.
Midget Elite League looks to take Ontario by Storm
By Matt Betts
It appears elite teams such as the Ontario Terriers, the Ontario Blue Jays and others will have some competition this summer.
Plans have been in the works for a while to bring a new form of elite level baseball to players in the Ontario Baseball Association. The newly formed Midget Elite League will feature 11 teams in an 18U division and seven teams in the 16U division. The league was designed to showcase top level midget aged talent from five of Baseball Ontario’s top leagues.
Midget teams such as Etobicoke, Brampton, East York and West Toronto have been supplying players with year round development much like the Premier Baseball League of Ontario, according to David Quattrociocchi, director of player development and head coach of the West Toronto 18U team.
He also points out that top level instruction is not just available at the PBLO level.
“Some people think that the best coaches are in the PBLO,” Quattrociocchi said. “But there are many, if not more experienced coaches at the OBA level. Coaches such as Denny Berniof ProTeach, Greg O’Halloranfrom Etobicoke, Frank Fascia from Brampton, Mark Ireland from East York as well as myself have been helping athletes achieve their goals at the next level.”
The league, which was initially brainstormed in part by Baseball Ontario’s director Tony Jasinki, consists of five different minor associations. The Toronto Baseball Association, York Simcoe, Central Ontario, Niagara Falls and Hamilton contain the teams from which the league will draw.
The MEL is also supposed to be a more cost effective way for players across Ontario to gain valuable exposure to college and professional scouts. The cost to play with a team in the league varies anywhere from $2,000 up to $5,000 depending on the organization.
“We want to show that you do not have to play in the PBLO where the cost can be expensive,” Quattrociocchi said. “So we have provided an alternative choice.”
It is difficult to yet compare the MEL to the PBLO. Dan Thompson, director of baseball operations for the Ontario Terriers program is cautiously optimistic about the new league. He points out that it is not as easy as starting a league and having players go to the next level.
“Although the development of the student-athlete is ultimately on the student athlete with respect to how hard he works and trains, the relationship that has been built over the past 20 years really helps getting players in the door with respect to college placements,” Thompson said in regards to the effort it took for the Terriers to gain the trust of college coaches and professional scouts. “It will take years before a new team, league and coaches can build those types of relationships and open the door for players.”
It will take time to build the consistency and relationships to get players to the next level seems to be the point Thompson is trying to make.
That raises the question, yes, the OBA has some tremendous coaches dedicated to helping players get to the next level, but is there enough to foster 11 teams in the 18U league?
Quattrociocchi has already built something into this year’s schedule to provide teams and players their opportunity to be noticed. A showcase tournament is already being planned and will be put on by Etobicoke Brampton, Mississauga North and Oakville from July 3-5.
Fascia, head coach of the Brampton Royals 18U team and VP of Rep in Brampton Minor says he hopes to ease the minds of those who feel there may not be enough quality coaching spread amongst the 18 teams in the two divisions of the MEL.
“To further player development, the MEL allows for free player movement amongst teams that participate in the league,” Fascia said. “This forces teams, who wish to attract players, to improve their coaching staffs. As a result, players benefit by working with experienced, up-to-date (coaching credentials) coaching staffs.”
It will be interesting to see how this league fairs among established elite programs and the number of players who progress to the next level. Fascia admits that mistakes will be made by those running the league, but says the key is to learn from the mistakes in the first year and work to correct them.
“Like any new venture, we expect to make mistakes in the first year from which we will learn and improve,” Fascia said.
The 16U league will play a 24 game regular season while the 18U league will play a 30 game regular season slate. The regular season will be designed so each MEL team will plays its games within its own league. It is supposed to maximize competitiveness. This should be a good thing. It will allow for competitive baseball every week according to Fascia
Look for Midget Elite League baseball coming this spring.