SPRINGDALE -- There's a few slight alterations and a new name, but the expectation of some good baseball remains the same for the Marucci Midwest Arkansas Collegiate League this summer.
"We'll have three teams instead of four with a little bit larger rosters this year," said league owner J.T. Baker, whose business was previously called Perfect Timing and also the name of the league. "The reason for that is between injuries and various circumstances, we felt like by the end of the summer we ended up short of pitching and short of players.
"To make sure the quality of baseball is better, we expanded the rosters slightly and reduced the number of teams. The biggest thing is the pitching. It's a bit of a tightrope to keep the rosters small enough that everybody gets to play plenty, but you also find yourself running short of pitching."
Games will again be played at the Randall Tyson Complex in Springdale. The local teams will play a couple of Tulsa-based teams along with teams from the Show-Me League.
"We will play considerably more games against outside competition," Baker said.
Ryan McDonald, the general manager of the league, said the local teams got a little bored playing themselves a lot.
"It was still competitive," McDonald said. "It was above average baseball. But playing the sandlot teams out of Tulsa twice a week, it's gonna be really good.
"With three teams, one plays a doubleheader [on Monday], one [Tuesday] and then Wednesday off. I really feel like the guys will like that a lot more. I think last summer the four days a week kinda wore them out coming off the full spring season."
McDonald said the league gives recent high school graduates a small taste before they go on to college.
"A lot of graduated seniors who are about to go out to college, this is gonna be their first taste of seeing guys who are two, three or four years older than them, which will be good. You can get humbled really quick," he said.
McDonald threw out several area players who should stand out this summer, such as Rogers Heritage's Vance Tobol, Farmington's Trey Hill, who played at Arkansas-Little Rock, Rogers shortstop Sal Jacobo and Bentonville grad Bryce Parlin.
"I gonna go ahead and say Vance Tobol is the MVP of the league before it even starts," McDonald said. "That dude was a second team All-American out of Central Missouri this year. He had a really good spring. Sal threw a little out of the bullpen at Southwest Baptist, so he will probably throw some this summer."
A couple of University of Arkansas players also are scheduled to take part in the league. Infielders Peyton Holt of Greenwood and Ben McLaughlin are listed on rosters.
It's also possible pitcher Matthew Watson, a Rogers High grad who pitched at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, will participate in the league, McDonald said.
There will be a championship game in mid-July along with an all-star game and a home run derby.
Baker said the Chad Wolff Classic, a local summer baseball tournament, is expected to be even larger this season, Baker said. The event is scheduled for June 15-18. He said almost 200 teams have signed up. The event started with 44.
"It's turned into a brand name around baseball people," Baker said. "One of the reasons we named it was to keep Chad's name in baseball circles."
Marucci Midwest Arkansas Team Rosters
John Michael Toney