From one perspective in 2008, it seemed to make sense. Kids took the cold weather months off from baseball in and around Youngstown, OH.
But something nagged at Anthony Vross when he looked deeper – not all those kids were playing other sports, and any kid who did want to play really didn’t have anywhere to go. Heck, it was tough enough finding good fields even when the weather was nice.
With his own son preparing to get serious about the game, Vross helped launch the Ohio Glaciers club program, which immediately devoted itself to the training and development of area players and the equally time-intensive work of improving old fields or building new ones. Today, the program has 14 high-achieving teams from ages 8 to 22; an indoor facility (with a distinctive glacier shape) and 10 other outdoor fields; and a commitment to traveling around the country and taking on the toughest competition.
Vross and the Glaciers slowly carved territory that lent itself to playing weekend tournaments near home, rather than having kids slip over to Cleveland (about 75 minutes away) for their competition needs.
Q: What are some key themes that helped make the Glaciers a unique destination for players?
A: Development is what really started it – it really wasn’t tournament play. One of the missions of the Glaciers is to practice as much as we play. We hired professional trainers, to come in and try to create consistency in our teaching – how you hit, field and pitch. It just went from there; we started with just two teams, a 10u and an 18u. We didn’t call it travel ball, we called it tournament play. That was another mission of ours, where we felt the better competition would help our players increase their baseline about where they wanted to go and how to work harder to get there.
Q: How difficult was it to improve the field options when you started?
A: In our area, a lot of the facilities were owned by private clubs, so unless you played in that club, you didn’t have a lot of access. What we did was partner with another non-profit that had fields that were dilapidated and needed someone to get in there. We looked at another city field that was on the verge of being shut down, and we worked on that one. Other clubs started to look at their fields and decided to do the same thing – it’s an ongoing thing, and one of the missions we try to fulfill is to have grass infields.
Q: You were once an investor in a minor league team?
A: I was part of a group that owned an independent team out of New Jersey. It was fun; I was more on the outside looking in, but it was interesting learning about the inside of a team and meeting so many good people. We had a lot of good people come through there; once my son (started playing), I wanted to spend more time watching him go through the baseball world.
Q: Your son plays for the Glaciers 16u team – will you stay involved with youth baseball once he’s out of high school?
A: My thing is to continue on after he’s done. It’s helped me to understand the parents better, going from his age … we got in it full time when he was 10, and going through that experience allows me to see what a parent goes through and what they are looking at. It also allows us as an organization to communicate with the parents and say, here’s some guidance or what we think about certain issues.
Q: What do you like about playing Triple Crown Sports events?
A: I think it’s very organized. The web site, the way you do the electronic waivers, is easy. The communication … there’s fairness, how they try to do research and make sure the pools are as fair as possible. And they stick by the rules and enforce them, because sometimes it can get heated. They make the tough decisions, and then move on. And even the umpires, who I will see at other events … at (Triple Crown tourneys), it’s a friendlier environment.