The country’s longest-running baseball and softball convention marks 50 years with show in Wilmington, NC on January 13-15, 2023.
Wilmington, NC – In celebration of Be The Best’s 50th anniversary, some of the country’s most esteemed coaches and experts will come together to share insights and instruction at the Wilmington Convention Center on Friday, January 13 through Sunday, January 15, 2023. Alphas Alliance, a software company that caters to coaches, is thrilled to announce their acquisition of Be The Best as well as the unveiling of this year’s exciting speaker line-up.
“The Wilmington and Beaches CVB and its travel partners are honored to be selected as the site of the convention’s 50th anniversary,” says Kim Hufham, President/CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority. “Our riverfront convention center is within easy walking distance of hotels, inns, and vacation rentals, as well as restaurants specializing in locally-sourced seafood and produce. Wilmington’s variety of museums, beaches, tours, cruises, parks, gardens, and sports facilities make it the ideal destination for attendees to bring along their families for a memorable convention and vacation.”
The site was specifically chosen for its affordability and versatility as well as its deep roots in the baseball and softball worlds.
“Wilmington’s vibrant collegiate and amateur level sports scene combined with our beautiful beaches and historic downtown have long been a draw for athletes of all skill levels to train, recover and refocus,” says Natalie English, CEO of Wilmington’s Chamber of Commerce. “We are so pleased that Be The Best has selected our city for this event.”
On the baseball side, speakers at the event include USA Baseball, Andrew Bartman; Savannah Banana’s Head Coach, Tyler Gillum; 2021 NAIA National Champions, Georgia Gwinnett College Head Coach, Jeremy Sheetinger; Seattle Mariners Hitting Coordinator, CJ Gillman; St. Louis Cardinals MiLB Head Coach, Patrick Anderson; Team USA Olympic Team / Boston Red Sox Coach, Darren Fenster; and University of Mount Olive Head Coach, Rob Watt.
On the softball side, speakers at the event include 2022 CAA Champions, UNCW, Retired Head Coach, Kristy Norton; 2022 D3 NCAA Champions, Christopher Newport University, Head Coach, Keith Parr; University of South Carolina Hitting Coach, Josh Bloomer; Virginia Tech Pitching Coach, Doug Gillis; 2x NCAA D3 Champions Head Coach, John Tschida from Saint Mary’s University; and Starz Gold Head Coach, Tony Short.
Also speaking at the event about elite mindset and mental performance are renowned speakers, Olympian, Joey Lye; and Cheryl McCormick from Gravitational Performance.
“Being around other people who want to learn and grow and get better just makes our game better,” says Andrew Bartman, Director of Coaching Development for USA Baseball. “Be The Best is a very high-level event that offers both intimacy and access to the presenters who are there to share ideas with other like-minded individuals.”
Now owned and operated by Alphas Alliance, Diego Ibarra and Lindsay Mayer bring a new vibrancy to Be The Best. As owners, coaches, and entrepreneurs, they explore out-of-the-box concepts and incorporate cutting-edge technology, yet are deeply committed to Be The Best’s original vision, which was put in place when it was founded back in 1972. Ibarra and Mayer recognize that the success of the longest-running baseball and softball convention is contingent on it being a show for coaches, created and run by coaches.
“I am beyond excited to move this event to Wilmington, NC,” says CEO, Lindsay Mayer. “It is a beautiful, affordable city right in the heart of the baseball and softball worlds. I look forward to connecting thousands of coaches and athletes as well as creating business opportunities that extend beyond the field.”
Be The Best traditionally attracts about 1,500 attendees who come together each year to interact with former professional and Olympic athletes, college coaches and other baseball and softball professionals who share their experience and expertise. Speaker topics include everything from how to build a championship program and making sense of the mental game to pitching mechanics and defense skills.
“I see it as a journey,” VP, Diego Ibarra says. “And no matter where we are on our individual paths – whether it’s Little League, travel ball, college, or at the pro level – we can all learn from each other in our quest to Be The Best players, coaches, and selves we can possibly be. I am proud to be in a position to help empower so many individuals on their personal journeys.”
Registration is now open and can be accessed at www.bethebest.com.
If you are interested in a sponsorship or being an exhibitor at Be The Best Convention, please contact Lindsay Mayer or Diego Ibarra at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website at www.bethebest.com.
Alphas Alliance is an innovative software company built to make coaches’ lives easier. For more information, please visit www.alphasalliance.com.
New Wilmington tech startup makes major waves by bringing the longest-running baseball and softball convention to Wilmington for its 50th Anniversary
Wilmington, N.C.—Be The Best, the country’s longest-running baseball and softball show is making waves and moving to Wilmington, NC. The Be The Best Baseball and Softball Convention will take place January 13-15th, 2023 at the Wilmington Convention Center. Owners Lindsay Mayer and Diego Ibarra acquired Be The Best as part of their Alphas Alliance venture, as a way to further connect coaches, athletes, and businesses, and create opportunities that extend beyond the sport.
“The Wilmington and Beaches CVB and its travel partners are excited to be selected as the new site for the ‘Be The Best’ Baseball and Softball Convention in January 2023. Hosting the longest-running baseball and softball coaches’ clinic in the country during the organization’s 50th anniversary is an honor. We look forward to welcoming attendees and sharing with them all our destination has to offer, from Wilmington’s pedestrian-friendly Riverwalk and historic district to our three colorful island beaches,” stated Kim Hufham, president/CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority.
“Our riverfront convention center is within easy walking distance of hotels, inns and vacation rentals, as well as restaurants specializing in locally sourced seafood and produce. And, it’s only a few minutes’ drive from the beach. From the river to the sea, Wilmington and our beaches offer a variety of family-friendly attractions, museums, tours, cruises, parks, gardens, and sports facilities that make it the ideal destination for attendees to bring along their families for a memorable coastal convention and vacation.”
Each year, Be the Best, attracts approximately 1,500 people interested in learning more about coaching, and bettering themselves in the world of all things baseball and softball. Athletic coaches of all age groups from Little League through college participate in the clinic.
CEO of Wilmington’s Chamber of Commerce, Natalie English stated, “The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce is pleased the ‘Be the Best’ Baseball and Softball Convention has selected Wilmington, NC for their 2023 event. Baseball and softball are America’s pastime and we can’t think of a better place to host members of this special athletic tradition than Wilmington, NC. Our vibrant collegiate and amateur level sports scene combined with our beautiful beaches and historic downtown have long been a draw for athletes of all skill levels to train, recover and refocus.”
Be The Best is known for its expert guest speakers that include former professional baseball players and managers, decorated Olympian athletes, college and university coaches, and other credible baseball and softball professionals who offer tips and tools to enrich their art of coaching. Guest speakers cover topics like how to build a championship program, pitching mechanics, hitting drills, and defense skills.
“The athletes these coaches interact with on a daily basis will not only represent our county in some of the most hallowed stadiums and competitions on the planet but will also develop into skilled entrepreneurs, business leaders, elected officials, and coaches themselves – we are excited Wilmington gets to play a small role in that development process,” stated Josh Hallingse, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce’s Vice President of small business development and business retention.
Approximately 100 vendors attend the yearly event, showcasing new products and technological advances in their sport. Exhibitors make sales and contacts at the clinic and continue to supply coaches with products and information throughout the year. For more information on becoming an exhibitor and/or sponsor, please visit www.BeTheBest.com for more details.
Registration for Be The Best Baseball and Softball Convention is now open for the event taking place in January of 2023. The registration rate for an adult pass to the event is $175 (Early Registration $125), and there are many different discounts offered including full staff rates, student rates, and club/organizational rates. Coaches and other interested parties are encouraged to sign up now at www.BeTheBest.com where more details are available.
Throughout this three-day event, Lindsay and Diego plan to provide attendees with an experience that will leave a long-lasting positive impression on everything that Wilmington and Be The Best have to offer.
In her announcement, Alphas Alliance CEO Lindsay Mayer states, “We are beyond excited to move our event to the beautiful Wilmington, NC! Not only is this region of the country an enjoyable and affordable escape, but it is also a staple to the youth baseball and softball travel community. Our goal is to add value to the community through our educational networking event, and we know that by moving Be the Best to Wilmington we will be connecting thousands of coaches and athletes as well as bringing business creating opportunities that extend beyond the field.”
For more information, please contact Lindsay Mayer or Diego Ibarra, email@example.com, or visit the website at www.BeTheBest.com or www.AlphasAlliance.com.
Lindsay Mayer and Diego Ibarra founded Alphas Alliance in May of 2021 after being encouraged by their Head Coach Jay Miller while at Hofstra University. By December, their first product, AlphaSigns has attracted some of the best softball and baseball programs in the country, and hundreds of travel organizations. Read the Alphas story here!☺️
Washington Nationals Organization
Baseball disasters come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it has to do with a missed sign. Sometimes a passed ball. And sometimes, a dropped kid. Mack Jenkins recalls with a touch of horror, his biggest coaching disaster, that had nothing to do with any of his players.
Once, when Mack was coaching third base, there was an on-field promotion with kids running the bases. One small child was having a hard time making it home, so being the good guy that he is, Mack picked him up. As he raced toward home plate, Mack tripped and fell, terrified kid in his arms.
But, the kid was fine. And, except for a bit of a bruised ego, Mack recovered, continuing to make a difference on the field and off, as he coached hundreds of players over the course of 30 years.
During the 1989 World Series, after retiring from playing professional ball himself, Mack was offered a job with the Cincinnati Reds. For the next 23 years, he made his way through the system, coaching all levels from Rookie Ball to AAA. He traveled the world – working in cities such as Billings, MT; Cedar Rapids, IA; Charleston, WV; Chattanooga, TN; and Louisville, KY, as well as stints in the Dominican Republic and Venezuela. In 2012 he became the assistant pitching coach for the major league Reds, before becoming bullpen coach, then finally, pitching coach..
In 2019, he made the move to the Washington Nationals organization, working in Class A in Hagerstown, MD.
A valuable lesson learned throughout his baseball tenure is that failure is not fatal. Mack’s players learn early on that uncomfortable feedback is just part of the game for a professional athlete. They have to accept it, embrace it, and learn from it. His players know they have to show up every single day. With enthusiasm and energy, ready to compete fearlessly, no matter how they feel physically.
Mack does not compromise on certain beliefs. Preparation leads to performance. Enthusiasm is the mother of effort. Building relationships is crucial in driving talent and growth. Mack believes in challenging his players. Asking a player to make a dramatic change when necessary, expecting to be trusted, and not needing to be thanked when that pitching change ended up reenergizing an entire career.
Mack understands that the right team culture is key. That a good coach speaks well and knows how to say the same thing with different words. That the thirst for knowledge is never quenched. And, that sometimes, even the best of the best drop a ball.
Or, a kid.
Director of Coaching Development
Some coaches take a straight path while others zig zag their way into their niche. Andrew Bartman’s coaching history had many jumps and joys before landing at USA Baseball.
Andrew started young – as a high schooler he was already helping out at his old junior high school. By college, he was assisting a Legion team in Lincoln, IL, as well as serving as head coach of the Central Illinois Cannons travel team. After he graduated, he got his first stab at the collegiate level as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at a perennial powerhouse JUCO, Wabash Valley College in Illinois. While there, he worked with dozens of players who went on to play professional ball, with two making it to the big leagues.
After three years at WVC, Andrew headed home to take the job as pitching coach and recruiting coordinator at Lincoln College, where he had played himself for two years. Working for a former coach allowed him to learn lessons through a different lens as he coached and completed his Master’s degree.
Just as he had done as an undergraduate, Andrew transferred from Lincoln to his other alma mater, MacMurray College in Jacksonville, IL. As head coach, he was faced with a complete disaster, but was able to turn the culture around and in his first season, tripled the team’s win total from the previous year. The AD who hired him left two years later for Bethany College, an NAIA school in Kansas, and offered Andrew the job as Head Coach and Associate Athletics Director. Proudly, the baseball program performed over 5,000 hours of community service each year as well as qualifying for the KCAC tournament three out of four years.
After four years at Bethany, American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) offered him the Youth Division Liaison position. For the first time since starting his career, Andrew wasn’t living by a coach’s schedule which was a big boon for his family. While at ABCA, he worked with USA Baseball which is how he eventually morphed into his current position. As Director of Coaching Development at USA Baseball, Andrew coordinates over 150 free Community Coaching Clinics and has recently launched a Regional Clinic program as well.
Andrew is a big believer in giving back and has incorporated that philosophy into his team cultures throughout the years. He subscribes to the theory that giving back to one’s community is not only humbling, but allows players to gain a greater world view as they grow as people.
Along the way, Andrew has been influenced by Coach John Stoltzenburg, who taught him how to be firm, but available, and Coach Rob Fournier of Wabash Valley College, who made a national powerhouse out of nothing and continues to raise the bar every single year. Tony Thomas who taught him to care about the person and not just the player. And Kevin Vest, who guided him throughout his career in navigating the baseball coaching landscape.
While a coach has to be a good listener, motivator, and learner, Andrew Bartman realizes that being an effective communicator is just as important. If sharing stories, skills, and journeys can help change the life of just one player or coach, then regardless of runs and records, it’s a win.
Head Baseball Coach
West Chester University
Like just about every kid out there, Jad Prachniak dreamed of going pro, playing in Game 7 of the World Series, maybe even winning a Cy Young. And like 95 percent (give or take depending on who’s doing the stats) of those kids, there comes a time when reality hits you in the glove and you realize it just ain’t gonna happen.
Some people spend a lifetime lamenting the what ifs and the coulda beens, and others, like Jad Prachniak, get out there and put their time and talents to good use.
Jad was a sophomore at University of Rhode Island when he realized there weren’t many MLB teams calling for an undersized right-hand pitcher throwing 83-86 mph with command issues. He began looking at the game through a different lens, taking in every facet of the field and absorbing as much as he could.
Jad spent his fifth year at URI student teaching and working as an undergrad assistant under Coach Frank Leoni. When Leoni accepted the Head Coach position at The College of William & Mary, he asked Jad to join him as the pitching coach. Knowing what a great opportunity it was for a 23 year old, Jad fully embraced the experience, spending the next six years listening and learning as much as he could.
As an assistant, Jad traveled a good amount, working camps, and attending conventions and clinics. While in each of those different coaching environments, he kept his ears open. And, because he listened, he developed as a coach AND regressed as a coach. He learned along the way that along with the great strategies and killer drills, there’s a plethora of good information out there. But, he also learned that coaching baseball is not a one-size-fit all. The best of the best wasn’t necessarily going to be the best fit for him or his team. When Jad took ownership of finding what was right for him and right for the team is when he took his biggest step forward as a coach.
In the summer of 2011, Jad was offered the head coaching job at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, and he’s been there ever since. He started building a positive team culture immediately and knew instinctively that for every individual to be taken care of, he had to figure out exactly what they needed in order to thrive. He knows that players need to know that they are cared about, by the coach, and by each other. When he sees his guys taking care of each other away from the field, that’s when he knows the team is in a good place.
From day one he’s always asked his players to DO THE RIGHT THING, which means in the classroom, on the field, in the community, and everywhere else. He tells them, “Be at your best,” when dealing with adversity, and circumstances aren’t the best. And, “Be at your best,” when dealing with success, when it seems like everything’s going the right way.
When Jad was asked what he believes to be the most important quality of a coach, he took a line from the late sports psychologist, Ken Ravizza:
“What is the most important moment of your season? ….Answer: Right Now.”
While it’s important to learn from past experiences and to look ahead to see what the future may hold, the best way to get to where we want to be is to take care of the NOW.
For Jad Prachniak, NOW also includes his wife, Kelly, and daughter, Emilia, who as she toddles about, demands, “Ball, ball, ball!” They are his biggest fans, along with his parents and siblings who supported his baseball endeavors throughout his journey.
With the now that Jad Prachniak is living as a husband, a father, a coach, and a friend, it’s abundantly clear that his future is also going to be pretty darn bright.
MiLB Player Development
So often in life, we get an idea that pops into our mind and just keeps on brewing. We think about it, dream about it, but it doesn’t really take hold until we get outside affirmation. When we do, that’s when we go for it, full-force, never letting go until we get where we were meant to be.
For JT Maguire, the coaching seed was planted his junior year of college. While picking the brain of his assistant baseball coach, JT was told he had the drive and characteristics that are essential for success as a coach. Those casual conversations were what shifted JT’s focus and propelled him toward a coaching career.
JT’s coaching journey began at The Park School of Baltimore, a private high school in Maryland. Two years and one state championship later, he took an assistant coaching position at his alma mater, North Harford High School, about 30 miles up the road. From there, he landed at Harford Community College, working on the side as a personal trainer to make ends meet.
JT left HCC for a volunteer assistant job at Wofford College, a Division I school in Spartanburg, SC. He stayed at Wofford for two years, then followed Wofford’s pitching coach to Lander University in Greenwood, SC. JT became the recruiting coordinator and worked there another two years until he was hired by the Cleveland Indians.
Along the way, JT admits he’s had his share of coaching disasters, mostly stemming from making adjustments based on what he thought he knew, rather than figuring out the why behind what was happening. Baseball is a game of constant learning and listening and watching, and assimilating qualities of those you most admire.
Todd Interdonato is one of those coaches JT most admires. While working under him at Wofford College, JT realized Todd was the kind of person he most wanted to emulate. The kind of coach who doesn’t have one single thing that stands out as the “it” factor, but rather a million little things that make him someone everyone wants to be around. The kind of coach who builds a team every player wants to be part of.
The Cleveland Indians’ team culture, from the big leagues all the way down through the minors, falls under the acronym, G.R.I.T., which stands Growth Mindset, Routines, Individual Plans, and Team First Approach. Its “we’re all in this together” culture generates a positive player-coach relationship better than any other JT has seen.
But, as far as specific coach qualities, JT believes there is nothing more important than trust. If a player doesn’t trust you, you’ll never form a true bond. When a coach is in the game for himself, players smell it immediately and are turned off. When a player knows that you are in it for them, and their career, that trust builds a strong and lasting relationship.
When those relationships go beyond the diamond, that’s when JT knows he’s made a significant impact on a player. A text announcing the birth of a baby, a player getting drafted or promoted to the next level, a request or a reference letter, or a call from a former player just wanting to catch up.
That’s when JT Maguire knows he’s done his job.