In decades past, a trophy from an American Legion or Babe Ruth world series was the ultimate measurement of summer success for a high school baseball player.
In Clark County in 2011, there is no American Legion Baseball.
The Senior Babe Ruth state tournament was held in Camas last week, and won by a team from Aberdeen.
For many ball players who aspire to play beyond high school, the path to college or professional opportunities is through clubs that play schedules outside of traditional leagues. This summer in these parts, those teams are the Vancouver Cardinals and Showtime Baseball.
The programs share a scheduling philosophy that aims to get as many games against high-caliber opponents as possible.
“You want to get the kids out there playing against the best competition,” Cardinals head coach Ben McGrew said.
Instead of joining a Senior Babe Ruth League, the Cardinals and Showtime built their schedules around a couple of marquee tournaments that would get players seen by college and professional teams.
Showtime sent teams to big tournaments in Georgia and Nebraska this summer, as well as attending regional events.
The Cardinals focused their attention on playing top opponents from the Pacific Northwest. According to McGrew, they put a premium on attracting top teams to their own Curt Daniels Invitational Tournament, staged earlier this month in Vancouver and at the University of Portland.
The recently completed Brandy Pugh Tournament in Bellevue is another high-quality event on the Cardinals schedule that brings in scouts, McGrew said. Showtime attended a tournament at the University of Washington this past weekend.
Both the Cardinals and Showtime recently played in organized programs. Showtime has had teams in Senior Babe Ruth leagues. Two summers ago, the Cardinals were one win away from qualifying for the American Legion World Series.
According to McGrew, restrictions on how American Legion rosters are built is a deterrent to participating in that program. For programs that have players from around the county, the drawback to playing in a Senior Babe Ruth league is that midweek league games often don’t provide the tough competition his team seeks, McGrew said.
Not having a league championship or other titles to compete for is not a cause for complacency on the field, McGrew said.
The players on the Cardinals understand they are being evaluated by scouts.
“A lot of it comes down to just the individual kids. They’re going to get out of it what they put into it,” McGrew said.
John Welborn of Camas, who plays for the Showtime Baseball team that traveled this month to Marietta, Ga., said he has no problem getting excited for baseball season — even with no championship on the line.
He plans to play next spring for Mt. Hood Community College, and sees the summer as a chance to prepare for the next level.
“Just because I love it so much, I would be out here everyday if I could be,” Welborn said. “And the summer is what gets me ready for the next (school) year.”