GamePrep Baseball Academy founder Anthony Granato’s marketing budget? Zero.
Zero dollars. None. Nil. Zilch.
Take the time to watch how his California-based program operates on the field, and you’ll figure it out real fast…or, the more likely scenario is that you’ve already heard about GamePrep from one of his many satisfied players or player parents.
“I think a lot of it has to do with people coming to our practices and seeing how we do things,” he said. “It’s really been references and word of mouth. I’ve sent out e-mails to people I’ve made connections with, but I’ve never done any marketing since I started, it’s all been through word of mouth. Realistically, it’s been players hear from other parents or other players in our program, that they’ve got to see what these guys are doing in practice.”
Granato was a successful pro, spending time in the Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies organizations before winning several championships in independent ball, including two with the Atlantic League’s Somerset Patriots as an infielder in 2008 and 2009 before finishing up overseas.
“In my offseasons from playing, I was doing a lot of lessons and working with young kids and helping teams out,” Granato recalled.
“Towards the end of my career, around 2011 or 2012, I’d come back in the offseason and a lot of my players were playing on travel teams, but I didn’t really like what I was seeing. I felt like it was getting away from development and practicing and helping kids learn their skills and develop their instincts. It was more, ‘Hey, let’s get on a good team, wear nice uniforms and win a bunch of trophies.’ There were things going on I didn’t like.”
The “showcase player” was breeding selfishness in baseball, creating young players who were self-centered and not team-oriented. Granato wanted to do things differently.
“In seeing that, I said when I was done playing, that my passion is baseball and I’d been doing it for so many years that with my experience and my background I felt like I could really help kids and give back to my community where I grew up and help players that are serious about baseball here develop their skills and learn the game the right way,” he said.
“That’s what triggered it, and from there it slowly built over time. One of the kids from my lessons, his dad and I have been friends for years and we go way back, and he had coached a team for a couple years. They were young, 11 or 12 years old, and he said, ‘Hey, they’ve been listening to me and they’re out of Little League and I’d rather just have them with coaches that have played and can really help them. Would you be interested in taking over the team.’ I did, and that was my first team back in 2012. The coaches I brought on are guys with good backgrounds and a lot of experience, and they’re good guys who are passionate. I think that was very visible to the parents, so it slowly started growing and attention started coming towards our teams, and now we’re here.”
“Here” has become an impressive place for Granato’s GamePrep Baseball Academy, which he founded. Not only has he experienced growth within his own program, but with the type of player he’s been able to help out as well.
“At first, we weren’t getting the most talented players, but we were getting kids that worked really hard and overachieving because of it,” Granato said.
“They were putting in the time and the effort and in the years I’ve been coaching, I think I might have had two or three players from our program not make their high school team. I think people were seeing we were getting overachievers and wondering how these kids were getting so much better in a short period of time, and I think it was the kids having the desire. But the reality of it is, they needed an outlet to help them. With the way travel ball is around here, especially at the younger ages, it’s spread out and there’s so many teams and so many options. It gives people a false sense of reality in thinking my team is better because he’s on a winning team, when in reality he might be on a more talented team, but he’s not really developing. When they get to high school, they kind of hit their plateau. That’s what’s drawing people to us, the quality coaching and how we run things.”
It was that integrity, attention to detail and staff that made Program 15 and GamePrep Baseball Academy a logical fit for each other, not to mention that Booth and Granato had played against each other in the Atlantic League.
“Anthony is a former player and a grinder who played the game hard and with a focus on getting the most out of his ability,” Booth said.
“He’s a guy that you noticed on the other side of the diamond, and one that would find a way to make his presence felt. When it came time to select partner programs, I had zero doubt that he would bring those same traits to the next generation of players and the Future Stars Series. He not only represents Northern California well, but the Series as a whole.”
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