Q&A: SD high school baseball in good shape
South Dakota high school club baseball started its 17th season this spring and the official organization of the sport—South Dakota High School Baseball Association—is under new leadership.
Brad Schramm officially retired as the SDHSBA President and Executive Director after leading the organization for 12 of its first 17 years. High school baseball started in 2001, but Schramm didn't take over as president until SDHSBA formed in 2004.
Schramm, a Winner native, played a key role in helping high school baseball grow from 35 schools in 2001 to more than 80 represented schools on 52 teams in two different classes in 2017.
The Daily Republic caught up with Schramm to look back at the beginnings of high school baseball in South Dakota and what challenges the sport still faces. The following interview was edited for length and clarity. Here are excerpts:
Q: Why was baseball such a hard sport to get started at the high school level?
A: There wasn't a lot interest to start with, partly because we have track. There was a group that started (high school baseball) only because they wanted to get the sport sanctioned and be a school sport. I got involved, partly because I didn't think it should be a sanctioned sport. There was a number of us that felt that way. Every time we discussed it, we decided that wasn't the way to go.
Q: Why do you not believe baseball shouldn't be a sanctioned sport?
A: If it was, you couldn't play on Sunday. ... The Sioux Falls School District won't let their teams play on Sunday and that really limits our state tournament. We could have the state tournament on the Sunday of Memorial Day if that wasn't the case.
Q: What's changed the most in your time with SDHSBA?
A: No. 1, we were able to institute a pitching limit. We were the first state in federation high school baseball to do so. We're not sanctioned, but we adhere to the National Federation of High School Sports rules. That's important, and we also adhere to every admission requirement at the state level. If you are not eligible to run in track because of grades or attendance or whatever, even though we are a club sport, you're not eligible to play club baseball. We really worked closely with the South Dakota High School Activities Association to make sure we're not giving kids a way out from something they should be applying themselves to.
We put in the pitching limit that we got from the American Medical Society of Sports Medicine and we've adhered to that strictly since we put it in. A couple years after that, we decide to go with all-wood bats. To me, that made the game so much better. All of sudden, if you could hit, you got a hit. Our games took less than two hours after the switch to wood bats and most of our games are low scoring. ... We did survey after survey with the coaches, before the board took a vote and passed that. Every time, the surveys say 'stay with wood, because it makes it a better game' and I really believe that.
Q: What challenges does high school baseball face in the future?
A: The biggest issue, because we play in the spring, is weather. We are totally dependent upon the weather and some people don't like that. A couple of years we've had to suspend our rules, because not everybody played everybody and we just couldn't get the games in. ... But it's in good hands, we have a really solid board and I got out just simply because it's a three-year term and I'm too old. It was good for me to go for this time. I enjoyed doing it and I'm going to miss it dearly.