Angie Vulcano knows it’s all about visibility.
The coach of the Spokane Diamonds’ elite 16U girls fastpitch softball team, Vulcano has enjoyed high visibility with her squad this summer.
“If you want to play college softball, you have to get seen by college coaches and that means travelling to big tournaments,” she said. “All of the kids on this squad want to play college softball, so we travel to tournaments all summer.”
Vulcano’s squad will be in action at Dwight Merkel Field in north Spokane this week in the Western National tournament, the sixth tournament the team has entered; the team is looking to place for the sixth time.
The team’s last outing was the Canadian Open National Championships in Surrey, B.C.
“We were invited to play in that tournament, but in our own age group, they don’t allow players to wear metal cleats,” Vulcano said. “The only age group where they allow metal cleats was the 18U division, so rather than having all of my players rush out and buy new cleats in order to play in the tournament, we played up.”
The 16U Diamonds are primarily juniors-to-be at a cross-section of Spokane area high schools, from Freeman and Mt. Spokane to Shadle Park and Lakeside. Playing in the 18U division in Canada meant playing against teams largely made up of young collegiate softball players.
“They all had two strong years of softball experience on my girls,” Vulcano said. “In softball terms, that’s a lot.”
Still, the Spokane squad did more than simply rise to the occasion. The Diamonds won their first six games of the tournament, reaching the finals before falling to an 18U squad from Medford, Ore.
“That’s a very good team from Oregon,” Vulcano said. “They beat us handily. We outscored our competition 69-5 going into the finals. We won our first game 12-1, our second game 22-0, our third game 8-1 and our fourth game 6-2.”
The way big tournament softball and recruiting works is a little like a game of hide and seek. At most tournaments, college coaches are only allowed to talk with a team’s coach and are forbidden to talk to individual players. In Canada, they’re even forbidden to talk with coaches.
“Since we got back I’ve heard from three different coaches asking for packets of information on some of my players,” Vulcano said. “We have put together information on all of our players. They each have their own bio as well as video showing what they can do.”
Vulcano understands the process. After graduating from Rogers in 1997, she went to Arizona State on a full-ride scholarship.
For her players, Vulcano insists that the best thing to do in a big tournament is to play like you don’t know the coaches are there.
“If a coach emails me and tells me they’re going to be at one of our games, I keep that information to myself,” she said. “I don’t tell them because as soon as they know someone’s there to watch them, they tighten up.
“Coaches want to see what kind of a person a player is, how they get along with their teammates and with their family. They want to know what kind of a kid they’re getting. They want to know about them scholastically because that’s a big part of the program – they want to know their grade-point average and what area they want to study. And they want know about their skills.”
Pitching, she says, is on every college coaches’ wish list.
“You can never have enough pitching so everyone is always on the lookout for pitching,” she said. “If you don’t have pitching, you don’t have a team. Most coaches want their pitchers and their catchers to be specialized. After that, I tell my kids to be like a utility player and be able to play anywhere. You want to be versatile.”