Thanks for joining us again today. My name is Matt Gerber, executive director of the Daimler Allegiance. Really excited to welcome in. Seth von Barron, co-founder and director of GBA Baseball, and Josh parter, head of Operations, communications and media for GBA. Guys. Appreciate you guys joining me today.
Thanks man. You be, thanks for having us.
Absolutely, man. So GBA, obviously for anybody that follows travel baseball, one of the top programs in the country, obviously Diamond Elance is super excited that they’ve decided to join on and be a part of what we’re doing. So excited to get with you guys today, learn a little bit more about who you are, learn more about the GBA program and just talk baseball a little bit. So we’ll jump right in. Seth, I’ll start with you. How did you fall in love with the game? Give me your kind of history in the game of baseball.
Yeah, listen, I’m from a very small town in Illinois, van Dale, Illinois, and you started out with your local YMCA leagues and your dad is your coach and he’s giving you the best world he can from what he watched on TV and what he learned. And from there I had an opportunity to play with a guy named Dennis Wirth out of Springfield, Illinois, who is the stepfather of Jason Wirth, who clearly spent, had a nice big league career. And at that point, man, I saw that the game was completely different and being taught completely different than I had ever seen it or knew it. And the knowledge that he was passing down to us at the age of 15, 16 years old was something that I wish every kid could have received. And then from there, had an opportunity to go to Illinois State play there under Jeff Stewart.
And as soon as I graduated, was fortunate to get into college baseball and spent the next 18 years coaching in the college game and loved every minute of it. Met some unbelievable people, have some unbelievable friends, great people to be acquaintances with. And then the opportunity to come to GBA at the age of about 30 i, about 38 came and it was an opportunity to pass some knowledge onto younger kids, do things that I felt would be different in the world of travel baseball. Because as you know, once you’re on the college side of this, you have a perception of what the travel baseball side of it is and you’re trying to make that happy medium. And we’ve come a very long way in terms of what those relationships once look like to where we are today. I’m proud to be here, I’m happy to be a part of BA, I’m lucky to be a part of it. And then we obviously get to align ourselves with people like Diamond Allegiance in the meantime.
That’s hopefully the slow version.
Yeah, that’s the
I’d love to just dive in a little bit deeper on something you said about the perception, the perception of travel ball and what that is from the college coaches side of things and what you’ve tried to do at GBA to change that perception maybe or educate. So give me a little bit more about that’d love to hear more about that.
Yeah, I think you don’t know what you don’t know. Meaning if you spend all your time in college baseball, which was where I had spent my time, I think my idea of what travel baseball was is that it was a group of men or guys that may or may not know the game as well as you realized they did know it and they were putting teams together and then they were just running them out like a cattle call. I think that’s what I initially thought. And then you realize how much time once you get to this other side, how much time is being invested in these kids in their development, the love that’s being shown to these kids by travel baseball organizations. And you realize that they’re trying to prepare them not only for life, which is obviously the most important thing, but they’re trying to prepare ’em for whatever school they end up in, that the right travel baseball organizations are preparing these kids to go to the right schools to play once they get there and take some of that development off of the colleges, which honestly I think the people that are doing it right, man, this is a relationship business and you want to know that you’re sending kids to the right schools and those schools want to know they’re getting the right kids from the right organizations.
Yeah, Seth, I think yeah,
But I think those two things were not, I apologize, but I think that there were two different worlds colliding a little bit that we’re trying to accomplish the same thing and we’re there today, we’re getting closer every day.
I love that because I think you nailed it. There are a lot of guys, obviously there’s a lot of bad in the industry, but there’s also a lot of good and a lot of people that are really trying to do things the right way and provide a ton of value for their kids. And I think one thing for parents that might be watching and listening this, the relationship part of it is so important and finding organizations that do have those relationships and that they trust the coaches when they call them and say, this kid can play for you. This kid’s a good fit for you. And even beyond that relationship, even Josh and Seth, you guys and your staff, being able to counsel players and knowing the college coaches at the next level to say, Hey, you might not be a great fit for that guy. Your style might not be a great fit. I know I’ve had that conversation many a times, so I love it and I think it’s a great call out and I’m glad to hear you. Being able to have both of those worlds is a really cool thing. So Josh, same question for you brother. How did you fall in love with the game? What’s your story?
Yeah, I think man like Seth, but on the Missouri side, I grew up in a small town, new Melly, Missouri, and just playing the game growing up and then it kind of got to the point in high school I moved down to San Antonio, Texas and figured out I wasn’t that great at football and it’s a lot bigger in Texas than it is in Missouri. And then that’s kind of where I saw my path to baseball and ended up playing a couple years in college. Ended up coaching a 16 new team when I was 19 years old and just kind of fell in love with the coaching side the second I hit it and just kind went from there. It just kind of spiraled into this passion for one to help these guys get to the next level, kind of learn from my failures as an individual, learn from failure that I saw around me in the industry and wanting to be better than what I received and kind of being a better leader, provide more guidance towards for these players and these families. Most importantly just through the whole entire process. And then I am lucky enough to meet guys like Seth and Jake Depu and Chris Cradock and John Lorde and that have more experience than I am than I do and get to just learn and be a fly on the wall and some of those opportunities and just continue to grow.
Awesome man. And those are the best situations to be in. I think most successful people categorize themselves as lifetime learners and just always trying to learn and get better. So it’s awesome to hear that. Seth, if you wouldn’t mind give us a story about the GBA program. When and how did it start?
So I want to say we’re on year six. I’m taking a step, I think we’re going into year six. It had started out, it was started as Missouri Gators based. Missouri Gators was what it was. That was all Missouri Gators. And those were a lot of youth teams at that point. Myself and Jacob Pew had the opportunity to step in and we wanted to do something different than just say we’re the Missouri. It really didn’t have a regional name at that point. It was just a local St. Louis team. They were good, they’re very good actually. But GBA brought more of a development name behind it to me. So GBA was really the Gator’s baseball academy. Jake and I were hyper-focused on development and making sure these kids understood what it was actually going to take once you stepped onto a college campus. So you can put a good team together of good baseball players who can go out and compete and win an awful lot of games depending on what level you’re playing. But those kids didn’t have an idea of what it was really like to step onto a college campus or for that matter, into minor league baseball and know what it was like to compete at that level, which was a whole new ball game. And for Jake and I, it started from the ground up and saying, we’re going to do development first. This how you run. I mean, you know how it goes man. It’s like how do you run to first base once you step a foot on a college campus?
How do I do my prep steps from the very, very basics is where we started, it’s going to be super important. But today I think we’re on onto development and making sure that we put good teams on the field at the same time. But it definitely started with the very basics of development.
So Seth, I wanted to ask the next question here and that’s, tell me a little bit about GBA, how it started, when did it start and what does it look like today? What are the differences today than when you first started it?
Yeah, I would say that, lemme make sure that I say this first, Missouri Gators baseball was the original program that was started by Chris Cradock and his son was a part of that team. And Chris did a great job in terms of taking a team through all the way to 18 U. And they were a very good local St. Louis team. And in fact they competed well in the regional, but it was a dad team. And not that there’s anything wrong with that, not that there’s not dad coaches that can do this thing at a very high level, but Jake DePuy, who was a round draft pick by I believe the Boston Red Sox, may have been the Tampa Bay Rays and myself were the first two GBA guys on board. So we say we co-founded this thing together and it started with this idea of, man, this is crazy.
This is a crazy world that we’re not used to. We’re going to be here for about one year and then we’re going to bounce back into pro ball or college ball and that’s the God honest truth. From there, we knew that we wanted to start this thing, however, with the idea of development, individual development, and that meant, hey, how am I supposed to run to first base? How am I supposed to take my prep steps? How am I supposed to look when I walk onto the field for a college to recognize who I am and then have respect for our program at the same time? And then today, I would say six years later, we’re still doing those exact same things every day, just like spring training. We’re running to first base, we’re working on our leads the whole nine yards like every college does and every pro team does as well.
But now we feel like we’ve got quality teams that we can put out on the field. Not that we didn’t have good teams, but we have quality teams that we can go to Indianapolis, we can go to Kansas City, we can go to Atlanta and we can step in there and people know who we are and we can compete and they know we’re going to play the game the right way. So I would tell you that that is the full circle of where we are today. And Matt, there’s a long way to go yet, but I know that it’s because of our families and our kids and our support from our ownership group that we were able to do this thing at a very high level we think.
Perfect. This great segue into the next question, Seth, and I think that coming from you, it’s probably the best way to go here. What’s one word, if you could pick one that embodies your program and then as co-founder, what do you do in your daily routine and daily managerial style to really drive that word home to the families and kids in your program?
Yeah, man, I think probably the one word for me is we’re growing would be my one word. We’re growing because I’m never probably going to be satisfied. And as I say that, yes, people will say, Hey, development is the name of our program. I understand that we have that, but family is also a part of our program and we have to be able to communicate with people and be very good at communicating with people because there is a lot of bad information out there. So I think the word that I would say is that we’re growing,
And I don’t know if that makes a ton of sense is what you’re looking for, but we’re educating people on what this thing is. The game of college baseball for sure is changing yearly as we’ve seen. And we have to continue to educate our families. We have to continue to educate our kids and that education is in development, that education is in recruiting and that education is honesty. And that’s a very difficult thing to do I think in the world of travel baseball is be very blunt and very honest with people. And if we’re anything, we’re very blunt and very honest sometimes to a fault.
And I think it makes perfect sense, right? Growing in every facet, growing in,
To do your player development, growing in the way that you can scale and communicate and help more families. And I personally think Seth, in the travel ball world, that there’s a lot of people that want to get on the bigger organizations. And my argument would be that if they got big for a reason, one and two, as long as they’re providing this education and this council to kids, I’d rather have people like you, Seth, and the guys in your organization continue to grow and to continue to be able to impact families, then be with people that weren’t able to do that. So I think that growth is a great word and something that obviously we hope that you guys continue to do. Thank you. Next question. I’ll throw this one to Josh. Josh, if you could just give us an idea of some of the important people in the program, whether that’s coaches, staff, and the roles that they serve. And I know it’s hard to get everybody on this question, so I’ll go ahead and throw the disclaimer out for you now that if Seth forgets somebody, it doesn’t mean you’re not important, but Seth, who are some of the, or Josh, sorry, Josh, who are some of the people that are really important to making your guys’ program go?
Yeah, I think you hit the nail on the head. I think something that Seth and Chris Cradock have preached since day one about not only GBA, but the overall club is making sure that we’re bringing in the right people and the right people, meaning that they can teach at a high level, they’ve got experience at a high level and they’re great people on top of it. So I think thank you for throwing out that disclaimer because I probably just kind of miss out on a few just because listen, the list is long. We’ve got a lot of people that we trust and partners that we do business with and because we believe in what they do. But Jake DePuy is an assistant director, he is a big part in our player development department. John Lorde is also in the same title. Assistant director player development department, both play a key role. John Lorde will be more on the Missouri side and Jake’s more on the Illinois side. And then we have two infield coordinators that are arguably the best in probably the region. Tim Funkhouser, he’s a head baseball coach over at Edwardsville High School and he runs infield over in Illinois. And then you’ve got Nick Beckman and he is on the Missouri side.
Other than that, we’ve got Richie, well who’s one of our GBA coaches, Eric Isans, one of our GBA coaches. We’ve got a couple of other high school coaches that come on and assist us, Joe Bauer and Scott Sipe. Man, I can keep going. It’s a long list of great guys that we’ve collected that they share the same end goal, but it’s all from different perspectives and different experiences and it’s a lot of fun to be a part of.
And I asked that question for a reason, and I think it’s important for families watch this and that, that hear about organizations within the diamond allegiance that there’s a lot of really good men and women that are working very, very hard for their kids. And that’s like you said, you just rattled off eight, 10 names and there’s probably another 20 that you could mention, but the fact that it doesn’t matter is that programs like yours have a lot of people that are working really, really hard to create the best experience for their families, for their players. And again, the reason I asked that question, so Josh, I’ll stay with you and then Seth, you can answer this afterwards. Josh, you’re a little younger than Seth and myself and haven’t had as many years in the game, but you have been coaching travel baseball since you were 19, right? So as you look back, you looking back in the rear view mirror when you first started, is there something that today’s Josh would say to the Josh at 19 years old, is there one thing that you’ve learned, one piece of advice that you would give your younger self specifically about the travel ball world?
Something about the travel ball world, man that you don’t need to travel to end up at the right place. If I’ve seen anything in the last, especially the last five, six years, is we’ve got a lot of great colleges around the St. Louis area and there’s a lot of guys that fit that’s the right fit for them. You don’t have to do all these extravagant trips and yeah, they’re fun. That’s part of the family aspect and that’s I think builds great comradery and chemistry with the team and the parents and the organization. But man, I think what I’ve continued to see is like, listen, Atlanta’s not for everybody. You don’t need to go and be seen by those kind of colleges. You can stay home and because that’s where you want to be at the end of the day. Again, if that’s the right fit, then you don’t need to go and do those things. You don’t have to if you want to, great. But you don’t have to. It’s not a necessity.
It’s a good one. Really good. Seth, what about you? What’s one thing that if you’d go back from the beginning, and obviously this could be on both ends, right? But what’s one piece of advice that you wish you could go back and tell your younger self?
I think from a college standpoint as I was coaching college baseball, it would’ve been to pick out my 10 or 15 organizations that I just really trusted and stayed with those guys because there’s plenty of good players in 10 to 15 organizations. That’s easier said than done. I know that as that job is much crazier than what people realize as we all know, as most some of us know. But that would be the one from a college standpoint, I could have probably saved some time and some resources as far as the travel went there from being on this side of things, I think the very first thing that I would’ve done, and we’ve just implemented it this year, we do an awful lot of talking in meetings and an awful lot of ideas and those ideas don’t always come full circle and there are a lot of good ideas.
I wish that we would’ve been taken less of the ideas that were thrown against the wall and focused on a couple of small things that would’ve made us better sooner. And I say sooner, and again, we’re only six years old, but one of the things that we’ve done this year, and this is a credit to Josh, is we’ve basically created, each of our players now has their own scouting profile essentially. So last week we have an inner squad game, we have five coaches at the inner squad game, and we can now go back in and basically write a report on that game. And maybe it’s six players, maybe it’s 20 players, maybe it’s two players, but our parents all have access to that.
Yeah, that’s great. And
Now our parents can go in and they can see exactly what we’re thinking, what we saw that day. If they have questions about it, they can contact us or myself and it’s us being very transparent and I wish from day one we would’ve been more transparent instead of hiding behind the curtain a little bit because we were scared of what they may think at this point, like I said earlier, it’s about being brutally honest with people and that’s what I want to be, not brutally all the time, but I do want to be honest with people.
Yeah, I love, love that. And I think parents and players want it, right? You’re going to run into the ones that don’t obviously, but I think as a majority, if you pull 10 parents, I’d say eight or nine of them are going to say, I want to know exactly what’s going on with my son. They might not agree with you.
I love that you guys are doing that and think it’s something that should be done more of. So that’s great. Seth, where do you see your program five years from now, right? You said it’s been about five years. Look back in the mirror from where you guys came from to where you are now. What are your goals for the next five years and where do you see GBA five years from now?
Yeah, Matt, the goal is, I can assure you of this, the goal is not to grow in teams in terms of GBA. That’s not what we want to do. I want to keep this thing very in-house in terms of we know our players, we know our families. What I do want to do is make sure that we’re always advancing in the world of development and technology is going to continue to change. Jake DePuy runs our hitting and he’s going to push the envelope when it comes to hitting development. I want our coaches to always be able to go to events and speak at them with a ton of knowledge. I want ’em to gather as much knowledge as they can and just continue to pour it into our kids. That’s where I hope we are in five years, that we continue to do that and grow with the game. Aligning ourselves with people like yourselves is part of that. There’s no question about it. When you go to lunch and when you go to dinner, you want to sit at people that are thinking the same way. I think with you guys and with the people we surround ourselves with, we’re thinking that way. I want to be at the forefront of development for youth baseball. And so if that changes in the next five years, I want to make sure we’re on top of it. When it changes, it’s going to, we know that a hundred percent
As far as our program itself, I just want to make sure that in the area of St. Louis and throughout the region and hopefully throughout the country, that people recognize us as being the right people for their kids to be a part of the organization, if that makes sense.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Seth, I’ll give you this one first since you’re on a roll. And then Josh, you can answer the same thing, but what’s, why do you get up every day and do this, right? It is a lot of work and a lot of times it’s work that doesn’t get recognized. So what’s your reason for being part of this crazy travel ball ecosystem? Ecosystem?
Yeah, again, in all honesty, I can’t build a house. I can’t fix a car. I know baseball. I know it enough to probably, maybe it’s the only thing I can do, but the ultimate why is this. I saw an avenue where I felt the game was being exploited or people were being lied to and I didn’t want to be a part of it, man, and I wanted it to be different and I wanted our program to be different and we have lost people because of that, but I refuse to allow travel baseball the way we run it.
I’m trying to think of the right way to say this, Matt. I’m trying to make sure that I don’t offend anybody, but I want to make sure the way that we run it is the way a college program would run it. And you’ve been there. That’s not easy to do because we are dealing with kids that they have a parent, I’m a parent myself, and we want to protect our kids, but I don’t think the game of baseball is going to protect them a whole lot at the college and it’s going to baby them a whole lot at the college and professional level. And GBA is not going to baby our kids
Well, and life’s not going to baby you either. And I think as baseball guys and men, we get caught up a lot of times. I know I do talking about my players playing in college and professionally and obviously that’s the goal. But I think one thing that I’ve learned over the last couple of years working at the Diamond Allegiance, and for somebody like Sandy aog, Sandy says all the time that student athletes are America’s national treasure. Other countries do not have the student athlete like we do. If you’re an athlete, you’re an athlete. If you’re a student, you’re a student. And having the blend of the student athlete that knows how to be a part of a team that knows how to solve problems on the fly, those are things that are going to serve these kids long after they’re done playing baseball. And we see that with the three of us sitting right here.
Baseball was a big part of our lives and it is a big part of our lives, but a lot of what we learned was just by being on a team and having to deal with pressure and having to deal with failure. And I think it’s the reason that a lot of us really fall in love with the game so much more to it than just that ball being thrown. So for me, I look at programs like your guys’ program as just that, right? Yeah. We’re going to do our best to get everybody to move on to the next level, but we’re also doing a lot more for you in terms of winning the Game of life. And it’s pretty evident just from the 30 minutes we’ve been on this interview that runs through the bloodline of your guys’ program. So Josh, Matt, go ahead.
I would say this, if I can real quick, I would say this, you’re right. We want to take care of our kids. We want to protect our kids, but we want to do it with honesty. And I brought that up a couple times. We are going to have two beautiful buildings, and those two beautiful buildings don’t make you a college baseball player. And that’s what I need our families to understand that there’s so much more to this than just walking into a building and looking around. You’ve got to be the right person. You’ve got to have the right work ethic. And we have coaches that teach that same thing. And I want our families to be those type of families. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how little money you have, it’s going to be about how much you want to grind this thing out. If you want to do this at the next level, and this will be my last point, GBA is a development program for those that want to play high school baseball. It’s a development program for those don’t want to play high school baseball, and it needs to be a development program for a hybrid between those that are in high school and want to play at the next level. That’s the type of development we’re looking to do.
Love it. Josh, how about you? What’s your why? What gets you up every day to do this?
Man, I think it just goes back to my path and my journey through high school baseball, college baseball, seeing the failures and understanding that I can put myself in a position to help teach how to not go a certain direction or Hey, what is that direction? Who do I need to talk to? How do I need to do it? What does it look like kind of thing that I didn’t have a Seth or a Jake or a John that helped guide me really down a certain direction. It was just kind of a hosh posh of guys that kind of had an idea of what they were doing. They coached in high school, they coached Select baseball, whatever it was, but there was no firm program that helped guide me and to come across a program like GBA. And I realized, man, I could probably get an opportunity to get in front of 120 kids and maybe I only helped a couple of them, or I create a relationship with a handful of ’em and they trust me and I can help them though. But even if it’s just 10, even if it’s just one, it doesn’t matter to me. I just want to be in a position to really help these guys. Sorry about that. Help these guys get to where they want to be and who they want to be. And hopefully I can be a small part in what that process looks like.
Awesome. All right. To my favorite question, and I’ll let Josh, you go first here. If there were such a thing, right, the commissioner of travel baseball and everybody listening to the commissioner and you were that commissioner, what’s one thing that you would change about the travel baseball landscape?
Man, I think it’s more of geared towards the youth side of things because I see it a lot now. I think Seth and I both have dabbled in more of the nine U to 13 U over the last couple of years. And what I’ve realized is there’s that AAA major, AA single A rec, whatever levels of play, but there’s no real governing body to actually assign those qualifications to that team. So you got somebody that’s going up that’s playing up that probably doesn’t belong, and then a guy that’s playing down, which is the more common one that’s playing in a lower level tournament just to win a trophy. Something like that would be more, is probably the first thing that comes to mind when asked that question is just, is there a governing body that can actually grade these teams to where they’re playing
The level of competition that they should be playing on a consistent basis?
Love it. And I think for me, that goes all the way up. I mean, you go all the way up to the highest level of travel baseball at the 17 U level where you’re competing with top 100 type prospects and they’re beating up on a team that they shouldn’t be playing. So I love it. I think it’s great. Seth, how about you?
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. If we could find a way to have a governing body to this whole thing, it would I think, clean up a lot of the play. And maybe ultimately I need to be a little careful of what I say here, but it might also slim down some of the tournaments or at least put them in the right category because I think you’ve got a wide spectrum of teams, which is fine. Every kid needs to play this game that wants to play this game, and I’ll continue to promote that. But I think that you have a lot of people spending time and money in places they don’t necessarily need to, or it’s a better way for them to spend that money. It’s their money. They can do what they want with it, but is there a better way to do it? And if we can find a way to make that happen, I think we’re waiting for everybody.
Yeah, couldn’t agree more. Well guys, I appreciate your time. Obviously the Diamond Allegiance is super excited that you guys are on board with us and look forward to continuing to obviously get to know you guys and continuing to grow together. But again, I appreciate your time and look forward to seeing you guys in person sometime soon.
Hey Matt, I appreciate everything you guys are doing, man. I think you guys are doing an awesome thing. We are so appreciative to be a part of it and look forward to the same way of building this relationship, but you guys are ahead of the curve for sure, and I’m glad that we get to have a little seat at the table.