Jay Davidson '79 coaches diamonds
in the rough
What do you do after you've worked for more than a decade at GE, Eastern Technologies, and W.R. Grace? Well, if you're Jay Davidson '79MGE you go out and found the New England Mariners, a fledgling AAU/Junior Olympic baseball club, headquartered in Beverly, Mass., whose main goal is to get kids into college.
"Six Mariners have been drafted into the majors right out of high school, but it's more important for our players to receive an education through college scholarships," says Davidson, who also heads Davidson Associates, a college admission counseling service for student-athletes. "We've had many receive partial and full scholarships. We feel pretty good about that."
The New England Mariners organize teams in the 13- to 17-year-old age divisions, which compete nationally in August in cities across the country. The club offers a supplemental program to local leagues such as Little League, Babe Ruth Baseball and American Legion Baseball. Players are encouraged to participate in an organized baseball program in the spring and summer in their communities.
Mariners who take part in national tournaments have the opportunity to show their stuff in front of college recruiters. "If kids have any intention of playing college baseball outside of New England, they have to go to the tournaments," Davidson said in a recent interview with the Danvers Herald.
This fall, the Mariners are the only New England group slated to take part in a 12-team tournament in Woodbridge, Va. The tournament draws 300 college coaches and major league scouts from around the country.
Players, who are handpicked by Davidson, go through five weeks of rigorous training before the tournament. Even those living an hour or more from the training fields are expected to arrive on Saturdays at 8:30 a.m., practice for four hours, take an hour for lunch, and then practice four more hours. "Discipline," says Davidson, "is the name of the game."
Trying to get into the Mariners is a lot like trying to get into college, Davidson notes‹-it's very competitive and involves lots of practice and trials. When acceptances are mailed out, the kids watch their mailboxes to see if they survived the final cut.
In the end, Davidson and his staff pick 16-20 players to ensure that they have enough "arms" to play in a national tournament. "We deliberately take in more players than we need, so no one gets overworked," he says. "They're just kids. It's our duty to protect them."
As a youngster Davidson was a baseball player in his hometown of Athol, Mass. After sustaining a football injury, he was unable to participate in sports as fully as he wished. However, he remained active in baseball from the sidelines.
"After I graduated from WPI and was working, I started the Beverly Babe Ruth League and the Swampscott American Legion team," he reports. One day Davidson decided to leave his traditional job altogether and go into baseball training full time. In 1991 he founded the New England Mariners. What he discovered was that kids, starved for instruction, started applying from as far away as Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, and even Burlington, Vt., and Syracuse, N.Y.
Once a Mariner, a player gets a golden opportunity to play baseball all over the country and even out of it. Tournaments can take the team to Virginia, Louisiana, Tennessee, Iowa, Oklahoma and Florida. "Over the years we've played in the Navigators' stadium in Norwich, Conn., the Portland Sea Dogs' stadium in Maine, and in Olympic Stadium, where the Montreal Expos play," Davidson says.
Travel can sometimes strain family budgets, Davidson admits. If that happens, the kids help finance themselves. "When I coached in Hawaii and Australia in the USA Goodwill Series, a young man from Quincy sold 1,500 raffle tickets so he could make the Australia leg of the trip," he says.
For those who want it, Davidson offers hitting camps and individual lessons in a gym-like room adjacent to his office. Each February during school vacation he works with a group of teenagers at a spring training camp in Florida.
No matter where he is coaching, Davidson thoroughly enjoys helping his players develop to the fullest. And the success of his teams is a tribute to his skills. The 14-year-olds were National Champions in 1992; the 15-year-olds, National Champions in 1993, and the 13-year-olds, National Champions in 1993 and 1994.
Davidson was head coach of the Mariner 16s team, which recently captured the Bronze Medal at the 1996 USA Junior Olympic Baseball Championships in Fort Myers, Fla.
"Our kids have a lot of talent, desire and energy," Davidson says. One has only to check the list of New England Mariners who have been nationally recognized for their abilities to underscore that claim. How about 37 All Americans from 1991 to 1996?
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