On Nov. 15, Perfect Game Baseball announced it would be suspending its partnership with LakePoint Sporting Community by 2020 due to uncertainty stemming from LakePoint's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.
Perfect Game is the giant of the amateur baseball industry, regularly hosting tournaments and showcases featuring the top travel ball teams and players in the country. With the news, it is fair to wonder if LakePoint will remain the Mecca of amateur baseball in the Southeast, as it has been since the summer of 2014.
In Perfect Game's place, Prep Baseball Report (PBR) has come into the picture through an agreement with LakePoint and its owner Rimrock Capital Management. Rimrock has made an investment in PBR and bought part ownership in the baseball scouting service.
While Perfect Game dominates the youth baseball industry like the mid-'90s Braves dominated the National League East, PBR has been growing since its inception in 2005 and has recently expanded its operations into Alabama and Tennessee, and now has a presence in 41 states across the country.
It remains to be seen how the loss of Perfect Game will affect LakePoint's business or the prestige of the venue. However, one area coach believes the trade of Perfect Game for Prep Baseball Report could be beneficial for the local baseball community.
Mike Marra spent nearly every weekend recruiting at LakePoint during the summer when he was the head coach at Georgia Highlands. Now an assistant coach at Murray County High, Marra worked part-time with Prep Baseball Report when he was a high school coach in New York.
Marra says Prep Baseball Report is a reputable organization that puts on quality showcases, although the type of talent attracted to the venue may not be as consistent as it has been with Perfect Game running the show.
"So basically, what PBR does, they're kind of geared toward the average players," Marra said. "Perfect Game is tuned in to the elite players, and that's all well and good. But PBR really focuses on Division-III kids, Division-II kids, the JUCO kids. They really kind of have an avenue for everybody in all skill levels. So they do a very good job of trying to promote and get kids out there. ... It's very much more cost effective than what Perfect Game is doing."
Prep Baseball Report initially launched in 2005 as a print magazine, but has begun to resemble Perfect Game by serving as a scouting service, while putting on scouting showcases and tournaments and maintaining its media coverage of amateur athletes who play in its events.
Unlike in other sports, there is one organization in baseball that dominates the share of talent. In travel basketball, for instance, there are multiple circuits — Nike, Under Armour and Adidas — who compete for the top players. In baseball, however, Perfect Game is king.
"Perfect Game is head and shoulders above everybody. They've got a machine. They've had it for a long time," Marra said. "They have these little small rinky-dink [organizations]. Nothing's like Perfect Game. But PBR, I think, is trying to find a niche in that it's kind of more all-inclusive. They're trying to get that kid who throws 75 miles per hour and still try to get him a spot somewhere."
Marra believes PBR will continue to grow as a stronger force in amateur baseball, partly because of its partnership with LakePoint.
"[PBR] is very similar [to Perfect Game], but PBR does a lot more showcases. Now they're going to get into tournaments. That's something they didn't do a whole lot of and, of course, Perfect Game does all the time," Marra said. "You're still going to have your state-run stuff, but my guess is they're going to try to get some of the state stuff pushed down here and make this the hub during the summer time."
However, the questions remains: Can PBR cut into Perfect Game's share of national talent — the type of talent that regularly brought the top college coaches and pro scouts to Emerson each weekend?
"Perfect Game still has the brand, don't get me wrong. But PBR is going to be much more affordable for the players. If you have it at LakePoint, the scouts still know where it is. You can still see eight games at a time. So I don't know that that's going to change," Marra said. "But I think it helps PBR. You may get some more of the elite kids. I think now they'll start to get a greater draw to the more elite kids with LakePoint in their backyards. I think it's going to be good. I think the competition is good anyway. And now you may have some of those [Perfect Game] guys from those travel teams want to pay a lot less and go to a similarly competitive tournament. They might go to a PBR tournament. Everyone knows where LakePoint is — pro guys and college guys."
Whether the PBR events attract the talent or not, Marra expects tournaments and showcases to be well-run based on his experience with the organization.
"I don't know enough about the national side, but just working with the guys in New York, they're very buttoned-up. They do a good job," Marra said. "They're very professional up there, based on how they ran it. I was really impressed with how they did things. Every state does their own thing. It's like any other franchise. But I was really impressed with them in New York when I was there.
"I'll tell you one thing PBR does: They market very well. They've grown from state to state to state. I think they're going to try to get a lot of national exposure with it. Perfect Game's not going anywhere. They'll still be at every high school field like they always are. So it's going to be very good for college coaches because there will be more games to look at."