By Paul Braverman
A huge aspect of the York Revolution’s community outreach is to grow the game of baseball and softball in York County. That starts with having league nights for almost every youth baseball league in the county, and the annual “Girl’s Softball Night” event, one of the largest annual theme nights at Sovereign Bank Stadium. Through these nights and other special events, the Revs support youth players of every interest and ability.
At the elite level, the Revolution has taken it a step further by partnering with an independent non-profit organization to form the “Young” Revolution, the youth and teenage baseball program competing in high-level tournaments throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Founded as the Revolution was also playing their inaugural season in 2007, the program now has teams beginning at eight and under, through 15 and under. The long term goal is to provide players with a place to play during the summer months from ages eight to 18, and they’ve also expanded into girl’s softball, with 12 and under and 14 and under teams.
But if you think this is some type of intramural exercise to kill time until school starts…think again.
“We’re looking for a player who is passionate about the game and has a tremendous work ethic, on the field and off. We want to see someone that comes out to the a tryout that hustles, gives 150% and you can feel the passion about wanting to play at this level,” says Dave Pridgen, director of the York Young Revolution.
While it’s difficult for baseball to not be fun, Pridgen and his various coaches are looking for players for whom baseball is more than just a hobby. The group’s ultimate goal is to make better baseball players, win along the way and prepare their players to excel at a high school, and hopefully college level. There are few restrictions on where the team will travel to find the best competition, and no restrictions on where players can come from to join their teams.
Furthermore, in some of the age groups there are two teams, almost a Triple-A and Major League structure, where players may be moved up or down. The players may be young, but if they’re aspiring professionals, they’re introduced early to how competitive advancing your career can be.
“If we have young men that aren’t quite at the top level, but want to aspire to get there, we give them a path do to that,” said Pridgen. But we also want the kids at the top level to understand that if they don’t maintain their work ethic and don’t continue to play well, they could be bumped down a level. There’s that accountability there.”
As you can see, this is hardly an “everyone gets a trophy” youth sports program.
Most of the Young Revs players are from York County, but they also draw players from Lancaster, Dauphin and even Perry Counties, as well as players as far away as Hagerstown, MD. It’s a feather in the organization’s cap to share the Revolution brand, and draw players from other nearby minor league markets. There are no “Young” Barnstormers, Senators or Suns elite travel teams.
“I tell a lot of parents coming into the organization for the first time, ‘think about when you first started in little league and they put a Mets, Yankees or Orioles cap on your head, you felt like part of a bigger community.’ But for us, the York Revolution is our professional ball club. Any name besides ‘York Young Revolution’ doesn’t give us the credibility, and wouldn’t give our players as much sense of community,” says Pridgen.
The Young Revolution hosts tournaments in York County, including at Sovereign Bank Stadium, and travels for similar events. The furthest they’ve traveled as a group is eight to nine hours to North Carolina for a tournament with their 11 and under squad. This year however, they formed a loose league structure to coincide with their tournament travels. Several of the Young Revs’ nearby competitors in Pennsylvania and Maryland have formed what they’re calling the “Crab League,” a nod to the center of the new arrangement being around the Chesapeake. The “ad-hoc” leagues for each age group as Pridgen calls them, allow for further competition between teams of similar caliber throughout the summer.
One more thing we should mention about the Young Revolution before we get too much further…they’re also good.
This season, the Young Revs have captured regional tournament titles with their 8-U, 11-U, 13-U and 15-U teams. Last season the 12 and under team won an annual tournament in Cooperstown, NY at Doubleday Field, a picturesque “old school” facility adjacent to the National Baseball Hall-of-Fame and museum, a setting that looks like a hybrid of Field of Dreams and Ebbetts Field.
“The Cooperstown trip is really our version of the Little League World Series,” says Pridgen. “From our 8-U team up to 12-U, that’s what they really look forward to.”
Undoubtedly, there are some wide eyes while touring the Hall of Fame and museum and playing on storied ground.
While the first seven seasons of the program have set a good foundation, the Young Revolution’s main focus is on growth.
“We really want to grow that 16, 17, 18 program, because what we really want to do is transition young men from the Young Revolution to the opportunity to go play at the college level,” says Pridgen.
At the same time, adding girls’ softball, the “Lady Revs” as they’ll be known, is in the works. Pridgen and David Eckman, who is director of the York County Junior Girls Softball League, are working to make the softball program as successful as the boys’ program by replicating the model that has made the Young Revolution so successful.
“The softball community is growing, there are more girls wanting to come out and play softball. We’re happy to be forming a partnership with the YCJGSL to give those girls a place to play at an elite level,” said Pridgen.
And so it’s another first for area minor league baseball and the Atlantic League – a women’s sports faction will share the same brand as the local professional club. The value of that brand is never lost on Pridgen, his coaches, and their players.
“There’s a lot of pride from our players, having that relationship with the York Revolution. To be wearing that logo, there’s a sense of pride and accountability. With that name we’re a part of something, something bigger than ourselves.”