Ruffnecks Baseball Program has Positive Impact on Kids
Since 2003, The New England Ruffnecks have prepared and developed high school baseball players for college level competition. The Ruffnecks have been at the forefront of developmental baseball in the Northeast since fielding their first College Prospect team in 2006.
Ryan Westmoreland was the first player drafted to the professional ranks from the Ruffnecks. He was selected in the 6th round by the Boston Red Sox.
Twelve other Ruffnecks alums have been drafted including 2010 pick, Jordan Cote, in the 3rd round by the New York Yankees. Nevertheless, Ruffnecks founder and director, Steve August, (former Asst. GM of the Red Sox) insists that preparation for high school and college are the primary objectives for delivery of a quality experience for the players in the program.
The team experience is at the core of the Ruffnecks. “In the past several years approximately 90 percent of our graduates have gone on to play college baseball. It is a placement success rate we work hard to achieve. We offer top quality non-parent coaching and spend considerable time with each boy and his family to understand the player’s academic profile, aspirations, and to guide them toward an opportunity to have baseball a part of a wonderful college experience."
This success is especially impressive given the fact that it is reported that only 5 percent of high school athletes go on to play college sports.
But development and growth are the aspects the program focuses on most.
“We have a model of development, travel, and team building that is important for young players. Not everyone wants to meet the demands we place on self-advocacy and the culture we foster for teams," says August. "Of course it involves hard work, talent, and the many clichés that capture success in sports. But more importantly, we seek good kids who want to be part of something that is greater than the individual. Our belief is that team success in built upon the principle that when the sun shines on the team, it shines on all the individuals who contribute to that team dynamic.
"We don’t claim to have a magic wand to get players into Clemson or Harvard, but we can help you find the right place for YOU. However, it is a journey that evolves over time. It also demands that parents take a back seat to the action. There is absolutely no parent coaching in the program, and parents are kept at a healthy, yet respectful, arms length distance from team activity. It takes a leap of faith."
Worcester native and MLB front office man J.P. Riccardi's son, Dante, is a 15-year-old in the program. He had this to say about the Ruffnecks: “They are a first class organization. I can say from experience that they run a top notch outfit, very professional. (My son) Dante is excited to be a part of the Ruffnecks program. The accountability they demand from the kids is important to their personal development as they begin to become young men. They learn life lessons through playing baseball and playing with kids from all walks of life and backgrounds.” (Riccardi is currently Special Asst. to Mets GM and former Sr. VP and GM of the Toronto Blue Jays with 32 years in professional baseball).
Ruffnecks alumni look back fondly on their experience. Shrewsbury native, AJ Zarozny, a recent graduate of St. John’s (Shrewsbury) will attend Bryant University on a baseball scholarship after a postgraduate year at Avon Old Farms. “The Ruffnecks is the best development program around. We played the best teams and travel far and wide to do so. A big part of the development is overall maturity. I think all of the players, myself included, benefitted from traveling as a team, on our own, and learning how to behave and prepare ourselves. That is where maturity has to kick in.”
Another Ruffnecks alumnus, Curtis Pomeroy, also of Shrewsbury and St. John’s (Shrewsbury), will attend Georgetown University on a baseball scholarship. “The Ruffnecks program helped me develop as a player, but it also helped me grow up, in general. They teach you to conduct yourself appropriately and teach you to be responsible for yourself. I don’t think that I would be as prepared for college or adulthood for that matter, if I didn’t go through the Ruffnecks program.”
Even professionals are impressed by what the Ruffnecks program does for their players. Local Red Sox legend and current minor league hitting coach Rich Gedman has been affiliated with the Ruffnecks program since its inception. “I have known the Ruffnecks guys for a while and I have to say that what they do with these kids is amazing. I wish this type of program had been around when I was growing up. The time and energy they put in to developing players is truly impressive. The best part about what they do is that they don’t try to get the best players. They don’t just look for superstars, they work with players who want to develop into the best they can be, and in the end it turns out to be a great experience for the kids.”
Indeed, the Ruffnecks are quite loyal to their core constituents. August comments, “The greatest satisfaction is seeing a kid succeed and go on to play in college who may have been average, small, or simply overlooked as a 12-year-old. There is so little patience in our society. Baseball requires patience and perseverance. Kids who demonstrate those qualities are the kids we want to develop. Right now we have the most unbelievable kids and families in our program. We are very lucky to be attracting so many fine people who are willing to make the commitment it takes. Great kids!”