By STEVE KRAH
Working with ballplayers at various levels, Indiana Primetime Sports is looking to make a mark on the travel sports landscape.
Started five years ago, the baseball part of a multi-sport travel and training organization based in central Indiana is now up to 19 teams in divisions 8U to 15U with plans to add older groups.
“We have some very elite teams and some much more developmental,” says Ryan Cole, Indiana Primetime Sports Inc. co-founder and president. “We cater to everybody. Every child deserves a great youth baseball experience. If you want to play and can make a team we can give you that same experience.
“A lot of teams would cut those (non-elite) kids and move on. I didn’t want to be that kind of organization. Let’s see what happens when they get into their man bodies and move into puberty. They may get to be 6-3” even though they are 5-2” as a 12- or 13-year-old.”
“We give them the skills to succeed.”
By pure volume — with 19 teams and a little over 200 players — there are bound to be plenty of hidden gems.
“You never know how somebody’s going develop,” says Brown. “Bodies change and you see them take off.”
To stay on the same page with philosophy and terminology, Cole and baseball director Quentin Brown actively participate in every practice at Roundtripper Sports Academy in Westfield for all 19 teams.
“We want the key concepts to be the same,” says Brown. “We’re uniform all the way through.
“It’s worked beautifully.”
The approach is expected to help Indiana Primetime players develop at a faster rate in the coming years.
“If they are at 12U and getting that high level instruction now, you don’t have to re-teach when they get to high school,” says Brown. “We coach them up the exact same way.”
The emphasis is on instruction and development. Young professionals coach the travel teams.
“We’ve eliminated ‘daddy ball,’” says Cole, a former Penn High School and Butler University football player who started the company with Brandon Lafferman. “We weren’t into politics.”
To be consistent Cole and Brown coach the coaches — at practices and through clinics and regular email communication.
“We have that personal touch and personal feel with every one of our teams,” says Brown. “We’re in it for the right reasons. We’re both passionate about the game and developing young players.”
Brown is a former coach for the Indiana Pony Express, Indiana Cage Rats and Fort Wayne Cubs (now Fort Wayne Diamondbacks) travel organizations and head coach from 2014-16 at alma mater Western High School (the 2016 Panthers were IHSAA Class 3A state runners-up). As a player, he was a four-year starter at Indiana Purdue-Fort Wayne.
Most Indiana Primetime rosters are small (usually no more than 13 players). This is done by design.
“Parents are paying money,” says Brown. “We make sure our coaches know everyone needs to get in and play. You never know what a kid can do when he’s put in the right situation.”
Younger teams have began their season while the older players will begin when their high school seasons are over. Some teams play 35-40 games while others might exceed 50.
Tryouts are held in August, followed by fall ball, where players get a chance to play and Cole and Brown can evaluate their coaches.
Indoor winter workouts are held once a week for up to 10 weeks (depending on age group). During the season, teams practice twice a week outdoors or indoors at Roundtripper (to stay in developmental mode).
“There’s always something you can work on,” says Brown, who joins with a few others in scheduling games and practices. “I want us to be elite in the upper age levels, but never lose our focus on development.”
With his experience as a coach and player, Brown helps parents and players through college selection and it’s not just the juniors and seniors who need to pay attention.
“Recruiting process has changed,” says Brown, who notes that NCAA D-I level teams are now sending coaches to watch 14U tournaments. “There are not of a lot of scholarships (11.7 at D-I). You can’t wait anymore until your junior year. And it’s going to keep getting younger and younger.”
That’s where travel ball exposure and training come in.
“It’s an investment in your child’s future,” says Brown.
Ryan Cole (left) and Quentin Brown run the baseball program for Indiana Primetime Sports. The central Indiana-based travel organization has 19 teams in 2017. (Indiana Primetime Photo)