How Canes Baseball Helped 40 Players Get Picked for the 2023 MLB Draft
By Melissa Wickes
July 26, 2023
The 2023 Major League Baseball Draft was one to remember—in fact it made history when Paul Skenes and Dylan Crew became the first ever teammates to go 1-2 in MLB draft history.
This was a pretty historical year for Canes Baseball too, as they had 40 of their own players get picked in the MLB draft. Canes has an astounding track record—with 40 current or former MLB players coming from their organization, 20 first round picks in the last six years, and 3,500 alumni having gone on to play college baseball.
When something this groundbreaking comes out of an organization—one that just happens to partner with LeagueApps for website design, registration, tryouts, and more—we had to sit down and talk to the leaders to find out just how they see so much success year after year.
Dan Gitzen, General Manager of Canes Baseball and the man who oversees team construction, shared what they’re doing over at Canes that yields such incredible results.
Meet Players Where They Are
The leaders at Canes Baseball set out to help players reach the highest level of baseball competition they possibly can. This looks different for every kid—for some it’s varsity baseball, for some it’s college, and for a select few it’s the Major League. No matter what the potential is, they are able to help their players reach it by meeting them where they are and providing them with a unique experience that’s suited to their skills.
Dan and his team of directors evaluate every kid through evaluation camps and tryouts to create a base model of where they believe their potential lies. Then, coaches watch them play over 30-40 games each season to determine their playing level as well as provide feedback to get better and advance—whether it’s from a prospect team to a scout team, or a scout team to a national team, etc.
“Put really good people around you who know what they’re doing and trust them,” Dan suggests. “Build relationships that benefit those people that you trust.”
Teach Kids How to Compete
Competing is not just about getting a hit or not, Dan explains. It’s about how much effort you put into everything. Creating great competitors all goes back to meeting kids where they are by placing them on teams and at levels where they will get the best competition possible.
Wyatt Langford, an outfielder who was the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft and just signed with the Texas Rangers, played for Canes’ 17-year-old national team—a team that has exposure to the best teams in the country, according to Dan. While Langford was a great hitter when he entered the Canes program, Canes prides themselves on teaching players like Wyatt how to compete.
“Wyatt is a product of competition,” says Dan. “He loved to compete. He was a product of playing on a team. He buckled down and competed and worked harder than anyone.”
Jonny Farmelo, who was a first-round pick for the Seattle Mariners’ and just officially signed, is another product of that Canes competition.
Invest in the Business
It’s crucial to invest resources in areas you believe will help your business grow. For Canes, that meant social media and technology. Canes has over 100,000 followers on Instagram and they use it as a place to highlight all of their players, get information in the hands of parents, and make their customers feel good.
“We invest in social media because we feel it helps us get information out about our product—and our product is our players,” says Dan. “People look at [youth sports] companies and ask what the proprietary piece of the company is, and for us it’s the players. We have a responsibility to highlight and accent those players that play in our program. That drives our business world.”
They invest in a full-time videographer and editor to create great content for these channels.
By partnering with LeagueApps to build their website, Canes is able to integrate their social media posts on their website for more exposure. Their website is now a one-stop shop for all things Canes Baseball—including news, player profiles for easy recruiting access, recent college commitment announcements, tryout information, and highlight videos.
“[Our team] loves LeagueApps because of the organization it allows guys like us to have, to be able to tunnel our vision into what we want to get done and provide the tools necessary to get it done,” says Dan.
Build Trust with Colleges
In 18 years, Canes has had 3,750 kids to go on to play college baseball—but there is no cookie-cutter way to get college recruiting process done, he explains. They provide resources for players, like a fulltime college recruiting advisor and softwares, but the number one thing, he says, is to build solid relationships with colleges baseball programs based on honesty. If you’re not sure the level of a player, ask the coach what they think.
If you lie to a coach and they take a chance on a kid that may not have the potential, you’re less likely to have that coach come back next year.
As a player, leave no stone unturned. Understand when it’s time to invest in development and exposure, utilize the resources your organization is providing to you, and don’t burn any bridges with teams that pay attention to you, even if they aren’t your first choice or dream school right away.
Facilitate a Community
While Canes has dedicated coaches, driven leadership, and great marketing, I believe what truly sets Canes apart is the community they have built for players.
Andrew Abbott made his MLB debut in 2023 with the Cincinnati Reds. Dan fondly remembers when a 115lb, 14-year-old Andrew drove five and a half hours to try out for Canes. While Andrew didn’t quite have the talent just yet, Dan knew he wanted to give him a chance because he had the grit, dedication, and passion that Canes was looking for.
Andrew started on a lower-level regional team at Canes and worked his way up. Billy Wagner, one of the coaches at Canes at the time, specifically asked to have Abbott on his team. They all saw something in Andrew.
Dan and Andrew’s relationship continued to grow from there, so much so that Dan drove Andrew around from game to game in Atlanta and Andrew helped Dan move into his home in Charlottesville. When Andrew got picked in the second round of the 2022 draft, Dan had one ask and that was for Andrew to call him when he signed. Sure enough, Dan got that call.
“Once you put that Canes uniform on, you’re always a Cane.” Dan says. “Those people know we care about them, that’s why they come back. That’s why when they get drafted, they send you a text message. Kids, weddings, life events, they’re including you.”
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