When Wes Caldwell made the decision to walk away from one of the premier high school baseball programs in the state after winning a state title in 2019 at Greenback High School, a lot of folks didn’t quite understand it.
It made perfect sense to the ones who knew Caldwell best, though.
The former Rhea County, Lookout Valley and Ooltewah coach returned to the Scenic City to rejoin his former player and Ooltewah head coach Brian Hitchcox as an assistant prior to the 2020 season getting cancelled, and once there, Caldwell’s began to formulate a vision much bigger than just his Ooltewah baseball duties.
On Tuesday next week, June 30th, with the Chattanooga Lookouts’ AT&T field as the background, Caldwell plans to put the first step in his master plan into motion. Caldwell, and the Chattanooga Hustle summer baseball program he oversees, will hold a Showcase for players beginning at 9:30 am and running till 2:30 p.m.
The event will be manned by coaches from Tennessee Wesleyan, Bryan College, Chattanooga State, Cleveland State, Motlow State, Roane State, and Johnson College.
In addition, it will be livestreamed to a number of Division I and II coaches who aren’t allowed to attend such Showcases in person due to NCAA mandates.
“Missing out on the high school season this year was one of the toughest things I have ever had to experience. It wasn’t just being away from the sport I love but knowing how hard so many kids had worked to get ready for it. And my heart broke for all the seniors who got their last chance taken from them,” Caldwell said.
“Chattanooga is such a great baseball town and it is littered with talent and hidden gems, and so the first thing I wanted to do was provide an opportunity for as many of them as possible to show their stuff to college coaches since they didn’t get to do it during the season,” he added.
Showcases are commonplace across the country to get kids in front of college coaches, but oftentimes, they can be cost prohibitive to many, with parents forking out as much as $300 to $500 for the opportunity not including the out-of-town travel expenses. The AT&T Showcase will have a flat fee of $125 and will include spin rates for pitchers as well as velocity numbers along with all the hitters analytics being tracked by Rapsodo. It will also include the instruction from the college coaches running the event and the livestream feed.
“We are super excited about it, and AT&T is such a great venue and the field is in pristine shape for this time of the year. This is a great opportunity for kids to get incredible instructions and feedback from college coaches, and it is a great opportunity for the coaches to identify recruiting targets. It’s a win-win, and for the cost and convenience, there won’t be many Showcases that can top what we are offering,” Caldwell said.
“The Showcase is open to players of all ages, so it’s a chance for young ones to get their names out there early, and a chance for unsigned seniors to make an impression. We set it up for a weekday to avoid anyone missing weekend games or night practices, so we are hoping to have a
good group come out and show what they’ve got,” he added.
Anyone interested in participating can reach Wes Caldwell at 423-715-0177 or via email at email@example.com. Pre-registration is preferred due to the amount of time it takes to set up individual Rapsoda accounts, but there will be room for about 10 walkups the day of the event on a first come first serve basis.
Caldwell plans to make the Showcase an annual event as well adding an Instructional Showcase next year geared more towards younger players to gain exposure and receive instruction from collegiate coaches in more of a camp format to take their games to the next level.
He also has in works a plan to put together a Tennessee Valley All Star Game for the area’s best players to showcase talents at AT&T in front of college coaches for next summer. And his biggest undertaking will be the formation of the Inaugural season of the SECBL, a collegiate summer league for ages 17-21.
“This will fill a need we have locally right now because the nearest options for college players is Atlanta or Sevierville. Chattanooga needs this with the amount of college players we have. The plan is to play these games on Tuesday and Wednesday so the younger kids can still participate and play for their traditional summer teams in weekends events. The teams will be coached by the best area college and high school coaches and play at the best facilities in our area. Typically, college coaches do not have games to watch on weekdays, so it provides them a service as well,” Caldwell noted.
With so much in the works, it makes a little more sense now as to why Caldwell decided to return home. After all, his vision has always been so more than one high school baseball program.