Successful NAGAAA Summer Meetings Kick Off Series Week In Dallas
What a weekend here in Dallas! The NAGAAA Summer Meetings got started at 8 am on Saturday morning and after a spirited Sunday morning session the meetings adjourned just before Noon central time today, September 21st. As you can imagine coming into this tight-knit group of softball veterans it was a little intimidating for a newcomer like myself, but any apprehension I had been feeling quickly dissolved within a few minutes of walking into the meeting space at the Hilton Anatole.
These meetings were the first ever to allow official media to be present to document its happenings. I am grateful to NAGAAA Assistant Commissioner James Williamson and to NAGAAA Member at Large Paula (P.C.) Cline for being so open to the idea of having media present and for their hospitality before and during the meetings.
The amount of openness, transparency and overall professionalism I saw this weekend was impressive. The welcoming attitude of the NAGAAA Executive Board, many of the delegates and interested onlookers was heartwarming. It truly felt like a “family” atmosphere and while there were disagreements and different points of view there was always a sense of commitment to rules and regulations throughout the process.
After attending the meetings I would say to the national membership that you have people on the national, regional and local level that have the player experience as their main priority in everything that they do. Nearly everything talked about in the meetings pertained to how we can make the product better overall and work better for the people who use it. That was important for me personally as I not only write about and cover NAGAAA sanctioned events and leagues, but I am a proud league member, player and World Series participant. At no point in the meetings did I ever feel like there were individuals trying to take over, talk over people or dismiss others points of view. Everyone was validated and given a chance to speak their mind if they so desired.
The major highlights of the meetings included the C Division ratings threshold for team and player ratings were adjusted so that the new team rating cap in the C Division is 135 and the new C player rating cap is 14. These changes will go into effect just like the lower threshold changes made at the Winter Meetings will, in 2015. It is the belief of this writer that the delegation got this one right if for nothing else from a safety standpoint. In my opinion, a player rated 11 has no business on the field in a like division game playing against or with a player rated 15. This is an example of a decision that actually benefits the player experience. By adjusting the upper threshold in the C Division it will continue to grow the B Division, which is a priority of NAGAAA, along with keeping a smaller gap between the lowest rated and highest rated players in a division.
Why is having a smaller ratings gap in a division important? It’s important because it helps coaches and managers rate players more accurately and it improves the safety of the athletes by keeping players that are more alike in skill playing with one another. We understand that in some leagues C Division teams will play D Division teams for scheduling purposes and that is that individual leagues responsibility to make sure they aren’t endangering their players by having those games on the schedule. Another reason why it is important to keep the ratings gap per division lower is that it keeps the number of protests down. While protests can be a money-maker for an organization, pervasive protesting is ultimately counterproductive to the overall goal and mission of the national body, which is to create the best player experience possible.
Another highlight of the meetings which is sure to create some buzz and controversy is the adoption of the Pick A Stick policy starting with the 2015 NAGAAA Cup and the 2015 GSWS. The Pick A Stick program policy was used at the 2014 NAGAAA Cup in Phoenix, Arizona earlier this year and was a resounding success. So, some of you might be reading this saying what the hell is a Pick A Stick? Not to worry, you’re not dumb…it will most likely be a new concept for the majority of the national membership. The easiest way to explain it goes like this…Pick A Stick is what will replace bat testing at major tournaments moving forward. At the 2014 NAGAAA CUP there were 6 bats provided at different styles and weights to all teams. The bats at this particular tournament were DeMarini bats, but NAGAAA is looking into using multiple bat manufacturers as the policy ramps up for 2015. Each team essentially uses the same bats. These bats are tested during the tournament and at night after games are over to make sure that the bats are still legally playable with all of the overuse they will get from the teams. This policy will create a greater sense of fair play and can help with safety concerns brought on by “loaded” or illegal bats. Obviously, the biggest drawback to this policy is that the $400 super bat you bought to feel like you have the equipment that you want or are comfortable with…..can’t be used. Individual bats won’t go through a bat testing phase at all moving forward after this year’s GSWS because they can’t be used anyway. It will be interesting to see the feedback either positive or negative on this policy moving forward.
Finally, the 2016 GSWS bid presentations were made on Saturday and voting occurred earlier this morning. Reported first by the Diamond Dish on Facebook and later on Twitter, the Austin, TX bid beat out the San Diego, CA bid by a vote of 38-11. In my opinion, Austin was the clear choice from the moment their delegation took the stage. A truly professional outfit in every way, their group tapped into some of the concerns folks have had or might have with Austin and ran through each reason why they’re not an issue as it pertains to hosting a World Series. Their supplemental documentation and presentation materials were first class and really helped to drive the point home that they were willing to do what was necessary to host a first class event. This was a BIG decision for the national delegation as the 2016 World Series will be the 40th Annual GSWS. While Austin was the clear choice I would caution their delegation and GSWS host committee to think outside of the box and make the actual event as over the top and detailed as their presentation was. The presentation is the easiest part of the process and that just ended…now the hard work begins. To wrap up this topic, there was a smattering of support for the San Diego bid and while San Diego hit on their perfect weather and the fact that a World Series hasn’t been on the West Coast since 2008 the presentation wasn’t on the same level as what I had seen from the Austin group right before them.
To start the speculation for 2017 GSWS Bids, it looks like there will be several West Coast bids up for the choosing at next year’s Summer Meetings in Columbus. If a West Coast city wins in Columbus for the 2017 Series bid it will be 9 years in between West Coast cities hosting the Series which will be the longest drought in the history of the GSWS.
Many other decisions were made, but I chose those three issues regarding ratings, bats and 2016 Series to discuss in this article because I feel they impact the national membership the most out of everything decided on and discussed this weekend.
More specific and in-depth articles will be coming your way here on the Diamond Dish all week-long. My goal is to get at least two to three separate posts up per day moving forward with live tweets giving you info right from the fields as well. Here’s to an unbelievable set of meetings and what is sure to be an even better week of competition. If you’re in Dallas already, go enjoy Dallas PRIDE events this evening and to all of you traveling today and tomorrow, get here safely!
-Jeff Sloan, Diamond Dish