Sean Keenan threw just 62⁄3 innings for the South Brunswick High School baseball team last spring.
Something clicked for Keenan, however, before this past season.
This spring in his senior year, South Brunswick’s ace compiled an 8-1 record with a miniscule 0.82 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 55 innings of work.
In fact, Keenan blossomed so much between campaigns that during a showcase event last October, he impressed a scout from Marist so much that he was offered a scholarship on the spot.
So in the fall, Keenan will head up to Poughkeepsie on a partial baseball scholarship to continue his career.
What was the reason for Keenan’s maturation between his junior and senior seasons?
At first, one might guess a summer’s worth of playing American Legion Baseball to be the answer, but that’d be incorrect.
Instead of the traditional Senior Legion ball route, Keenan opted to play in the Greater Middlesex Coaches Summer Baseball League (GMCSBL).
“I liked how we’d to get to play with the guys who mostly formed the high school team and build chemistry,” Keenan recalled of his experience. “It was also nice to play against the same players we were going to play during the season.”
The GMCSBL, founded by Spotswood High School head coach Glenn Fredricks for the summer of 2009, differentiates itself from the competing Senior American Legion Baseball League, a 19-and-under league that allows recently graduated seniors and college students to play.
Only scholastic players who are currently freshmen, sophomores and juniors are eligible to compete in the GMCSBL, which currently boasts 64 teams spanning Middlesex and Monmouth Counties at the 16-and-under and 17-and-under levels.
The league is still growing, as it added four teams in Middlesex County and two more in Monmouth County before this current season which began on June 10.
“The genesis of this league stems from the fact that we were looking for a fresh idea in terms of using a summer league as a feeder for the high school program,” said Fredricks, “and we weren’t getting that from American Legion with the graduating seniors and college freshmen. The competitive games were becoming so few and far between that it was very watered down at the end.”
Not that Senior Legion is dead, but it’s become less prevalent for aspiring junior varsity and varsity high school ball players in Central Jersey in recent years.
Keenan said that Senior Legion has become more of a recreational league, and that nearly every single varsity baseball player in Middlesex County plays in the GMCSBL.
“The results speak for themselves,” said Fredricks, if you look at how many sectional championships we’ve played for from the (high school) teams in Middlesex County.
“The benefits of playing with your teammates and not sharing time with somebody from another town at the high school level…you can’t argue with that.”
Flexibility is a term thrown loosely around in accordance with the GMCSBL, and for good reason.
The league’s regular-season games are played on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights, leaving the weekends open for showcase events. Senior Legion does have weekend games.
GMCSBL teams play 16 to 18 regular-season games. All teams will compete in an in-season tournament, with the winner earning the league’s spot to participate in the Don Mattingly AABC national tournament in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Fredricks said he believes many GMCSBL players would not have a roster spot on most Senior Legion squads, which are usually stocked with recently graduated seniors and college players. Most legion programs draw from more than one town, increasing competition for playing time.
Staff Writer Joe Martino: firstname.lastname@example.org