Now in their fifth season of existence, Rhino Baseball has quickly and effectively grown to become one of the premier programs in both Illinois and Wisconsin.
“We started in 2012, myself and a couple of the other coaches had come from another program that was just not really going the direction that we felt was best,” recalled Greg Blaesing, who is Rhino Baseball’s general manager, director of player development and a coach.
“After one year we met a guy at a tournament, Andy Zwirchitz, who played ball with (Program 15 and New Balance Future Stars Series CEO Jeremy Booth) in the Atlantic League. That’s how we found out about Program 15, it was through ‘Squeeze.’ Then (former Atlantic League pitcher) Randi Mallard knew JB, and that’s how this all started. After a year in Illinois, we opened up Rhino Baseball Wisconsin and Squeeze and Mallard have been there the whole time and done a great job. We have ten teams in Wisconsin and 28 teams in Illinois.”
Rhino Baseball is closing in on 100 college commits, and should reach that number by the start of next season.
“We don’t train other teams or other programs, our facilities are private – so at the end of the day, it’s for us and all we care about is their development and seeing our seniors having a place to go and play post-high school,” Blaesing said. “That’s what we’re the most proud of, seeing guys get out of travel baseball what they want, which is an opportunity to play at the next level and at the highest level they possibly can.”
Especially in Illinois, the travel baseball world is extremely competitive, with Blaesing estimating there are 50 12-year-old teams within a ten-mile radius of his facility. But it seems that after doing the research, parents are choosing Rhino Baseball.
“There’s a lot of good travel programs out there, but I think we have the players best interests at heart,” Blaesing said.
“We offer training year-round to our players, everything is included and it’ll handle all parts of their game. All of our guys are guys who played collegiately or professionally; great staff and guys that care about the kids first and foremost. Nobody’s trophy hunting, they know we focus on development and that’s it; development, then get them off to college. Some of the perks are we offer strength, speed and agility (training), so they get that from a former player who does a great job. We do a lot of classroom sessions, mental training.
“That’s where I spend my time with these guys, player makeup and how important grades are and how there’s more to baseball than just the stat line. Be a good teammate, and how you can help your team win more even if you aren’t the most talented guy, understanding situations. Rhino Baseball is very private, we try to keep it like a country club where you can use the facility whenever you want, practice year-round, and you’ve always got that structure around you. Then you focus on the longer-term goals of making sure they’re good humans, great teammates and people who help their team win whether it’s baseball or when they get a job down the road. We want leaders in the community.”
Given that Program 15 is certainly focused on helping to create the next generation of the game both on and off the field, combining forces was an easy choice for Blaesing and Booth to make.
“Partnering with New Balance, you’re getting great products at affordable rates, which is nice for families,” Blaesing said.
“For a guy that runs a program, I can tell you it’s great having that staff of guys that have played at the highest level and were successful. I can pick up the phone and call and ask for advice on how to handle certain players or what they would recommend that we do so we can give each player the best experience and maximize their development. The combines, we ran a high school combine at the end of January, and the feedback from the families was tremendous. The players were looked at from a non-biased source and could say, ‘Hey, this is what he’s good at and this what he needs to work at.’ They focused on character, too. That goes a long way. The world they live in, which is just, ‘showcase, showcase, showcase,’ and it’s how hard do you throw and how fast do you run, unfortunately that’s not really baseball. Baseball is so much more. Getting guys who understand that and are telling players that, it’s very refreshing for our players.”
Booth was more than happy to work with Blaesing and Rhino, given the mutual respect between the two sides.
“Greg and Rhino Baseball do things right; great baseball people with big hearts and forward thinkers who make sure they're always doing what's best for players,” Booth said.
“He mentions leaning on us, well we've leaned on him too. Squeeze, Randi, and I were together in Atlantic City. Those two guys were fun to be around. First day I got to AC, Randi says, “Hey you, new catcher. Come here.” I go to see him and he says, “Listen, I throw real hard and I'm not sure where it's going. Just set up in the middle because it's going to one way or the other and heavy.” I just looked at him and said, “OK, man.” But that type of baseball and self-understanding is what these guys do there. They just teach each individual player to know themselves and play their game within a team concept. Winning formula and translates to players moving on and up which is exactly what they've done.”
In addition, Blaesing is particularly excited about taking his Rhino Baseball teams down to Houston for P15’s national events.
“I can’t wait for those to get started,” he said. “I know teams are involved across the country, and it’s a lot of the top programs that have the right ideals as programs as far as why they’re doing this. When you’re playing against other teams like that, that’ll be a big opportunity as far as recruiting goes to get guys more opportunities than they currently have.”
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