Ways to Play youth tourney tries new pace rules

Some of baseball's brightest young talent competed over weekend in Georgia

October 15th, 2018

MLB and Perfect Game hosted a unique baseball experience over the weekend at Perfect Game Park South in Emerson, Ga., with the second annual Ways to Play tournament.
The tournament featured some of the best youth teams in the country competing with different pace-of-play rules, including all at-bats starting with a 1-1 count and no around-the-horn throws between outs. Batters must also keep one foot within the batter's box at all times, and mound visits are limited to four per game. If a game is tied after nine innings, extra frames begin with a runner on second base.
The unique rules encourage aggressive play, while also easing wear and tear on pitchers' arms.
The event, which was first played last year in Atlanta, was the second this month after a tournament at MLB's Youth Academy in Compton, Calif.
"When you talk about the pace of the game and having the kids be more aggressive, wanting to see the kids swing the bat and play the game at an up-tempo pace, we think the 1-1 count is conducive to that," MLB's senior director for baseball development Del Matthews said. "The players have to lock in from the first pitch. ... It's great to see them adjust, it's great to see them try new things. It's all part of the evaluation process and their development."
A team made up of participants from MLB's Breakthrough Series -- a joint development program between USA Baseball and MLB -- finished as the runner-up in the tournament, losing in the championship game, 6-4, to Canes National. The Breakthrough Series, which was established in 2008, focuses on developing players on and off the field and provides a platform for players to perform for scouts and college coaches. The program had three events in Kansas City, Compton and Bradenton, Fla., in June and saw 25 alumni selected in the 2018 MLB Draft.
Michael Harris II of the Breakthrough Series team was named Most Valuable Pitcher, while Canes National outfielder Corbin Carroll, a top 2018 Draft prospect, earned Most Valuable Player honors.

Harris followed up a dominant pitching performance against the Dullins Dodgers on Saturday by hitting a game-tying, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning in Sunday's semifinal game.

"[Harris] is probably one of the best two-way players at this level," said MLB Breakthrough Series coach Marvin Freeman, who played 10 years in the Majors from 1986-96 with the Phillies, Braves, Rockies and White Sox. "He's a total professional. He's probably the hardest-working, quietest kid I've been around, and his talent speaks for itself. When he's on that field, I just sit back. I wish I had 10 Mike Harrises on my team."