The Early Years
By Mike Davies, Founder
The original “Blasters” team was formed after a group of dads from BRSLL AA viewed a humbled performance by BRSLL All-Stars in a tournament hosted at Marina Field. We wondered why our talented kids had been so over-matched by similar programs in our district. We thought that forming a summer team would help our own kids get tournament experience and perform better if they became BRSLL All Stars in the future. Jeff Hom took the lead on team administration, and Paul Savin, Gary Burkholder, and I were the on-field coaches. That summer we started late with just two weeks before our first tournament in San Bruno. We did not have enough players to field a true-age team, so we also recruited a few off-age players and some little brothers to complete our roster which varied greatly across the four tournaments. The team was named the Blasters as a nod to the successful Belmont girls softball teams who played as the “Blast”. During that summer, the boys played wearing t-shirts screened with “Belmont” and yellow and blue Milwaukee Brewers baseball caps (Jeff thought the logo looked like “bm” and could be appropriated as meaning “bel-mont”—a stretch, I know). We played in four tournaments, and though it was our first team, it was not as yet the Blasters franchise as it is known today.
Following that summer, I imagined that we could leverage our experience into something bigger, better, and more formal that would produce better results for B/RS baseball long into the future. That would require more organization, more teams, and a better brand. The first step was to create a more competitive team from the varied group that played in the prior summer. This meant pruning the team to its better true-age players and recruiting new true-age players from the league to complete a 12-player roster for the coming summer season. More on that later. The second challenge was to establish a brand that would reflect more professionalism and help attract more people to the program. Jim Thompson and Chris Freire were key to this phase. We worked together with Chris’s design talents to produce a logo, color scheme, and a uniform design. Jim then took this design language together with his photography and my vision for the franchise mission and philosophy, etc. and produced our first website. I’m glad to see that much of that remains on your current site.
The problem with pruning the team was dealing with the strong social relationships held between players and families (mostly dads). Making a strong true-age team meant parting ways with the older and younger boys and their supportive families. The answer to that was to provide playing opportunities for the departing players by creating additional Blasters teams in age brackets above and below the core team. This resulted in a 12u team (managed by Paul Patton with coach Lester Branson) and an 8u team (managed by Craig Jones with coach Rudy Lopez—this arrangement experienced some fluctuation through the years ending with Rudy taking management responsibility in the end). In summary, they all wanted to be part of the new Blasters initiative, but the new uniform design was the real key to them signing on.
The 12u team was uncompetitive due to a flawed mix of younger players and inexperienced coaching. It required a restructuring midway into the summer which resulted in splitting the team up and assigning a new management staff (John Sechler and Craig Modesitt). This also involved carving off the younger players and recruiting new age-appropriate players. We also used try-outs to create a new (red) 10u team with the younger players removed from the 12u team. It was managed by Dennis Gorgolinski with coach Lester Branson. Sadly, the new 12u and 10u Red teams played only one season.
Following the first season of the newly formed Blasters franchise, it became clear to me that we had to start forming the teams much earlier to feed and grow the program and to allow the time necessary to build cohesive and highly competitive teams. This resulted in my recruiting of Ronda Winton and Mark Thompson to establish our first 7u team. This was the first time we did a formal and open to the public try-out and it became the model for what we repeated the next year with Chris Freire, and each of the next few years before I retired from the Blasters.
In summary, the program has been a success by most measures. Having the brand survive for ten years is a testament to the volunteers like you who have dedicated the time necessary to provide a productive baseball experience to many kids. The key to further success (I think) is maintaining the commitment to strictly composing the teams from players of BRSLL. There have been and will continue to be competitive urges to recruit beyond the borders of our league, but the origin and mission of the Blasters program has always been to benefit the performance of our Belmont-Redwood Shores Little League All-Stars. Accepting players outside our league means kids within our program lose an opportunity to improve and better represent our league in post season play.
Good luck and thank you for your time and commitment to Blasters Baseball.