Will KING JAKE REUVERS Defend the Crown?
We put this preview together off information obtained on the message board, from the Stool Pigeon, "word on the street", and conversations from team leaders. If your team does not have much coverage, it is because we likely did not get any intel on you. Which could be a good thing...or not depending on what you are looking for.
2022 Police Softball Pre-Season Preview
Although we are dead in the middle of Winter, the new PS season will be firing up once again in the very near future. The East “Major” tournament will be the Aselton Memorial in Tampa the weekend of February 25-27 and out West, the heavyweights will open in Palm Springs in the DEA Kickoff, March 5-6. In California there have been several “off season” charity tournaments that have produced outstanding participation which is a good indicator that teams will be playing more regularly this season. 2021 started slowly due to the COVID hangover, but 2022 should produce epic participation from teams across the country. Here is a brief synopsis of off-season activities and a preview of what lies ahead for several teams. We solicited teams for updates, but did not get a lot of input so unless we got info, there really isn’t much to share. That said, here is a look at the TOP 10:
First on our list will be the defending back-to-back World Champions, the LAPD BLUE. They didn’t announce any “sick pick ups”, but honestly they don’t need them. Shane Stoner formerly of San Diego Silver Stars will be returning to the team. He is very consistent and rarely misses a tournament which will help LAPD during the regular season because they show up notoriously short handed due to so many of their players prioritizing civilian ball over the PS circuit. Stoner is very talented at a variety of positions and come Vegas in October when the team is loaded he will likely serve a utility role. The teams most significant additions happened late last season and both players made an immediate impact in Vegas. Erik Mattos left the Connection and walked away as the Blue’s World Series MVP. One of the best players you never heard of was an All-World winner, shortstop Danny Higa. The Blue could be a buzzsaw this year IF and only IF they get these guys to show up regularly. The Blue used to rely only on talent and often times their best players would show up rusty. That is not the case with this group. Players like Mattos, Higa, Lundy etc. have been playing big ticket USSSA tournaments across the nation all off-season. Some PS teams have not played a single game this off-season. Some players might have a few league night hacks under the collective belts. Meanwhile the LAPD Blue conference players have been playing tourney ball against the best civilian competition across the nation on a frequent basis. They are clearly the top team going into 2022, and if they bring a full roster to every tournament they might not lose a single game.
You already know we are huge fans of all things THE CONNECTION/TC. The “excellence of execution” TC, impresses us every single time they step on the field. They are the complete package in that they bring strong leadership, talent, team chemistry and dedication. What the LAPD BLUE lacks from those traits is dedication. TC will likely win more tournaments than the LAPD throughout the season but come Vegas there will be no margin for error. In all honesty, TC should be celebrating their first World Championship but after dropping the championship game to the Blue you could feel the energy drain from the players going into the “IF” game. Even though they have the dedication trait that the LAPD BLUE lacks, the BLUE now has that psychological edge over TC that will only be lifted once TC claims their first world championship.
How can you not love the NEW YORK HOUNDS. They represent exactly what police softball should be. They fly all over the country every year to face all challengers. They make no excuses and often times will show up to big tournaments missing key starters in order to support the circuit. When they have their starters they are simply tough to beat. In a perfect world the 2022 World Series championship game would feature TC vs the HOUNDS in an epic East vs West match up of the 2 teams who support their region so consistently. And the HOUNDS can win it all because once they get on a roll they are nearly impossible to beat. The HOUNDS are one of those few teams that don’t do well if they stay in the winners bracket and have to sit for hours. What are the HOUNDS best odds in Vegas? If they lose that winners bracket semi final in a close one and get bounced into the loser bracket where they need to win 5 in a row. They need to stay on the field…and when they do, they start sending teams home.
We were ready to write off MAX ELITE after some key defections before last season, but they answered with perhaps their best year ever. We thought they were growing long in the tooth and perhaps their best years were behind them. We were very, very wrong. Their new kids they added are very gifted athletes and the veterans are still firing on all cylinders. There is a reason they have been the most consistent team for the past decade and we don’t see any reason to doubt them going into this season. You can guarantee 2-4 championships and a Top 5 finish in Vegas as always. Could they win the World Series. Absolutely. But, they might need some talented depth on the bench because although their veterans are still raking, they are a bit older and minor injuries aren’t so minor when you are north of 40.
There is not much to report with the MINNESOTA LAWMEN, a team that has really figured out the best way to peak come October. This team doesn’t even start their season until mid-Summer and then they ramp it up progressively going into Vegas. As a result, they are always a threat for the belt. There is a rumor that this could be the final year for the team’s poster child Bobby Lambert. If this is truly Bobby’s last season, you can expect a team with laser like focus with intentions on sending him riding off into the sunset with as many championships as they can grab this season.
GREAT LAKES owned 2020 and most of 2021, and then they underachieved their last two tourneys. MINNESOTA tends to peak at the end of the season, whereas Great Lakes sputtered. They did add some off-season talent including the son of former Michigan Lawmen leader, Steve Perkola. Steve’s son Travis was a top baseball talent in the country and now in his mid-20’s is a police officer. He is still at the top of his game and could prove to be the best defensive outfielder in the circuit. One new addition we saw coming was the addition of former Detroit PD shortstop Kevin Harrington. Harrington stepped into the spotlight playing for the Free Agent team that shocked the world in Vegas and he made the most of his opportunity to showcase his talents. He played lockdown defense, sprayed the ball to all fields at the plate and played with an edge that top tier players have. Great Lakes should be even better than last year, but the fact is their time to win is now. Their veteran leaders: JZ, Wax and Biscuit are all mid-40’s to early 50’s. It has been 11 years since they won the World Championship. If they want a 2nd Obelisk trophy, their shot clock is winding down and those new pick ups will need to make an immediate impact.
Somehow Terry Dugan and his MID ATLANTIC team has managed to fly under the radar this off-season. We are not sure how Terry is able to lose so much talent and continue to rebuild with a top tier team. Two of his best players are not even cops anymore so they don’t even play…but somehow his team has not missed a beat. You can almost guarantee Terry will find new talented players from his region and they will blend in with the veterans to create a top heavyweight contender as always. Terry was last presented with the Obelisk trophy in 2017. You know his players would love to add a bookend trophy to display on his fireplace mantle.
STATE 48 SYNDICATE made a huge leap up the totem pole after an impressive 2021 season. They have added some new qualified players who had previously only played USSSA civi ball this off-season so you know they will be even better than last year. Their WCC performance was one of the most impressive runs we have seen in years as they reminded us of this years SF 49ers team who went into every game as an underdog and started sending teams home. The writing is on the wall for the return of former pitcher turned DEA Combo, Jason Brennan. He left the Arizona squad to play Majors and while he was away State 48 passed the DEA in the rankings. Matt Foxx is still floating around as a potential free agent, but unless he can commit to a full season it might be best to pass on him. The best ability is AVAIL-ability, and that is something Matt has lacked. The last time he was committed to the circuit was when he played for the War Pigs. But, if he does commit he will definitely be the top third baseman in the country. BTW, if you don’t know the name EJ Noriega, now you know. He wasn’t in Vegas, but we saw him in San Diego. He is a gamer and a leader on the field. He is the guy who WANTS to play teams like TC, Hounds, LAPD etc. If this swagger spreads to the others on STATE 48, lookout.
The big question we have for KENTUCKY BLUE is this. Was your amazing WS performance sustainable? Can you continue to play at that level and even build upon it? Considering they were limping around with 9 healthy bodies on Saturday afternoon as they advanced deeper into the tourney…we have to imagine if they were fully loaded they would be even better. They have a very strong, balanced team and the addition of former Ohio Lawmen, Brian Dawson will certainly enhance their roster. Cody Calloway will become a household name in the PS community. Matt Marksbury will be back so the future is so bright they need to wear shades. They have great leadership coupled with a mix of young studs and veterans. We project them staying inside the Top 10 next season, but they better not get comfortable because locally, LOUISVILLE METRO is breathing fire down their necks from behind.
Last year we were accused of over-ranking the MARYLAND OUTLAWS in our pre-season preview. I believe we had them in the high teens. What did they do? They proved us wrong…but not in the way many expected. They proved us wrong by showing us they were UNDER ranked. That is why they are coming inside the Top 10 for the first time ever. We are not completely sold on them remaining inside the Top 10. Adding former baseball phenom Jordan Sanders will definitely help them retain this status. But, teams like DEA COMBO will likely bounce back from all those injuries, LOUISVILLE METRO is now loaded, THIN BLUE LINE will certainly find themselves in single digits, and you know MISSOURI LAWMEN are coming back full of piss and vinegar.
Here are some updates on other teams in the circuit. Like I said, we can only share what we know, so if you didn’t provide us any fodder we have nothing to go on.
The projected MOST IMPROVED team will be whatever name LOUISVILLE METRO decides to call themselves. They had a top Gold Division team and then added superstar Major players such as Butch Castor, Dusty Bowling, Josh Ulery, Bobby McGhee along with former ECDPOTY Travis Morgan. We didn’t even mention the best player on the team, USSSA Conference outfielder Devin Luckett. He is arguably one of the top 10 players in the nation.
They’re baaaaack. The MISSOURI LAWMEN have their studs from Oklahoma back and they added young studs with impressive civi ball resumes to boot. They were a Majors team for years, then dropped to Mids after losing the Oklahoma connection. They were on the bubble of dropping to Gold if things didn’t change. Joe made a BIG change and as a result, we project them to have their BEST year ever. Look for Missouri inside the national Top 10 come seasons end.
We can’t hate on the West’s most consistent team the DEA COMBO too much because they were truly the most injured team in the nation. The addition of 6x World Champion Kris Ulibarri, a guy who simply knows how to win championships will bolster their line-up. One question we would like to hear answered directly from the horse’s mouth is from Jason Brennan. Who will you be pitching for in the big tourneys this season? Go public so we can put it to rest. Whatever the case, you can guarantee a huge bounce back from the Combo, but the fact is, father time has taken on all challengers and he is undefeated. Some of their core players are advanced in age. Uli is now north of 40 as is McMorrow. The Magician Nate Baez is in his late 40’s, as is Danny DWAY Wells. Jerry Boyd and Tyson are 50ish. Although these guys can still outplay 99% of their opponents, the fact is, it is simply harder to recover from game to game. A diving catch in the outfield for a 25 year old DWAY didn’t even register on his recovery system. But at 47ish, those same dives take their toll by the end of the tourney. And what is at the end of the tourney? The championship game. The game you want your legs as fresh as possible. Age will be the DEA Combo’s toughest opponent this year.
Look out for the THIN BLUE LINE. Their leader Jim Smith will not stop building this squad until they are World Champions. Read that line again. Jim Smith will build a world champion team…period. Nobody is safe in this line-up. Perform or be replaced. It is that simple. They were really good last year, but their young guys couldn’t quite figure out a way to win those big games late in big tourneys. What did Jim do? He brought over veterans who made a career off winning those big games. Rob Menke is one of PS.COM’s best 10 players since the advent of the website and he is still very much in his prime. The biggest debate is Menke or Nate in the 5 man for the GOAT. Menke was more fundamental and not as flashy. Nate was a magician. This is like arguing Larry Bird or Magic Johnson. Menke might have lost a step through the years so he will like move out of the 5-man and move over to SS or 2B but his hands are still the best in the game (Rob/Nate be prepared to pass the torch to DEA’s Kevin Mort soon).
The SAC RAZORBACKS underperformed in their return to the World Series. They are loaded with talented former baseball players and young studs. What did they need? A legit pitcher and perhaps a veteran leader. What did they do? They inked former World Champion, the EAST-ecutioner Steve Wrathall. Wrathall pitched the DEA Combo to a Majors World Championship and simply wants to face the best hitters in the game. He was a huge key to carrying the underdogs Nitro2Go to third place out of 40 teams in the Gold Division in the World Series. But, Steve wants to face the big dogs like LAPD Blue, TC, Hounds, Great Lakes, Max Elite etc. The Razorbacks better be ready to step up mentally. They have the talent, but they need a paradigm shift and should seek out the toughest opponents rather than hope to play down. If Jim Sanders and Justin Charles are in fact reoccurring members of the team (not just occasionally) you can bet they will come with swagger. A ticket to the Majors division prom should be this teams goal in 2022.
The defending Mid Majors champs STANISLAUS will receive an automatic bump to Majors in 2022. Needed to address that right off the bat because we heard grumblings they should not have been allowed to play Mids in 2021 to begin with. Since 2020 was an “off-year” we gave everyone a clean slate and the fact is, they did not perform well in the WS Round Robin so they did not earn a berth to Majors. By winning Mids, they are now locked into Majors. There was some grumblings of a merger with STANISLAUS and SAC but that ended up losing it steam before it got cooking. What likely would have happened was STANISLAUS simply sniping off a few of SAC’s top players, but fortunately for SAC everyone stayed loyal and the team addressed a big off-season need (see paragraph above).
The FREE AGENT team that shocked the World in Vegas accomplished what many of those who played for the team were hoping. They were looking to showcase their talent against the top teams and perhaps get recruited to play up. And that is exactly what happened to several of them including the OAKLAND PD crew who will now be playing for the BAY AREA COMBO. We are expecting big things from this team, but we don’t see them in the LAPD Blue/The Connection/DEA Combo/State 48 conversation anytime soon. Teams like the RAZORBACKS, BP ARSENAL and STANISLAUS might need to check their rearview mirror, but those heavyweights are likely safe from any Bay Area threats. While we are on the subject of NorCal: RELOADED and the JCATS are both looking solid going into 2022. Both are active teams, and quietly go about business with positive results. Not sure about what is going on with AFTERMATH though.
We got some reports of defections from SAN ANTONIO and TEAM TEXAS but the Lone Star State is very tight lipped. We all know Texas will be seceding from the Union soon, so perhaps they will put together a monster combo team from their new country. There is a good likelihood that Trini will be the new President of the Country of Texas so you can bet the team will be well managed. And team members will be required to purchase the required number of stock shares in one of Trini’s side businesses. OK, that is an exaggeration (kind of), but one truth is, Texas does not release much info during the off-season. We are not sure why these guys defected or where they will end up. But the fact is, the team on top of the totem pole is now the HOUSTON HEAT and both San Antonio and Team Texas will have to step up and perform better in order to unseat this young and improving squad. Texas pre-season totem pole from top down: Houston Heat, San Antonio, Team Texas, Lonestar, Lock and Load, Houston Hustle, Texas Fugitives
We are not sure exactly what the heck is going on in Florida. We know that NORTH FLORIDA SHOWDOWN is alive, well and as strong as ever. They did lose veteran Ryan Register who joined the East Coast Hitmen only to have the team fold before it played a game. Now apparently a new team has popped up called, the GULF COAST ENFORCERS. We don’t expect them to be a challenge to the big 3 Florida teams, NFL, MIAMI METRO DAWGZ or the defending Gold Champs SOUTH FLORIDA. We had MIAMI 5-0 in the Majors/Mid Majors (uppers) last year, but the team they brought to Vegas did not look quite the same as the team they had in the earlier events in the season. We received word that perhaps, the eligibility rules were not quite as stringent at the other events than at the WS, so they had some public safety types playing for them. Whatever the case, playing with your regular team all year rather than adding people who cannot play with you in Vegas (out of state pick ups, public safety, part timers etc) in the smaller tourneys WILL get you ranked higher. As a result, you WILL have to play up because otherwise it is unfair to the other lower teams to have a top Top 20 team drop down into Gold. That said, they have their 2022 roster posted on the message board for all to see, so they seem confident and ready to silence their doubters. Meanwhile, we are confident SOUTH FLORIDA will do just fine playing in Mids/Uppers. Their team is stacked with young players and seasoned with just enough veterans to make a strong run for several years to come. Pssst. We didn’t forget CENTER MASS. These guys looked super impressive in Vegas. They are from the Tampa area so they will be active early we assume with Aselton and Scollo. They might prove us wrong but here is our Florida totem poll hierarchy going into 2022: Miami Dawgz, North Florida, South Florida, Center Mass, Miami 5-0 and Gulf Coast. The thing about Florida is, these teams are very unpredictable. Since we posted them in this order, it would not be a shock to have it completely upside down after the Aselton event with perhaps Miami 5-0 winning it all.
A new heavyweight contender in SoCal will be CA CLASSIC SPORTS. They took the top guys from LAPD SHOT CALLERS, most of the top guys from SILVER STARS and somehow inked Nevada’s Ray Steiber to form this combo team that should be a top 3 candidate in the WC. They have great depth at pitching since they have both SILVER STARS pitchers, they have the speed and defense of the SHOT CALLERS and with Steiber up the middle they have a former WCPOTY. If they can somehow convince another WCPTOY, Eric Harryman to come out of retirement they should be winning some tourneys this year. One thing we do know, Harryman will not be playing for LAPD Blue. If he plays at all, CA CLASSIC is his likely destination. Considering TC or LAPD Blue wins just about everything out west, a shake up could be interesting. The SILVER STARS will still field a team, but will be playing exclusively in Gold.
TEAM GALVEZ has made some big moves and will now go by the name 172 COMBO. They benefitted from the Shot Callers demise by picking up a few of their better players. We see them as being more competitive than the Galvez squad, but still in the Mid Majors hunt and below: LAPD Blue, TC, State 48, DEA, CA CLASSIC, HOUSTIN HEAT on the WC totem pole.
The state of New York is bubbling with softball talent. We have already gone into detail about the NEW YORK HOUNDS. But on any given day, they might not even be the best team in their state. The NASSAU BLUES have the potential to win any tournament on any given day. They are absolutely loaded with talent but they will need to have the stars align from a health perspective to run the gamut. Pitcher Butch Crozier is a key to the squad and he was hampered by injuries all season. Veterans Dickie Malek and Flip McGovern are both in their mid-50’s and although their offense is just as good as ever, there is only so much wear and tear they can take on the defensive side of things. Meanwhile the “other” team from New York, SUFFOLK COUNTY was in a similar position as Nassau a few short years ago and they have since completed an entire remodel. They are stacked with young talented kids, but they now lack the big game experience that both the Hounds and Nassau have in abundance. If Suffolk keeps this core in tact they are due for long prosperous run. We are just not sure that 2022 will be the season they pass either the Hounds or Nassau on the totem pole. New York totem pole is as follows: Hounds, Nassau, Suffolk, NECESSARY FORCE, YONKERS.
I-80 CARTEL have become the 2022 San Franciso 49ers. They are the team that everyone kind of looks past, until the game is over and they are wondering how they lost. The fact is, no team from Iowa or Nebraska has ever been a legit contender for the title. If for some reason this team were to find themselves in Mid Majors they would certainly be heavily favored. But they are too talented for Mids and don’t have quite enough firepower to make it to the final dance in Majors (see 49ers). We would like to see them get out a bit more and perhaps target Myrtle Beach or New York to get more exposure outside the Mid West.
The SHIELD/OHIO LAWMEN have folded and most players have relocated. One surprise team in Vegas last October was the ENFORCERS (NorCal) and their success was not a fluke. They did not play above their heads, they played to their capabilities and perhaps had something left in the tank. If you are buying stock options, invest in this squad. Colorado’s ANGEL ARMOR will be host a tournament this year and we hope it is a success. Their success in the circuit coupled with years of productivity from UTAH METRO has put the Rocky Mountain region on the softball map. These teams flip flop year to year as to who owns the region. UTAH looked absolutely outstanding by winning the Gold WCC (a loaded Gold at that), but never got firing on all cylinders in Vegas. We expected big things from RIVERSIDE FORCE and actually projected them to win one of the At Large berths to Majors. Instead they sputtered and underperformed. They are a young squad so speed bumps will happen. Ray G., Carlos Vasquez and King George are still very much on top of their games so you know this team will bounce back. Before you get too excited about the new WC sexy teams such as State 48, CA Classic Sports, 172 Combo, Bay Area Combo we would like to see them outperform Riverside Force before we anoint any of them as the next big thing in the WC.
BP ARSENAL are on the tail end of a very nice run. Mid Majors World Champs 3 years ago, Master champs 2 years ago. They question will be, is the run over? They have a lot of talent, but they are veterans. Do they have any young guns waiting in the wings? Are they playing in the off-season to sharpen their skills? You know with Gabe Lara on the bump, they can build around him as he is one of the most talented pitchers in the nation. But, will they have the defense behind him to keep the scores close? More questions than answers with this squad at this time.
Action: NITRO 2 GO has an epic run at the World Series and one of their most impressive season finishes to date. Reaction: Players defect. Action: “Lyle you must rebuild again.” Reaction (from Lyle): “Hold my beer.” Speaking of losing players…. the fast rising DETROIT PD lost one of their most talented player to Great Lakes. It is understandable that their best players want to play in the upper division, but if they gave Mike D a little bit of time he will get them there. Heck, they were already knocking on the door of ascending into the uppers and the loss of their middle infielder is a set back.
We were impressed with the WEST COAST LAWMEN in Vegas. They finished 2021 on a major northern trajectory. It wasn’t a fluke, they have some talent. Will they build on it? Will that same team show up for all the tourneys in 2022? Inquiring minds want to know.
The TORONTO TAKEDOWN and NORTHERN LAWMEN promise to make it back into the USA again to play some softball in 2022. Let’s hope they can badge their way past the truckers who have the border blockade set up.
No news from the Vegas teams: SIN CITY SAINTS or VEGAS GMEN. The Saints in particular will quietly be one of the favored teams in the Gold Division next season, whereas the GMEN will likely be playing the role of David more than the role of Goliath. The team that “borders” Nevada, HONOLULU’S FINEST looked solid in Vegas this past year. They are a veteran squad so it did not cause anyone heartache when they dropped to the Gold Division, which is where we project them for 2022. Leader Matt Fong needs to focus on building his squad NOW rather than wait until Summer which forces him to scramble to pick up players. If he decides to tap Gary Chaney and the Nevada connection he needs to get those commitments in place sooner rather than later. Or, perhaps Matt goes with a Hawaii exclusive team because there are some really talented players on the island, just a matter of getting them on a plane in October.
SoCal’s GOLD COMBO made some really nice pick ups mid season 2021 and we see them primed for their best year to date in 2022. Rick has some dedicated ballers now, so hopefully we won’t see them running short handed at all this season. SoCal’s MIXED NUTZ had a solid 2021 campaign and they should be competitive in the Gold Division once again. Traveling north a bit, we have no updates on FAMILIA, the SF SEALS or the CV KINGS. Generally these teams don’t bark a lot in the off-season anyway so we will assume all is well. Continuing north to Seattle, NORTHWEST SHAKEDOWN managed to make lemonade out of lemons in Vegas. They were a top projected Gold team, but somehow ended up in Silver. What did they do? They went on a roll, won 4 in a row and were crowned Silver champions. Let’s not forget they were thisclose to winning the Gold Division at the WCC, so there is no need to question their talent.
TEAM LOUISIANA is back, but they seem to have lost some swagger. These guys won the Gold Division a few short years ago. How did they do it? They walked into each game with confidence and a bit of swagger. They need to recapture that attitude because if they do, we can see them returning to their glory days.
No news from DAYTON METRO (seasoned vets know they don’t need to hold off-season press conferences to accomplish their goals). No news from NORSEMEN (which means Minnesota didn’t take any of their guys). No news UNITED KC or CONNECTICUT.
Unfortunately the only update from CHICAGO METRO was they have lost their former East Coast Defensive Players of the Year Travis Morgan to Louisville Metro. Although this will sting, this team is very cohesive and seem to find a way to rally, and continue to move forward.