As a regular customer of Triple Crown’s Zoom Into June fastpitch event, it makes sense Jason Gwyn likes a lot of items on the tournament menu.
Gwyn, head coach of the 18u Team Mizuno Impulse squad out of metropolitan Dallas, is always on the lookout for softball settings that maximize competition and put his players in front of college recruiters. If that requires hitting the road, so be it, and Zoom Into June (located in Hemet, CA from June 9-11) has proven to be a logical destination.
“The first part is the recruiting aspect. I still have a few kids who are needing to be put in front of coaches, mainly to solidify their standing,” said Gwyn, a high school coach in Carrollton who helped establish the Impulse in autumn 2010. “That’s the first weekend coaches can be out, and it’s been a great event the past few times we’ve been out there because of the large draw from the college perspective.”
Gwyn’s roster of 17 features 10 players who have already made college commitments to very notable programs like Maryland, Texas A&M, Oregon, South Carolina and Florida State. Several Impulse players and scores of others (the event features 500-plus teams from 12u through 18u) will be taking advantage of the laundry list of dedicated settings where skills are displayed and refined – All-Academic Games, Unsigned Senior Workout, College Camps, Organizational Workouts and the exclusive OnDeck Camp run by Derek, Joann and Heather Allister.
“The other part is being able to get out there and play good competition early in the season. It gives us an idea of where we’re standing as we go into the summer, and where we need to improve,” Gwyn said. “So when we come back out, we’ll have an idea what to expect.”
Gwyn said his seasoned group isn’t the type to be rattled by the thought of performing in front of scouts (more than 350 college coaches will be at Zoom in 2017), while also maintaining the team concept when suiting up as a group.
“This group I have is pretty unique. A good portion, seven or eight of them, have been together several years and been incredibly successful at every age group,” he said. “They were top three a couple different times at ASA National events; they did really well with Triple Crown (TC/USA Nationals) in Reno a couple years ago, and were seventh at PGF this last year – they’ve been pretty successful.
“The first time you take a group of kids out, the distraction of a big trip is there. But after that, it becomes habit. I worked on these kids to understand it’s a business trip … and if we get done what we should, there’s some play time at the end.”
Every little kid growing up dreams big. No matter the sport, no matter the goal, no matter the subject, we’ve all dreamed about accomplishing something bigger. For Bob Perales of the San Jose Sting, his dream is helping his young players accomplish theirs.
Perales joined the Sting organization in 2000 when his daughter needed a place to showcase her fastpitch softball abilities. Staying with her all the way from 12u to 18u gold, Perales soaked up a breadth of knowledge about the fastpitch community and the ever complicated process of recruiting.
“It’s changed a lot since we started this thing,” said Perales, who now spends most of his time with the Sting’s 14u teams. “The ages that these girls are being looked at continues to decline, and I want to be there every step of the way so these girls have the best chance at accomplishing their ultimate goals.”
As Perales made the adaptation to the ever-changing world of recruiting, he also made changes in the way that he prepares his players, utilizing Edufii, a computerized application that allows Perales to keep up with his players from long distances.
“This app has really changed the game for me,” said Perales. “Now, I can see what my players are working on while they’re at home. It allows us to practice, even when we can’t meet.”
It’s not just Perales that is taking note of the changing landscape of cloud-based instruction — softball’s nationally known instructional quartet, The Packaged Deal, also makes use of the 21st century innovation. Not only can the Sting check on what their coach has to say, but they call also hear and watch from some of the game’s biggest names.
His modifications in coaching have translated into a great amount of success for the Sting. Last season, at Triple Crown’s TC/USA Nationals in Reno, NV, the Sting rode a wave of momentum right into the championship game of the 16u division. Narrowly taken down by the Oklahoma Exclusive, 6-5, the Sting and their skipper still look back on that moment as the highlight of their summer season.
“It was an experience I’ll never forget,” said Lindsey Walljasper, who pitched for Perales in the championship game. “Although it wasn’t the outcome that we wanted, I am very proud of what my team and I accomplished.”
“That was a huge moment for us,” Perales said. “Not only was it a great experience for us as a team, but I think it was easily our best tournament of the year.”
“It was exciting to have the opportunity to play at the University of Nevada-Reno,” said Sarah Wulff, a former player of Perales. “Playing in the championship game was an unforgettable experience.”
Wulff has been loyal to the Sting since joining the organization, but the fundamentals of softball aren’t the only tools she’s picked up from Perales.
“I originally joined the Sting because the organization had an excellent reputation,” said Wullf.
“But what stands out significantly from my time with the Sting is respect. I have learned respect for my coaches because of their commitment and willingness to accept nothing but the best that we have to offer. I have learned respect for the players because softball is a team sport and every player holds value and is an essential component to the team’s synergy and productivity. I have learned respect for my family because they have sacrificed so much to provide this rare opportunity and have been my biggest supporters through it all. Respect is what Coach Bob and his staff have taught me and it is applicable in all areas of life.”
This month, Perales and his new batch of 14u talent will make their way to Hemet, California for the 2016 Zoom Into June event. The Sting are no strangers to Triple Crown softball events as Perales recollects contending in TC tournaments for well over 10 years.
“I remember when it was just Tony Rico that ran that tournament by himself,” said Perales. “Ever since Triple Crown and Krista (Crawford) have stepped in, they have rolled out the red carpet for us.
“They have done everything to get us in front of the big coaches and playing on the main fields and we certainly haven’t forgotten it. There are a lot of new ventures out there and a lot of teams are jumping ship to go play in newer tournaments, but we wanted to stick with an organization that has always taken care of us. I’ve always said that we will go where my girls can get the best exposure. Zoom Into June is a tournament that attracts the best competition and the best college coaches.”
Perales and the Sting have showcased their prodigious play over the past decade-plus, but for Perales, it’s always been about the double play. No, not your garden variety 6-4-3 inning ending, get-you-out-of- trouble double play. He’s more interested in getting his players to realize their dreams and then doing everything he can to help accomplish them.
“As in softball and in life,” says Perales. “I tell my girls it’s nice to get the double play, but you have to get the first out.”
While Wulff and Walljasper are on the homestretch of turning their own double plays, Perales has a new crop of youthful talent just trying to get their first out; Zoom Into June marks an early step in that process.
Judging from the success and development from his current Sting players, don’t expect anything less from the new regime.
As Walljasper puts it, “Once you put that San Jose Sting uniform on, there’s no going back.”