Not enough emphasis on local baseball

By Travis Brown

STAR Staff

   Baseball in the town of Elizabethton is a story of small victories and not-so-small disappointments.
   We can be encouraged to know that we have some of the finest athletes in the state. Just look to the recent back-to-back state champion Babe Ruth teams from right here in E-town.
   One local baseball man is tired of mediocrity, and hopes to motivate others to put baseball on the map right here in Elizabethton.
   Jeff Reed is a name that anyone associated with our national pastime will find familiar. The former major leaguer is hoping that he, along with a community-wide effort, can raise the standard of play at every level.
   "The kids from surrounding areas aren't any better than our kids," said Reed. "Why aren't our boys and girls getting better scholarships? We need to be competitive, not just field a team."
   This is a point shared by not only this journalist, but many others in the community. With a wealth of good athletes in the area, why is it that our baseball teams are struggling for a place at the table?
   According to Reed the problem starts from the bottom up, and in that department things are looking better.
   "It all starts in Little League," said Reed. "We have good coaches that care about the kids, and we're turning the corner."
   From there on up the entire system needs to re-focus on creating an environment in which fundamentally sound athletes will be fed into our high schools.
   In the middle school ranks, Reed feels that the great deal of progress can be made.
   "We need people who want to coach for the love of the kids, our coaches need both love for the game plus a baseball background. All to often this is not the case," said Reed.
   He went on to add: "I can't believe we are unable to bring individuals from Milligan or ETSU to coach our kids."
   The work that Reed has done, along with some relentless volunteers, has been impressive.
   The recent establishment of a fall instructional league received rave reviews from parents and players alike. A newfound attitude toward learning was established in the participants, and youngsters were excited about learning the game.
   That level of interest and competitive spirit has been sorely lacking over the past decade in our local baseball programs.
   Reed first became acquainted with our local programs and their inadequacies three years ago when he attempted to boost local athletics. The attitude he faced was one of contentment.
   Those involved were happy to have a team, but they were not interested in going the extra mile. That attitude is exactly what Reed hopes to overcome.
   Why, one may ask, should we focus on making local baseball so important? The answer is simple...for the kids.
   Local colleges are reluctant to scout our local schools because the talent level does not warrant their attention.
   Some of these youngsters will never go past high school, at least not athletically, and we owe it to them to put together a competitive squad.
   Reed, who won a World Series, summed it up saying, "For some of these youngsters, their senior year is their World Series, and we owe it to them to make it memorable. They deserve a competitive team, not just a team to play for."
   For those that have the ability to take it to the next level, scholarship opportunities and college choices are limited due to our current lack of commitment.
   With high hopes and some strong ideas for improvement, Reed hopes to kick-start a movement toward reform.
   Baseball in our area has only one way to go, and with any luck, and some dedication by our local coaches, we can take our high school programs to the next level.
   The difference between average and excellence is not as wide as it may seem, with a little diligence and some hard work, our area is capable of playing at that next level... and beyond.