Sant Boi de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain—Amateur Athletic Union (AAU)
Baseball International Ambassador Coach Mike Graham has coached for 25 years, including the past eight years managing AAU’s Maryland RBI advanced skills development team based in Annapolis, Md. He’s well prepared to assess the sport’s development in his local AAU district—and abroad.
The past two summers he managed the Sant Boi Barcelona Falcons representing Spain in the Collegiate Baseball League Europe (CBLE), a collegiate summer league comprising teams of college players from the United States and Canada and international players for their countries’ national teams and elite Major League Baseball© sponsored academies.
The CBLE is affiliated with the Northwoods League, one of the USA’s premier summer collegiate baseball leagues. Besides Spain, in 2017 the league included teams representing Holland, Belgium, and France.
Surveying the scene at Spain’s Sant Boi Municipal Stadium in Sant Boi de Llobregat, Barcelona, in July, Graham, fellow Maryland RBI and Sant Boi Barcelona Falcons coach Chris Cummings, and Club de Béisbol y Sóftbol Sant Boi and Academia de Beisbol Catalunya technical director Marc Carillo were pleased with what they were seeing on the field.
The stadium is the home of CBS Sant Boi, one of Europe’s top baseball clubs, and it was CBLE Clinic Day at Sant Boi.
The cast of American college baseball and European national team, MLB academy, and club players took the field to coach players 14 and under, as part of a community service activity linked to the CBLE games played at Sant Boi.
“When the kids and their parents are able to commit to keeping them involved, the future for baseball is really bright,” said the camp director.
The two-hour clinic attracted over 40 boys and girls to the stadium in the afternoon. The players were put through a variety of drills focusing mainly on warmup techniques, throwing, catching, base running, and hitting.
Graham said the youngsters turned up eager to learn and play.
“Over the years what we have been seeing is many of the kids that came to the clinic the year before have a consistency when it comes to participating in the clinic each year,” the coach said. “I’ve seen some regular faces and I’ve also seen skills development over the last couple of years.”
On hand to assist coaches Graham and Cummings were a team of assistant coaches—the players on the Falcons roster, some of whom were AAU players for Maryland RBI in their second or third summers playing baseball in Europe.
“As advanced players, they serve as assistant coaches for the clinic and do a phenomenal job keeping the kids engaged in whatever drills they do throughout the clinics and having a whole bunch of fun,” Graham said.
The list of current and former Maryland District AAU college players on the Falcons included Mac McGrath (Shenandoah University, Va.), Jimmie Gentry (Albright College, Pa.), Blake Thrasher (Calvert HS, Md.), CJ Cummings (University of Mary Washington, Va.), Connor Graham (Anne Arundel Community College, Md.), and Josh Matthews (Hood College, Md.), and AAU coaches Graham and Cummings.
“The great thing about the Sant Boi kids is that they are good, coachable baseball and softball players,” Graham said. “They are hungry and work hard, they listen and they have respect for the game. That’s a real credit to the wonderful job Marc and the coaches of the Club de Béisbol y Softbol Sant Boi do.”
In a ceremony at home plate, coaches Graham and Cummings presented Carillo and CBLE President Jan Maarten Kops and other CBLE officials with AAU gold medals and AAU Junior Olympic Games T-shirts recognizing their efforts to promote baseball globally.
Carillo also accepted a $100 donation that Graham made to CBS Sant Boi on behalf of AAU Baseball to help the club’s youth programs purchase catcher’s gear, fielding gloves, bats, balls, batting helmets, and more.
“AAU is honored to have the opportunity to help support baseball playing youth everywhere, especially through an organization that provides a safe, positive and fun activity for kids like CBS Sant Boi,” said Graham.
“We are thankful that Coach Graham selected our community for this generous donation on behalf of AAU Baseball,” said Carillo. “Mike is one of the good guys in international baseball, and we are honored to receive this support which will allow us the opportunity to give more children in our community the chance to play ball.”
“AAU has a long history in supporting kids and families in baseball and softball and is proud to support the sport’s growth globally,” said Graham. “CBS Sant Boi clearly has its act together, and it and the CBLE’s goals align nicely with AAU Baseball and Softball both on and off the field. We are excited to continue to work together to support the baseball and softball dreams of youth around the world.
“As coaches our jobs are to fan the flames—to energize and get that next generation passionate about the diamond sports, baseball and softball,” Graham said. “Unquestionably that passion and energy are abundant in Spain. Working the clinic day at Sant Boi is one of the highlights of the CBLE summer and I am proud to represent AAU Baseball internationally like that.”
Players and Coach Graham also delivered a CBLE clinic in Belgium.
AAU provides an amateur baseball experience to 25,000 youth throughout the USA and is expanding opportunities worldwide. Learn more about AAU Baseball at www.playaaubaseball.com.