The 2016 SPFBL 7th/8th Grade Middle School Baseball tryouts were held on "Presidents Day", Monday February 15th from 9am – 1:30pm at Branchburg Sports Complex, located at 47 Readington Road, Branchburg, NJ (www.branchburgsportscomplex.com). Below is the information that was made available prior to the tryouts regarding the teams, tryouts, selection process, participation expectations and the like.
Please read this entire message all the way through to ensure that you fully understand the program, the required commitment for 2016 and the correct procedure for registering to try out for the program. Once you have read through it, additional questions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
2016 Teams / Programs
We have listened to feedback received over the last 5 years and have worked hard this off-season to continue to improve the SPFBL Middle School Baseball program. In an effort to maximize the robustness of the program and the playing opportunities at this level, SPFBL will put out the following programs/teams:
- There will be 2 SPFBL Middle School teams that will compete against other middle school programs in a competitive 16-20 game schedule that runs April through May. Independent paid managers will be assigned. Practices will start in late February after team selection is completed. Teams will each be made up of a mix of 7th and 8th graders. Spring games and practices will be weekdays, 4-5 days/week, practice/game start times in the 3:30/4pm time range. In the summer, teams will be broken up and reformed by grade. The 13U 7th grade summer team will play in a competitive summer travel league, and the 14U 8th Grade summer team will play in a high school developmental league. Both will compete in the Babe Ruth tournament circuit. Game times will likely move to the more traditional travel schedule of weekdays w/some weekends in the summer.
- There may be additional 13U and 14U spring travel teams created after middle school selections have been completed, the nature and number of teams to be dictated based on # of players in the middle school program. Those teams will compete in spring travel leagues in the area, and then summer travel leagues. Independent paid managers will be assigned. Games will likely be confined to weekends in the spring, with summer schedule (same teams) moving to the more traditional travel schedule of weekdays w/some weekends.
- The SPFBL Senior Division provides spring recreational baseball playing time for grades 7 through 9. The Senior Division program does not conflict with either the middle school or travel programs above. Both middle school and spring travel ballplayers are expected to play in the Senior Division to ensure Babe Ruth eligibility for our SPFBL travel tournament teams. This is consistent with what other area middle school programs are doing, and ensures SPFBL district tournament eligibility. We are pleased to be able to continue to provide the most robust middle school baseball experience to our valued teenage ballplayers!
The following is the preliminary tryout schedule for Monday, February 16th (President’s Day). We will confirm the exact schedule toward the end of January:
- 8th Graders: 9:00am – 11:15am
- 7th Graders: 11:15am – 1:30pm
*Any adjustments made to this schedule at the end of January will only be out of necessity, likely to adjust the timeframes to the actual tryout registration volumes by grade.
Tryout Registration Process
The following is the process to register for the Middle School tryouts. Please note that this process must be followed exactly to ensure proper registration of your ballplayer:
- Online Registration Part 1 – Senior Division Registration & Payment: You must register your ballplayer for the Senior Division and complete payment for the registration. Choose Senior Division" from the registration choices. The Senior Division registration fee for 2016 is $155.00. Please note that playing fees for Middle School and Travel Baseball are additional to the Senior Division fees.
- Online Registration Part 2 – Middle School Tryout Registration: You must also go back in and register your ballplayer for the Middle School tryouts. When the option is available, you will choose "MIDDLE SCHOOL Program Tryout" from the registration choices. There is no additional charge for the Middle School Tryout registration. The additional charges for middle school and travel programs will be broadcast after team selections are made.
- Fill out SPFBL Middle School Program Questionnaire: The questionnaire can be found by clicking here (Middle School Program Questionnaire). Please print it, fill it out and bring it with you to the tryout in Branchburg on 2/15.
- Fill out Branchburg Sports Complex Waiver Form: The waiver form can be found by clicking here (Branchburg Waiver Form). Please print it, fill it out and bring it with you to the tryout in Branchburg on 2/15.
Please ensure that both Online Registration processes above are followed exactly. DO NOT JUST SHOW UP ON THE DAY OF THE TRYOUTS WITHOUT REGISTERING!! This is an insurance issue. Non-registered ballplayers who show up on 2/15 risk being turned away.
Also note that the fees paid in Online Registration Part 1 cover only the Senior division fee. Middle school and travel team fees will be additional and disclosed after team selections are made (see FAQs below for approximate costs).
Things to Bring for Tryout
Please remember to bring the following to the tryout on Monday, 2/15:
- Bring all of your own equipment to the tryout (bat, glove, helmet, batting gloves, etc.). There may not be suitable equipment to use at the facility.
- Catchers should bring their own catchers gear.
- Sneakers only, no cleats.
The required time commitment will vary based on whether a ballplayers makes a middle school or travel team. The following are typical commitment expectations:
- Middle School Teams (2 teams): Upon completion of the selection process, these 2 teams will begin practicing indoors immediately. Ballplayers can expect 3 days/week in late February and all of March. Teams will move outdoors as soon as possible (likely by 4/1 weather permitting). Upon moving outside, practices and games will be on weekdays – target of 4-5 days per week. Teams practice after school, the majority of game times are 4pm. Nothing on weekends. The season runs the full months of April and May. These teams do play during spring break, ballplayers are expected to be present at all games and practices during spring break week. Players missing practices and/or games should expect some bench time on their return to the squad. Summer ball travel typically runs June through July, ending by July 31st.
- Travel Teams – 13U/14U: These teams will begin practicing in March. Spring league games typically run through April and May, and are on usually on Sundays (assumes participation in Union County Spring League). Practices are during the week, usually starting around 4/4:30pm so that ballplayers who have a Senior division game that day can get to their games on time. Summer travel typically runs June through July, ending by July 31st.
- Senior Division: Town league program for grades 7th through 9th. The league runs through April and May, finishing the playoffs in early June. Games are typically on Saturdays at various times, and weekdays at 6pm or 6:30pm. THESE GAMES DO NOT CONFLICT WITH MIDDLE SCHOOL OR TRAVEL TEAM GAMES!! There will be plenty of time for those players to get to their Senior Division games. The division includes players of all levels, including travel and middle school players. Senior division is a requirement for travel tournament eligibility. All travel players must play in at least 60% of their Senior division games to be eligible for SPFBL summer travel baseball.
Middle School, Travel and Senior Division Costs
The costs listed below are approximate, however they should be enough to give you an idea of what to expect for the spring – summer travel teams are additional cost:
- The initial registration cost is the Senior Division registration fee of $155.00.
- A recent audit of our program showed a shortfall that we must adjust for in 2016. Middle School team cost will mostly likely be in the range of $750 - $795. However the $155.00 Senior division fee is credited toward that total amount. In other words, a middle school player will pay $750 - $795 and that will include the middle school team as well as the Senior division team for the spring. Uniforms for middle school are handled by SPFBL, you will be given instructions at the proper time. Middle School baseball is a spring program. Summer travel will be additional cost.
- Additional travel teams cost will be approximately $450 - $550. Once again the $155.00 Senior division fee is credited toward that total amount. In other words, a travel ballplayer will pay $450 - $550 and that will include the spring travel team as well as the Senior division team. Uniforms are additional. Summer travel will be additional cost.
Just calling out again that the above approximate costs are for the spring programs: Middle School, Travel and Senior division. Summer programs will have additional cost that will vary depending on the age group/program.
ALSO- This assumes ballplayer participation in SPFBL programs in 2016. Anyone trying out for these middle school/travel teams who does not elect to stay with SPFBL programs (MS, travel or Senior division) is subject to a $50.00 penalty fee that comes out of the pre-paid Senior division registration fee of $155.00. That fee is necessary because the tryout facilities we procure for this age group are quite costly, and that money is needed to defray that cost. So the maximum refundable amount for those dropping out of SPFBL for 2016 is $105.00 after the non-refundable drop-out fee of $50. Absolutely no refunds will be given once season commences.
Frequently asked questions appear below, some of them have been updated. If you have any further questions, email us at email@example.com.
SPFBL 7TH/8TH GRADE MIDDLE SCHOOL PROGRAM - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
In an attempt to answer some frequent questions concerning the SPFBL 7th/8th Grade Middle School program, we have assembled this list of “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) about the program.
Q: What is the SPFBL 7th/8th Grade Middle School Baseball program?
A: The SPFBL 7th/8th Grade Middle School Baseball program came about when the middle school athletic programs were cut from the school budget. In an attempt to keep the program alive, SPFBL stepped up to start a replacement program. There are two (2) 7th/8th Grade Middle School-age teams run by independent paid managers, and playing in a very competitive league against other middle school baseball programs.
Q: What is the time commitment for the Middle School Baseball program.
A: Middle School Baseball is a serious commitment. Practices for the Middle School teams are normally 4-5 days per week, during the week after school. Once games start, they are also during the week and after school. It should be noted that while playing both Middle School and Senior Division (house league) makes for a lot of baseball, the two commitments do not conflict with each other and many players choose to play both.
Q: Who is eligible for the Middle School Baseball program. Are there tryouts?
A: All 7th & 8th graders in Scotch Plains and Fanwood are eligible. Yes, there are tryouts. They are scheduled for President’s Day, Monday February 15th. More information on the tryout schedule is available at www.spfbaseballleague.org.
Q: How many teams will there be? How will they be chosen?
A: Two (2) teams are planned to compete in the Middle School league. The result of the tryouts will dictate which ballplayers are chosen. The intent is to create two (2) relatively even teams. They will NOT be broken up by middle school, rather the two (2) teams will be chosen as evenly as possible, and both will compete in league play against other middle school programs. IN ADDITION, there will be additional teams formed at the 13U and 14U level. The formation of these teams will be based on the tryout turnout, talent pool level after the middle school teams are selected.
Q: When and where are the tryouts?
A: Tryouts are Monday, February 15th, 2016 from 9am to 1:30pm at the Branchburg Sports Complex – exact time for your ballplayer is listed above, the tryouts are organized by grade. Figure on needing to be there 15 minutes early, and stay for the full tryout block for your grade. Directions to the Branchburg facility are available on the Branchburg Sports Complex website (click here).
Q: Do I have to register online for the Senior Division to tryout? Or can my ballplayer just show up?
A: You can’t just show up!! You must register and pay for the SENIOR DIVISION, plus register for the SPFBL 7th/8th Grade Middle School tryout to be eligible to tryout.
Q: So I register for the Senior Division for $155. My ballplayer tries out for the SPFBL Middle School program and makes a team. How much more money do I owe to play?
A: The cost of the Middle School program will be approximately $750 - $795, with uniforms handled separately. The Middle School cost includes participation in the Senior division as well. If your ballplayer makes a travel team, the cost will be approximately $450 - $550 plus uniform, and that would likewise include Senior division.
Q: If my ballplayer makes the SPFBL Middle School or travel team, do I have to play Senior Division house league also? What about any spring 13U/14U programs that might be made available?
A: SPFBL requires participation in the Senior division so that middle school age travel teams are Babe Ruth tournament eligible. This is a Babe Ruth requirement, similar to how the majority of surrounding towns handle their middle school baseball programs, and done in conjunction with the SPFHS baseball program. Note that there should not be any conflicts between the middle school program, travel programs and the Senior division.
Q: What if my ballplayer doesn’t make the middle school baseball program?
A: Please keep in mind – The SPFBL 7th/8th Grade Middle School program is an elite, competitive program for which a relative few are chosen. However to the question:
1. First teams chosen will be the two (2) combined 7th/8th grade middle school teams.
2. Next teams chose will be additional 13U and 14U travel teams.
3. Regardless of whether you make either of those teams, you will be registered for the Senior Division. So there will be baseball in the spring for you no matter what!
NOTE: The Middle School program involves a competitive tryout situation, and is designed to end up with the top area ballplayers on the teams. It’s not for everyone, and there will be cuts… and therefore some unavoidable disappointment for many. However we will have additional travel teams formed, and we encourage all ballplayers to give it a shot, do your best and if it doesn’t work out, there is still spring baseball for you with SPFBL!
Q: Tell me more about the Senior division.
A: The house league is a tremendous tradition that the SPFBL community has always been valued greatly. While we all would rejoice if our ballplayer is lucky enough to reach the professional ranks, the reality is that most don't. And in the end, playing ball with your friends is the thing that they will remember most about their baseball playing days. It's the most common answer when kids are asked what they enjoy most - playing with their friends. The Senior Division is coming off it's most successful year in a very long time.
We expect the Senior division to be a great combination of competition and recreational play. Last year was exactly that, with middle school and travel players spread out throughout the league. It made it competitive, but fun. The players get to play with and against their friends in town, there are healthy little rivalries that manifest themselves in school, bragging rights and friendly rousing... and it's just plain fun, and exciting, culminating with playoffs and those invaluable school bragging rights!!
For middle school players, they also get to play alternate positions in the Senior division - for example say your 7th/8th Grade Middle School ballplayer is primarily in the outfield and he wants to play some infield... or pitch, or catch. Well house league is the perfect opportunity to get some work at pitching (for example), even if they aren't pitching much for their SPFBL 7th/8th Grade Middle School team. Likewise a ballplayer could be a steady pitcher, but perhaps is wanting to play other positions as well and they aren't getting as much time as they'd like in those positions (or maybe any). Another example where they can get that playing time at those positions in the Senior division.
The bottom line: They get more at-bats, more swings, more opportunities to build their skills. Last year it got rave reviews! Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that MORE is good, and variety keeps it fun. And the games for Middle School, Travel and Senior Division do not conflict! So it works out well!!
Q: Who will the Middle School and Travel Managers be, and how will the player selections be made?
A: The 2016 SPFBL 7th/8th Grade Middle School Baseball Managers will be announced shortly. We always assign highly qualified area baseball coaches to these jobs. In the past, we have had SPFBL paid managers get positions with SPFHS or other high school program at the varsity level. Most have college level experience, some college coaching experience. Upon assignment, manager bios will be made available. As far as the player selection process, SPFBL has as its top priority to ensure that the tryout and selection process is as fair and independent as possible. The tryout evaluators will be a combination of knowledgeable independent evaluators, and professional evaluators from various area baseball institutions - with high school, college and professional baseball playing and/or coaching experience on their resumes. The middle school program selection committee will be responsible for tallying tryout scores, factoring in previous coach feedback where applicable, and determining the team rosters. All of this will take place under the guidance of the Travel Director, the President and the Board of Directors. The intent here is to "get it right". While no process is perfect and there is sure to be disappointment for those who aren't selected, we are committed to doing the very best we can in as fair and transparent a fashion as possible.
Q: What if my ballplayer also plays on an elite-level AAU team also?
A: SPFBL does not prevent players from playing for outside AAU program. However it should be clear that the SPFBL Middle School Baseball programs come 1st. Most if not all club teams acknowledge that to be the case in the spring. We do expect all ballplayers to disclose what other spring club programs they may involved in. It's not that this necessarily affects making a team or not making a team. But good communication is the key to avoiding misunderstanding and perhaps an unfortunate and premature ending to the season for a club ballplayer. The Managers need to understand these cases that so they can plan, managing pitcher safety, and ensure that all chosen players are committed to SPFBL Middle School Baseball 1st during in the spring. The expectation is that as a rule, selected ballplayers will attend all middle school and travel games and practices. Pitchers need to communicate with their managers to ensure they are ready to pitch when/if scheduled. This must be worked out to the Manager's and Player's satisfaction. While we understand that some ballplayers may also play outside SPFBL in the spring, we feel that the SPFBL Middle School program is an elite program that is for ballplayers willing to dedicate themselves to the program for the spring as their #1. This has not been a major problem in past years, but it is mentioned here in detail in the interest of full disclosure. Finally, this year a minimum of 60% participation in Senior division games is required for middle school or travel team eligibility, per Babe Ruth guidelines, as summer teams will be participating in Babe Ruth sanctioned tournaments.
Q: Does SPFBL really have the right to know what other coincident baseball teams/leagues my ballplayer is involved in?
A: Obviously parents have the right to take any position they desire on the subject. However in reality, there are very good reasons why SPFBL's position is that we absolutely do have the right to know. SPFBL Middle School Baseball comes first, that's the requirement. Just about every AAU/club team we are familiar with in the area already understands and respects that in the spring. Their spring seasons respect and work around the middle school and high school programs, understanding that the players' first commitment must be there. They tend to kick in with their full programs in the summer. If your program has a different understanding or requirement, we can assure you that they are in the minority of club program that are usually earmarked for the highly elite pro prospect types of players.
We want to know because we need commitment to the teams, and must require it of all to be fair. We also have to worry about pitching schedules - we do not want any injured arms. The best advice, and what we highly recommend, is to disclose these details up front so we can better understand your other commitments. The worst thing to do would be to not disclose, have it found out later by the coach, and have that result in unexpected repercussions that could have been easily avoided had you been upfront and disclosed these details.
Please forward any additional questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.