It does take a significant amount of practice and dedication to get into that 50%+. I can attest to that as I started my first tournament with just 1 ringer for the entire tournament! I've never had any of the "natural" ability some pitchers seem to have.
Robert is correct with so many of our better pitchers falling off in recent years the average gap between the top 2 and rest of our state championship field keeps growing. So much so that one could ponder if we should cut the field from 8 to 6 or 4 or even 2?... I enjoy seeing an 8 person field in the state tournament but as has been mentioned here that gap continues to grow. If you pulled the state class today, there would be a 1.74% gap between Tyler and I. After me, It would be 22.37% gap to #3, Robert. From #1 to #8 in Kentucky there is a 35.44% gap and that is a best case scenario, many times people won't play in the championship round/Sunday, and we move further down the list. In each of the last 3 state tournaments this was very much the case, unfortunately we're headed towards a 4th year in a row of this spread. This isn't to say I don't want to see 8 pitchers fill out the championship class but I want to see it be competitively healthy and not filled out for historical or traditional reasons.
It's worth noting that this isn't a Kentucky only issue though, to break the top 100 on the Men's eShoe rankings, one would have to average 51.68%. Let's look at even the biggest tournaments in the country, the annual ringer classic in Greenville, Ohio this year only had 4 pitchers eclipse the 60% mark in the 10-man class, and there were 3 pitchers in the 40% range. The HOF invitational in Wentzville, Missouri saw just 9 of the 16 pitchers break 60%. Last years Men's World Championships only saw only 11 pitchers surpass 60% both in qualifying and the championship round, only 4 surpassed the 70% mark.
While we haven't always had a surplus of 60% pitchers in Kentucky, we've generally held around a 50% standard for the Men's championship class, just based off the old results. It's only in recent years that we've dipped into the 40's and even 30's to get 8 pitchers.
So what is the answer?
I don't generally see a lot of incentive to pitch in our tournaments. Not because I don't like seeing the people, I like to travel where it's as competitive as possible. I also believe trophies have ran their course for regular season tournaments. Perhaps we should consider a trophy or cash option when someone wins a tournament? Trophies are nice until you have 100 of them for regular season tournaments, in my opinion.
The facts are if we want to increase our membership, gain new pitchers, get back old pitchers, and see better pitchers more often, we need to evaluate the way we're doing things. This year there seems to be some interesting concepts being tried out, I'll be interested to see how they work out. If we do the same things over and over again we'll get the same results.
I would personally love to see the Men's championship get back up to that healthy 50% range with 8 pitchers, it's up to you Dow! You have the potential along with many others. Practice, Practice, Practice. I'd love to see the championship class get shook up with new contenders, especially with the payouts we'll have this year.
If you look back at the most interesting Men's championships of the last decade look to 2018. We had a 20.20% range from top to bottom and only 1 pitcher under 50% by 1/4%. We also had 4 pitchers eclipse 60% on entry average that year. After the first 4 games the field divided between the top and bottom with the top 4 being undefeated: Tony Hankins, myself, Dalton Rakestraw, and the undisputed GOAT of Kentucky Horseshoes Charlie Meredith. Then in the next two rounds I defeated Dalton, Tony defeated Charlie, Charlie defeated me and Dalton defeated Tony. This scenario guaranteed a playoff between the winners in the last round. There Charlie defeated Dalton, I defeated Tony and Charlie took the playoff over me for his final championship.
This is just an example of how interesting things can get for a spectator when you have a strong championship class at our state tournament.
I hope to see you in the championship class at the State Tournament in Somerset Dow! Keep on pushing!!
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