Sports at the Beach review:
I decided to writeup a review of our experiences of Sports at the Beach since there have been several other reports of other facilities. It always helps when deciding where to go...
Our team wanted to do a weeklong tournament and comparing costs chose Sports at the Beach. Overall we were very happy with the experience. There were only 7 teams in our 14U bracket and 13 teams in the 13U bracket. The economy is definitely having an impact. They did have over 80 teams coming in for a weekend tournament on the day we left so they are still filling the shorter tournaments.
The fields are in decent shape with all fields having grass infields. The grass is a short bermuda type grass that runs very fast, almost like turf so it was definitely much different than the long grass we had been playing in NH. They have fields of varying sizes to accomodate all the different age groups. We were a 14U team so we played primarily on the 295' field and a couple of games on a 340' field. On the 295' fields with metal bats you saw a lot of home runs. In fact, watching the top 2 teams play I saw 9 home runs in 1 game. We spoke to the owner while watching this game and commented about needing to play 14's with metal bats at the bigger fields. He noted that they play 15-16U on the same fields with wood bats and have no issues (15U or older are all wood bat tournaments...). The 13U teams were playing on the 295' fields and the 270' fields. 13U games are played at 54/80 distances. There were a lot of home runs even in the 13U games on these fields according to the umpire we brought down with us.
Our team stayed in the dorms. We did this so parents wouldn't be forced to spend the whole week if they didn't want to. The dorms are cinder block buildings with cement floors and bunk beds. The coaches stay in an adjacent room to the players so they can still maintain control over the players... They do have Air Conditioning which is nice. The beds leave a lot to be desired but then again, what would you really expect. You provide you own linens and I would suggest people bring a mattress cover as well. There were footlockers that the kids could lock but there were no issues while we were there. The security is not like Cooperstown though. At Cooperstown you need to sign out a player to leave the facility while here you could go as you please. Not a problem for our team at all as we kept close tabs but at the younger ages it is something to keep an eye on.
Many teams stayed offsite nearer the beaches or in nearby hotels. I suppose you can save some money doing it that way if most of your parents are going down to the tournament anyways.
The food provided was decent according to my son. There was always plenty of food and they could get seconds. For lunch they provide you chits to get a boxed lunch at the concession stand. Nothing fancy but it was fine.
Sports at the Beach does have a large swimming pool that anybody at the facility can use, not just the players. This is nice for brothers and sisters who get bored during or between games... Also, it was nice for the coaches and players to cool down after games. The games were scheduled primarily in the mornings so the afternoons the players could hang out. They got the chance to meet and become friends with a lot of players from other teams. The fields that were not in use were open and often were used for pickup games/home run derby. There are 2 batting cages at each field and with all the fields, some teams ran practices or BP.
NOTE that the fields are really first come if they aren't in use so teams would sometimes take a field for a practice or BP and use it for a while. There is no time limit. This can be a pain if you're waiting for a cage but there are other fields and cages so it is worth just walking to another field in that scenario.
Our team asked the parents to take the players for 2 afternoons just to give the coaches a break. Most of us went into Rehoboth Beach (about 20-30 minutes away from the complex). I had never been to this area before and I really liked the area. Rehoboth has the boardwalk, shops, arcades, rides, pubs/restaurants, etc.. and the beach is pretty nice. Several people commented about dolphins swimming near the shore. Nearby is also the State Beaches which seemed very quiet but the boys were more into the boardwalk scene. Seems like there are different areas to fit all tastes.
Competition. There was a wide range of teams and some very good teams at the tournament. We started off well and then played poorly the rest of the week unfortunately. Team Rawlings and Suffolk County Cobras from Long Island and the Tri-County Cobras from New York were the strongest teams there last week. There were also teams from Chicago and Cleveland at the tournament. We've played many of the New York teams at Baseball Heaven previously so the competition level for this week seemed similar to a Baseball Heaven type event. I can't comment on other weeks or the weekend tournaments.
Umpires: Some teams brought there own umpires down (they are not allowed to umpire any of your games...) and there are local umpires that come in for the tournaments. Overall the umpires were pretty good. Some inconsistency with strike zones and a few minor items but overall we were pretty happy.
Complaints: Only real complaint was that our final game in the consolation bracket was played on a 270' field. in general I think 14's should play on the 300+ fields with the metal bats but it didn't affect the outcome of our games.
Staff: Everyone we dealt with at the facility was extremely nice and wanted us to have a good time. The owners were visible and open to discuss issues. Unfortunately their shuttle cart/bus blew the engine on the day we arrived so the staff tried to shuttle as many people as they could to the far fields using golf carts. It wasn't perfect but it was fine. I know some people complained but it's just some extra walking and these kids are 14 so they can handle it fine...
Trophies: A player from our team won the Roadrunner competition at the beginning of the week and took home a 4' tall trophy. Not sure how he fit it in his car for the ride home. I believe the team championship trophies are even larger. Pretty nice hardware...
Travel: The drive from NH is about 7 hours if you hit no traffic. The drive on the way down was easy but we hit a lot of traffic on the way back. In fact some one told me they would not recommend a holiday weekend tournament because of all the holiday traffic to expect on the drive back unless you plan on driving overnight. We did have one family fly into Baltimore. Baltimore and Philly seemede like the clostest airports but both are 2 hours away so there is really no good close choice.
So overall we were pretty happy with the tournament. The kids had a great time and played a lot of baseball. They met a lot of other kids and became friends. In the future we would like to return but probably stay offsite now that we know the area and all there is to do. I would prefer to return here over Cooperstown simply because of all the things to do.