No offseason for Ripken League officials -- Gazette.Net


There is no such thing as an offseason for baseball connoisseur Jeff Rabberman as the coach of the Gaithersburg Giants.

“It’s absolutely a 12-month, 365-day job,” said Rabberman, who guided the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League franchise to a successful inaugural season last summer. He is also the coach at Gaithersburg High School during the spring. “There’s not a day that goes by I’m not doing something for the Giants.”

In 2013, the Giants entered the CRCBL, a hyper-competitive amateur summer wooden bat league founded in 2005 comprised of 12 franchises in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., metropolitan region. And through the years, as the league has expanded, the time commitment has not only increased on the field, but off the field as well for all of the league’s representatives, including Montgomery County’s four teams (Gaithersburg, Silver Spring-Takoma Park Thunderbolts, Bethesda Big Train and Rockville Express).

Rabberman and representatives from Silver Spring and the Big Train all agreed that running their organization extends to much more than just the annual schedule of games from late May to early August. They all compared it to running a college program or minor league affiliate, complete with annual winter league meetings. Planning a budget, interviewing potential interns, improving stadium and field amenities, lining up host families, hiring play-by-play and public address announcers and increasing community involvement are just a few of the tasks at hand for each franchise.

“For [Big Train President and General Manager] Adam Dantus now and me back in the day, it never stopped,” said Bethesda co-founder Bruce Adams, who has admittedly become less involved in the organization’s day-to-day operations over the past couple of years. “As soon as the summer youth camps and season are over, we are working on our annual fundraising, ordering uniforms and equipment and setting up offseason events for fans. Now, especially with the Web and social media, it’s a completely non-stop process.”

But recruiting college players and developing relationships is the most important key to success. Teams said they have their roster set for the most part by the late fall or early winter.

“Recruiting players for the next summer’s team is a huge part,” said Thunderbolts Vice President Joe Gerbasi, whose organization is entering its 15th year of operation. “It takes a lot of dedicated work and research to find, target and develop relationships with college programs and players.

“We are always looking to increase the number of Division I players on our roster, but at the same time, we are always looking for Division II, III and junior college players flying under the radar. We want to have a big league dream with a small-town charm.”

Added Adams: “Sal Colangelo, our manager, he literally goes from championship series game to vacation and dials recruits on the phone. There can’t be any gap in downtime because if you aren’t recruiting early and often, you won’t get the best players.”

Rabberman, who traveled to the University of Texas last month to visit three of his summer players, said he is amazed at how far-reaching the CRCBL has become. In fact, he said he received a random email from a potential play-by-play radio guy from Washington state.

“A couple of parents have asked me, ‘Do you want to coach in college?’ and I just laughed because I don’t coach at a university, but it is like we — I’m sure the other teams will agree — all do. It is as much work and we keep getting more and more involved and rewarded. I have the Trojans and the Giants. I get the college kids during the summer and high school kids in the spring.”