The D.C. Cadets will become the sixth program added to the NVTBL’s Premier Showcase League (PSL), joining the Bradley Eagles, Diamond Elite, Metro Senators, NOVA Premier and MVP Royals.
The Cadets are managed by Mark Gibbs, a former professional infielder with the Baltimore Orioles and current head coach at St. John’s College High School. Shortly after taking the head coaching job in 2007, Gibbs started the travel program exclusively for St. John’s players as a way for them to develop outside of the high school season.
The decision to join the PSL was easy for Gibbs and his staff. Not only does the league provide the best local competition for weekday games, but countless opportunities for his players to be exposed to college coaches and campuses without breaking the bank.
“[The PSL] offers the chance to play games during the week against five really good programs and teams that we are excited to compete against,” Gibbs said. “With the additional [opportunities] the league brings, it just makes sense for us to give this a try and see how it goes.”
The Cadets travel program is not like many in the area and feels more like a college program than anything else. After the spring high school season ends at St. John's, the team will play together during the week throughout the summer and fall and practice before school during the winter months using a drop-down batting cage in the gym.
“It is very unique for a high school team to stay together and play all year around, especially around here,” Gibbs said. “It’s all happening here. For them, they don’t have to do as much on their own and the schedule is set so much they can become better baseball players everyday.”
“Everything we do within our program on a daily basis is developmental focus.”
The travel program has also allowed Gibbs to keep a closer eye on his players. Though the goal of the program is centered around developing varsity players for the spring, Gibbs is able to further evaluate players and guide them in their development. It also allows his players to demonstrate improvements or showcase their talents before tryouts.
“We are able to watch our guys all year around to evaluate and to make sure they are doing things to get better,” Gibbs said. “That is why we started what we did. I was seeing players go off in the summer and was not sure what they were doing. You were never sure if they were getting any better.”
Entering his 13th season at St. John’s, Gibbs has won nearly 80 percent of his games and has clinched the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) title five consecutive years. There has also been 89 players from his program to play college baseball and 16 have gone on to play professionally.
Gibbs credits strong team chemistry built throughout the year with his Cadets travel program, but also realizes the importance of establishing winning habits not only for his team, but for his player’s individual success and ability to play at the next level.
“College coaches want kids who win. It’s great to throw in a bullpen or show something in one inning. It’s a completely different thing to know how to win on a daily basis in games that count. It’s not just about a team development standpoint for us to be the best we can be in the spring. These games are their ability to develop themselves as baseball players.”
The PSL season will begin June 1 and conclude with a playoff tournament. Teams will also have the opportunity to attend college visits and showcase events organized by the league, including their Jan. 27 showcase event at The St. James with over 30 college coaches. For more information on the PSL, visit www.NVBLBaseball.org/PSL.
Photos courtesy of St. John's College High School Athletics