LYNN– The Lynn Invitational Baseball Tournament kicked off Thursday and so far the annual showcase has gone smoothly, co-director Tim Fila said.
“Everything has been on time, the pitching has been very good,” Fila said. “We have wood bats so the kids are adjusting a bit to that but everything’s going smooth.”
The tournament started out as a gateway for local kids to play college baseball and has grown for more than a decade, with players from around the country and several dozen college coaches making their way to Fraser Field.
“We started in 2005, at the time it was me and my partner Joel Karakaedos. We just wanted to give local kids an opportunity to play in front of college coaches and it just blossomed to this,” Fila said. “We have over 200 kids now coming from states like Maine, Vermont, Iowa, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Texas with around 60 to 70 coaches.”
“I used to work for the Major League Scouting Bureau and worked for the Yankees for three to four years so the relationships are just there,” Karakaedos said. “We just want to help kids to get exposure and it really helps with all the great colleges in this area.”
One of the reasons for the tournament’s growth is both local and national interest in New England colleges, Fila and Karakaedos said.
“New England has some of the best colleges around,” Fila said. “These kids are looking for the academics first, hopefully baseball opens the door for them and people are starting to figure it out.”
“A lot of people say, ‘let’s get out of Florida or somewhere and lets get to New England, to some of the best academics in the world,'” Karakaedos said. “They’re starting to utilize the sport instead of the sport utilizing them.”
Karakaedos and Fila have helped many kids throughout the years create paths to colleges that otherwise might not have had the opportunity.
“We take kids and put plans together, try to make sure their academics are on par and they don’t miss any paperwork that allows them to be a financial award winner,” Karakaedos said. “There’s no such thing as a full scholarship because baseball doesn’t have a big gate for colleges like other sports.”
“Two local examples of that are Dario Pizzano from Saugus who went to Columbia and Cam O’Neil who went to Holy Cross,” Fila said. “The first year they may have gotten ‘x ‘amount of dollars but they get there and they start getting more and more and now they have seen success.”
Throughout the years many players participating in the invitational have advanced to be drafted and signed professional contracts.
“We can look back to 2007, we have the picture of Matt Barnes a first round pick for the Red Sox, Jeff Locke drafted by the Braves,” Karakaedos said. “One year in 2007 we had five guys go on to the big leagues which is incredible.”
Along with the on field success, Karakaedos and Fila are also proud about off the field stories, including helping kids in the area help get their foot in the door at colleges.
“A lot of kids have no outlets to help them get exposure to local schools so I go in three or four times a year and give speeches to families and athletic directors and coaches in the area,” Karakaedos said. “We do some workouts and try to bring 20 to 30 of them here a year and get them to local colleges. That’s why we do it.
“That’s what I like,” Karakaedos added. “Shining the light on what’s positive and can be done. There are more success stories off the baseball field then there are on it and that’s the cool thing. It’s a passion for us and I dont think its ever going to stop.”