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Big Train Holds Panel Series for SABR

By:David Schneider
L to R: Big Train manager Sal Colangelo, players Anthony Piccolino and Tyler Villaroman, and general manager David Schneider.

On Saturday June 8th, the Bob Davids Mid Atlantic Chapter of SABR came to Shirley Povich Field for a seminar about Big Train and the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League. What is SABR? SABR is the Society for American Baseball Research. SABR is a membership organization that is dedicated to fostering the research and dissemination of the history and record of baseball. Cool enough, SABR was established in Cooperstown, New York in 1971 by sportswriter Bob Davids, which happens to be the name of the chapter that came to see Big Train, despite there being over 50 chapter across the country with all different names and locations.

SABR Chapters often attend baseball games at different levels to learn about their operation, hear from executives and coaches, and just to learn about a new team. The Bob Davids Mid Atlantic Chapter has been to Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Frederick Keys, and Bowie Baysox games recently. But, this time they chose to come out to Shirley Povich Field, home of the Bethesda Big Train.
 
The seminar on Big Train consisted of a four-part panel series and several different speakers and spanned over two hours before the beginning of the game against the DC Grays. The topics were:
 
  1. Big Train History and the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League

  2. Life as a Player

  3. Game-day Prep

  4. Big Train in the Community

 
Big Train History and the CRCBL (Bruce Adams, Bill Hickman, Jason Woodward)
 
Bruce Adams, Big Train’s founder, kicked off the panel to talk about the inception of Big Train, the team's namesake and the construction of Shirley Povich Field. Bruce mentioned where the funding came from to build the field, what stadiums were modeled when Povich was being built, and the numbers retired by Big Train.
 
Bill Hickman, Big Train’s Team Historian and Statistician, took over next and spoke about the successes of Big Train as a whole, individual records set by Big Train players, and the coveted topic of “what happens to players after the leave Big Train?” One such record that Bill brought up is that 41% of Big Train players (as of 2018) go on to play professional baseball.
 
Then, Jason Woodward, Commissioner of the CRCBL, closed out the first panel discussing what makes the Cal Ripken League so great. Jason covered the similarities and differences between the CRCBL and other summer leagues and also the outlook for the League going forward with six teams in the league.
 
Life as a Player (Sal Colangelo, Tyler Villaroman, Anthony Piccolino)
 
Big Train Manager Sal Colangelo led this panel, discussing player recruitment, relationships with college coaches, and player development. Coach Sal highlighted that many players still keep in touch and constantly remind Sal of how great their experience was with Big Train and Sal because of the fun they have and the fight they play with.
 
Tyler Villaroman (San Francisco) and Anthony Piccolino (James Madison) are two Big Train players returning for their second season in Bethesda. They conveyed their love for Big Train and how with less pressure during summer ball, they are able to have more fun, which in turn can often lead to winning. The players both highlighted the long-lasting friendships built while playing for Big Train, and how summer ball is different from their spring college seasons. 
 
Game Day Prep (Jason Bowers, David Schneider, Chris Rogers, Taylor Dennison, Kyle Brown)
 
Jason Bowers, a sports turf supervisor and the maintenance leader for Cabin John Regional Park, started off this panel. Bowers gave a background of where he came from and the previous fields he worked on, later moving to the work he does at Cabin John Regional Park including Povich Field. Bowers mentioned how many games are played on Povich Field each year and the constant and daily work that goes into making the field look good for Georgetown University and the Big Train seasons.
 
President and General Manager of Big Train, David Schneider, then spoke on the year-round process for getting Big Train ready to go. Starting with fundraising/sponsorship sales and getting to the recruitment, hiring, and training of interns for the summer season. Schneider then explained how the interns, in turn, run the operation during the season and are tasked with different jobs like ticket sales, merchandise sales, concession stand sales, on field activity coordinators, social media coordinators, writing articles, running the music system during games, operating the scoreboard, official scoring for league, and radio broadcasting games for our out-of-town fans.
 
Chris Rogers, the Assistant General Manager, spoke on his creation of game-day programs, season long Souvenir Programs, and game scripts for each game. Putting these items together, Rogers said, takes a lot of cross-referencing of materials to make sure every little detail is correct.
 
Taylor Dennison discussed her role as Big Train’s picnic and party coordinator. She explained her outreach methods and what goes into making the perfect party, whether it’s for a birthday, end of the season team party, or a corporate outing.
 
Former intern, Kyle Brown, then closed out this panel talking about what he did as an intern - writing and broadcasting. He conveyed his love for being able to provide the parents of our out-of-town players a way to be be at Povich Field while not physically being in attendance. Brown also spoke on his “Sabermetric Sunday” column that he produced where he would write on basic advanced stats and put it in simple terms and relate it to the current Big Train team.
 
Big Train in the Community (Anne Fletcher, Emily Waldman, David Schneider)
 
Anne Fletcher and Emily Waldman do amazing work as Host Family Coordinators for the Big Train. They discussed the troubles of coordinating where players live, which includes making sure players with cars are near players without cars so that they can easily get to games, and also what goes into hosting a player - providing food, a private bedroom, and a bathroom among other things. They both discussed how great it is to have a “big brother” in the house for their kids to learn from and play baseball with.
 
David Schneider then closed out the panel talking about the different projects Big Train does in the community and also the connection between BCC Baseball and Big Train. Schneider highlighted the Manna Food Drive that Big Train players and staff participate in every summer. David also conveyed the tremendous amount of time,work, and effort that BCC puts into the baseball fields of Montgomery County, Maryland. BCC Baseball is the parent company of Big Train. They are a youth baseball organization and 501c3 that operates leagues and teams of over than 2000 kids. They also adopt and maintain 15 ball fields in the area.

 

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