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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Fewer than two months have flipped off the calendar since the conclusion of the inaugural Perfect Game National Indoor Hitting League (PGNIHL) six-week season, but planning for a second season – with two six-week sessions – is already moving ahead at a jet-setter’s pace.

The success of the league’s first go-around exceeded the expectations of PG Director of Cedar Rapids Facility Programming and Operations Kevin Schuver, who also serves as the PGNIHL’s director. The league utilizes the baseball simulator HitTrax, which according to the company’s website delivers a “powerful combination of analytics and entertainment.”

The creation of the PGNIHL in January allowed Schuver and other organizers to get the most out of that combination, at least in terms of the benefits afforded the participants. Four-to-six player teams were formed in the 12u, 14u, 16u and 18u age-group divisions at three indoor facilities: Perfect Game Headquarters in Cedar Rapids, Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports in Lockport, Ill., and Senators Indoor Facility in Philadelphia, which sits right on Pennsylvania’s border with New Jersey.

“Things ran very smooth with the (three) leagues communicating with each other, right through the playoffs,” Schuver said this week. “… This year what we ran between here and Chicago and the Jersey-Philly location, I think it was a big success.”

More than 225 players took part in the league’s inaugural season, with 117 playing at the Cedar Rapids facility. There were 24 teams representing all four age-groups based in Cedar Rapids, 13 in all four ages playing out of the Bo Jackson facility and eight in the 14u, 16u and 18u playing out of Senators.

By the time the playoffs concluded in early March, all three facilities claimed at least one champion: PG Orange (Cedar Rapids) won the 18u title; NJ TSA Silver (Philadelphia) won in 16u; NJ Carter (Philadelphia) won in 14u and IL Black (Lockport) brought home the 12u crown.

Tyler Thompson is the Director of Baseball Operations at Bo Jackson’s Elite Sports and was the league director at that facility. He, like Schuver, considered the league’s debut season a resounding success.

“With it being a new piece of technology that the kids weren’t used to, for them to be able to compete indoors while there was still snow on the ground was a huge thing,” Thompson said in a recent telephone interview. “The leaderboards and the way their profiles were kept on PG’s website was really, really cool and it kept them always wanting to beat the next guy.

“The coolest part of the whole deal was in the playoffs when we got to play other teams (from out of state),” he continued. “Just to watch them rooting against the other team and then really coming together at the end and trying to compete against another team was really cool.”

The bat-to-bat competition is one thing; the whole scouting element of the PGNIHL – at least for the older kids -- is another aspect in and of itself.

Customary stats like batting average, home runs and other extra-base hits and runs-batted-in are recorded and posted immediately on the league’s webpage. In addition, the HitTrax technology also provides scouts with hitting data like peak and average exit velocities, peak and average distance and average launch angle/elevation on every batted ball.

Perfect Game President Jerry Ford considers the average exit velocity to be the biggest draw for scouts. He suggested a scenario where during league play next year, a well-known and highly regarded prospect records an average exit velo of 80 mph and a lesser-known player records an average exit velo of 86. Scouts will look at those numbers and make a point of seeking out the lesser-known player at his first high school game the following spring.

"I actually believe the average exit velocity is the most important stat from a scouting perspective in the (indoor hitting) league," Ford said. "The argument could be made that the player with the highest average exit velocity is, or could be, the best hitter."

Once the scouting community gets on a prospects' trail through his participation in the PGNIHL, the opportunities seem limitless.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that some kids from this league are going to get some looks and get some opportunities that wouldn’t have before,” Schuver said. “And I think it’s a great segue to (PG) showcases because even though we’re very large and a lot of people know us, there are still a lot of people who don’t. I just think this just gives us a little larger reach across the country.”

It will certainly get a lot more kids’ names in PG’s database and enable college coaches and scouts to start doing their homework earlier and earlier. But most importantly, it allows a lot of kids – primarily those in cold-weather states – an opportunity to get inside where it’s warm, do some hitting with their best friends and enjoy a lot of laughs with not only their buddies but with their families, as well.

Now the real work begins. Schuver has spent much of the early spring reaching out to facilities from coast-to-coast that possess the HitTrax machines and explaining to them what all is involved with the PG National Indoor Hitting League and where he hopes to take it in the future.

For this second go-around, the country will be divided into four regions – Midwest, South, East and West – and as of April 21 commitments to the league have been made from facilities as far-flung as California, Texas, Florida, Maine, New York and Washington, to name but a few.

Schuver anticipates a minimum of 30 facilities nationwide to be involved for the first of next winter’s two six-week sessions, which will run November through December, 2015. A second session will run from the second week of January through the last week of February, 2016.

“I didn’t expect it to grow as much as it has in the first year, but more power to us for getting this thing going,” Bo Jackson’s Thompson said. “It’s going to create a lot of excitement and I think there’s going to be a waiting list to get into this thing.

“… Anytime you can put players from the Midwest against the best players from the West Coast or down South, it definitely makes our guys really, really want to see what they can do against that caliber of player.”

The basic function of the league will be based on what was done during the inaugural season – the same four age-group divisions will be used – but on a much larger scale. The seasons will be expanded to include a regular-season, a bracket-format regional playoff and finally a national playoff.

Only the regional champion in each age-group advances to the nationals, so there will be only four teams from each region competing for the national championship. “That’ makes it pretty elite, in itself, so it’s going to be pretty exciting,” Schuver said.

The teams are put together at the local level, and while organizers suggest having four to six players on each team, the individual facilities ultimately decide how the teams are created and the size of the talent pool.

Perfect Game has offered to send email blasts to players from each area that have previously participated in a PG event offering them explanations of what the National Indoor Hitting League is all about and directing them toward their nearest location. All that information will be included on the PGNIHL webpage on PG’s website.

“I don’t know where it’s going to go and I don’t know how much bigger it can than what (Schuver) has planned, but he couldn’t be any more organized or on top of his game over (in Cedar Rapids),” Thompson said. “We’ve got a great leader in place and a great website to run it off of, so I think the sky is the ceiling for the whole event.”

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