By STEVE KRAH
Imagine if you will 6,650 folks all in the same place for the purpose of learning, improving and networking.
If you were in Dallas Jan. 3-6 for the 75th annual American Baseball Coaches Association Convention, you don’t have to imagine. You experienced it.
The largest number of registrants ever gathered for the annual event Jan. 3-6, 2019 at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center to listen to speakers, attend the ABCA Trade Show (with about 300 vendors) and participate in award celebrations, committee meetings, hotel stove panel discussions while also catching up with old friends and making new ones.
The worlds of professional, college, high school and youth baseball all collided for the advancement of the game.
It was the third time in four years convention attendance has gone up.
The ABCA, which was founded in 1945, continues to grow. The organization estimates it will have more than 12,000 members by the end of 2019.
By comparison, the highest convention attendance four years ago was about 4,500 with membership around 6,000.
Can the organization keep growing?
“I’d say the sky’s the limit,” says Jeremy Sheetinger, ABCA’s College Division Liaison. “But it is about the experience of the coaches in attendance.
“We want to make sure we’re doing right by them.”
It’s a matter of logistics when putting on the world’s biggest baseball convention. There are countless consideration. Some of those are size of the venue and available seating and who will speak and when.
Sheetinger, a former assistant at Saint Joseph’s College in Rensselaer, Ind., and the host of the ABCA Calls from the Clubhouse Podcast, says the addition to the full-time staff of Youth Liaison Andrew Bartman has helped at the grass roots level of the game.
“From our board on down, we’ve taken a more focused approach to serve our youth coaches,” says Sheetinger. “We’re very excited to see the influx of youth coaches. A second day of youth clinics (in Dallas) was well-received.”
Bartman is scheduled to be a speaker at the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association State Clinic, which is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 17-19 at Sheraton at the Crossing in Indianapolis.
Indiana was well-presented from outgoing ABCA President and Ball State University head coach Rich Maloney to several coaches at various levels, Indianapolis Scecina High School coach Dave Gandolph has been an association member for four decades and attended many conventions.
Matt Talarico, a former Fort Wayne Dwenger High School and Manchester University player and now assistant coach/director or player development at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, presented on the big stage about base stealing.
An announcement is slated in the spring about the dates and locations of the ABCA Barnstormers Clinics, which run from September through December.
The 2020 ABCA Convention will be held Jan. 2-5, 2020 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville. The event returns to the Music City for the seventh time. Registration opens Sept. 1. Room blocks will also open on that date for official ABCA Convention hotels.
The convention is slated for Washington, D.C., in 2021, Chicago in 2022, Nashville in 2023, Dallas in 2024, Washington, D.C. in 2025, Las Vegas in 2026 and Chicago in 2027.
Indiana native Lance Lynn was represented at the trade show of the 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Dallas. (Steve Krah Photo)
This is one of the many panel discussions held during the 2019 American Baseball Coaches Association Convention in Dallas. (Steve Krah Photo)