$16.99 T-shirts and 25% Everything Else With Code: TBS25

0

Your Cart is Empty

RAISING THE BAR...RHINO BASEBALL

RAISING THE BAR...RHINO BASEBALL

Posted by: Just1Mom

What comes to mind when you hear the name, Rhino Baseball? For the various teams my sons have played for over the years, which do include higher level teams, the answer would be “Oh boy, it’s going to be a battle.” If you are a travel baseball family throughout the south suburbs of Chicago or Fox Cities of Wisconsin, then you know the Rhino Baseball organization is a formidable opponent at any age level. In thinking about this, I actually have never been a part of any team that thought playing against the Rhino’s would be an easy win. That says a lot! I decided to find out more about the Rhino Baseball organization in order to see why the initials RB on a powder blue uniform makes even the very best teams quake in their cleats. Greg Blaesing is the President and Director of Player Development for Rhino Baseball. He began the organization in 2012 because he felt there was a need for a more competitive baseball program that would have year-round training. With that dedication, the program has built up over the years and in August of 2018 they can be very proud of the fact that Rhino Baseball has been named as one of Youth Baseball Magazine’s Top 100 Youth Programs in the Nation. Let’s see what makes them so special.
-

-
Illinois: Rhino Baseball’s home base is currently in Romeoville. The Rhino Baseball Facility is open 365 days per year and is completely private and only available for use by current Rhino Baseball players and collegiate alums. They have 350 players on their teams that range in age from 7u through their 18u high school level. Rhino Baseball Illinois has 24 teams, 2 or more per age level. Their 7u team is a part-time team that uses the approach of a laid back introduction into travel baseball. The 7u players can play in-house baseball during this time to further their experience. The goal for the 7u season is to develop basic skills under the watchful eye of professional trainers. The 7u teams will play in 10 Sunday games and 3 tournaments late June mid-July and give them a taste of what travel ball can be like. Recently, Rhino brought on two more staff members in Joe Scafuri and Mike Hughes. Joe has had two sons go through the program. One is currently a junior infielder at University of Illinois-Chicago and his other a sophomore at Romeoville High School. Joe is now the operations manager for Rhino Baseball and oversees all the day to day operations in both Illinois and Wisconsin. Mike has been in the program since its inception and has been both an assistant coach and a head coach at the youth level as well as a parent of a player going through the program for the last 8 years. Because of his ability to relate to the youth travel experience at all levels, Mike was named Youth Director after this past season.
 
Wisconsin: Rhino Baseball also has a division in Appleton, Wisconsin. The Director of Player Development in Wisconsin is Andy “Squeeze” Zwirchitz. The Rhino Baseball Wisconsin program began in 2013 and has 150 players on 12 baseball teams ranging in age from 10u-18u and 1 softball team. Coach Squeeze is a full-time baseball guy who played collegiately and professionally. Rhino Baseball Wisconsin also has a great indoor facility for year-round training.
-
-
Tryouts: Rhino Baseball conducts tryouts for their teams in July, but they will take a look at players throughout the year to fill any spots that they might be looking to fill. I really wanted to know what Rhino Baseball looks for in prospective players. Greg said the first thing they look for is athletic ability and a strong athletic foundation. He emphasized athleticism is a great thing to have as fundamentals can be taught. He said, “Any glitches a player might have with hitting, pitching or fielding can be worked out through our training program.” The second thing they look for is coachable kids who strive to work hard. He said, “Those two things go a long way in developing any athlete in any sport.” I asked if he had any advice for those who didn’t quite make the cut. His advice to players who don’t make any team - ask why you didn’t make it. He said, “Many kids leave tryouts feeling rejected, but they never ask why they weren’t selected. Players that ask (even if they disagree with the answer), tend to go and work on what they need to improve upon.” If they work on those things and return to next year’s tryouts showing improvement, they have a better chance of making a team. For this year’s teams, they are still looking for a player at the following ages: 7U, 9U, 10U, 12U and 15U.
-
-
Player Development: Outside of normal weekly baseball specific practices, they also have classroom sessions for their athletes where they focus on character development both on and off the field. At some point baseball does end for everyone and Rhino Baseball wants their athletes to be great throughout their lives. They also work with strength, agility, and nutrition coach Bobby Smith. Bobby was a standout center fielder for North Central College and has led the Rhino strength, speed, and agility program for the last 3 years. He works with the players 3 days a week on strength, speed and mobility. Players also go through weekly yoga sessions as well as doing crossover symmetry shoulder stabilization to reduce arm injury and maintain healthy arms. Bobby also works on their nutritional program to help players either lose or gain weight, teaching them about healthy choices that will last a lifetime. They have a host of professional coaches that will train the players on pitching, hitting and fielding. This is all included in their program fees. You can look at the biographies of all Rhino training staff at www.rhinosportsacademy.com/staff.
 
Team Effort: Rhino Baseball is not just a team effort on the field, but in all facets. With an organization of this size, it takes a great number of people to make this happen on a daily basis. Many of whom are volunteers. Greg said, “I can’t say enough about our staff, coaches and volunteers who bleed Rhino Blue. I could not be more grateful for their dedication and efforts. Rhino wouldn’t be able to do what we do without all the help.”
-
-
The Next Level and Collegiate Recruiting: What happens to Rhino Baseball players after high school you ask? 97% of Rhino Baseball players go on to play collegiately. Andrew Tehako is Rhino Baseball’s full time Recruiting Coordinator and has been a part of the program since its inception in 2012. Recruiters can start watching a player as early as 8th grade or freshman year, but, most recruiting happens while a player is a sophomore or junior in high school while most commitments happen when they are juniors or seniors.
 
Tournaments: Rhino Baseball has a 15u invite only tournament that takes place in New Lenox, IL June 8-10, 2019. The types of teams they look to invite are solid high school programs and teams that focus on development first. They also have a youth tournament that takes place at Brent Hassert Park in Lockport, IL. This is an open tournament for 11u, 12u and 13u teams. The tournament is typically the last weekend of April and the first 2 weekends of May.

Fees: With a big organization, it can also lead to the churning of the rumor mill. I wondered if Greg had heard anything about his organization that doesn’t ring true. He said he heard that Rhino Baseball fees are $5,000-$10,000 and that is just not accurate. He said it’s not cheap, but it is all-inclusive and pointing out that they do train for 11 months out of the year and there is always a pro-trainer at every practice. They also offer fundraising opportunities to offset the cost if families choose that route. It’s up to the families if they want to take part, or if they want to pay the fees without fundraising. There are no hidden fees that suddenly come up during the season.
-
-
Trends: Being around travel ball as long as I have, I really wanted to hear if a big organization had noticed any positive or negative trends in travel baseball. Greg noticed there was a boom of travel teams for a while there. People were starting up their own teams as soon as something didn’t go perfectly with their current team and then the talent was so varied all over the levels. They’ve seen teams and organizations that didn’t last. If you look now, you will see the good programs have outlasted that boom period. Rhino Baseball feels they have sustained their program and growth because it’s not as much about winning as it is about the importance of player development. One of the negative trends he noted is there are rogue trainers that are marketing some type of niche to promote something “new or different or revolutionary”. But baseball is really about doing things the right way consistently. Greg stated, “We are in a baseball talent rich area where former college and professional players are working as trainers. It’s a great asset to many youth players.” Rhino Baseball trainers have played ball through high school, college and have minor or major league experience.
 
Philanthropy: Rhino Baseball is doing good things for the baseball community and they are being recognized for it. They work with Kate Michalski’s non-profit group ‘Angels on Deck’ by hosting an annual barn party at Konow’s Farm in Homer Glen each August that includes silent auction items and a whole lot of fun. In the past they have had great local cover bands perform like Maggie Speaks and Libido Funk Circus. All proceeds go to the Angels on Deck Fund, which will help provide financial assistance to future and existing youth baseball and softball players that may not have an opportunity to play travel ball due to financial constraints and/or hardships. (angelsondeck.org)
 
Future: Rhino Baseball has exciting news coming. They are in the process of building a new facility that will triple the training space that they currently work with. They will have their new state of the art facility up and running by 2020. Details of the location will be revealed as it approaches. One thing Greg wanted to be clear about - just because Rhino Baseball is a large program - it doesn’t mean you have to be elite player to be a part of it. Yes, they have elite teams, but also gold and some silver teams for the developing players. For Rhino Baseball information Illinois and Wisconsin go to: www.rhinosportsacademy.com
-
-
My 2 cents…I really enjoyed talking to Mr. Blaesing about this well-known organization. I expected he would be selling me on his program, but he wasn’t. He was very humble, very knowledgeable and willing to share his thoughts without hesitation of my questions. They put the work and effort into their players for the entire year, but they also put their hearts into it as well. They strive to work with their players, families, volunteers and coaches to make a well-rounded solid program. It was very clear to me that this program cares about what their players will become in the future - beyond baseball. It’s definitely a program worth checking out!
 
By: Just1M


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.