It’s not your typical baseball showcase.
“I’ve rarely done anything that was considered to be mainstream,” said Phil Gutierrez, who lives in Menifee, Calif. “Most of my life, I’ve taken the road less traveled and in many cases I was trailblazing.”
Gutierrez is the owner of a start-up baseball showcase called the Cosmos League. Its goal is to help rookie players get noticed by both affiliated and independent baseball scouts. What makes the Cosmos League so different? To start, it’s not just another place to play baseball but a place to do some learning.
“Time and time again I see these young ball players with great skills but no one is noticing them. All they do is run the gauntlet of winter leagues, spend oodles of money and then look for another place to play. What’s missing here?” asked Gutierrez. What’s missing, he explained, is self-promotion or what he calls “player marketing”.
“This is what the Cosmos League is all about. Teaching aspiring professional baseball players how to use simple online tools to get noticed and to provide them with the media content to do so.” Gutierrez is no stranger to media products. He is an all-platform journalist which means he can basically do it all from writing to photos to video to live broadcasts to social media to a finished and polished product.
Gutierrez grew up in Canada in a small town along the international border with the state of Maine. He started writing for his hometown newspaper in 1984. A few years later, he was doing freelance photography jobs. “I pride myself in saying that I never had to work at McDonalds in high school because I always had work as a photographer for either the local newspaper or the local museum,” said Gutierrez.
At the local museum, he did all the darkroom work associated with the reproduction of original antique photographs. Years later, he owned and operated a weekly newspaper, worked as a radio broadcast journalist and, in 2001, joined the U.S. Marines. While in the Marines, Gutierrez worked as a combat correspondent, a fancy name for an all-platform journalist. Most of his work consisted of broadcast journalism such as long-form news features and documentaries that were aired on the American Forces Network (AFN) and on the Pentagon Channel. “Broadcast journalist is certainly not your typical Marine Corps job,” he said laughing. “It’s a very small community with a big mission. And because nothing in my life is ordinary, I ended up at Headquarters Naval Broadcasting Service as one of two Marines in the shop.”
And to make the situation even more out of the ordinary, Gutierrez said he was sent to this first broadcast assignment without any formal television training and told to “make it happen” and so he did. After retiring from the Marines with 12 years of service, Gutierrez is now focused on using his many media skills to “make it happen” again and give baseball players a better shot at getting signed to a professional team.
“The number one thing missing is player marketing,” he explained. “Players are focused on playing and perfecting their skills. Without other experts focused on making sure the right people see those skills, it becomes an unbalanced situation. Scouts are not ubiquitous. They can’t be everywhere at all times.”
With the Cosmos League, he hopes to bring an element of balance to this situation. The league combines baseball games and instruction with Gutierrez’s expertise at producing media products for each player. Media products such as professionally written bios, headshot photos, game action photos, live at-bat video, on-camera interviews, swing analysis video in real-time and slow motion, press releases sent to each player’s hometown media outlets and local media coverage. There is also a day of classroom instruction where players learn how to use existing web tools and social media sites to their advantage.
Professional baseball coaches are hired to run the games and practices. The league also invites scouts from affiliated and independent baseball to attend games and practices during the last week of the league.
“The Cosmos League is an excellent vehicle for players wanting to go pro and also for high school students entering their senior year to get their media package together in order to attract the attention of college recruiters.”
It’s been a slow start for the Cosmos League and Gutierrez admits it’s a hard sell. “This is not a well-known developmental league or showcase. It’s just starting. At the same time, I think a lot of players look at the league and don’t completely get it. Why does a player want to travel to southern California and pay $2,500 for three weeks of baseball just to get his picture taken? It’s more than that. In today’s world, perception is reality. If you want the job, you have to look the part,” said Gutierrez.
He also explained that a quality product is a sign of professionalism. “My pet peeve is the player who make online posts of those homemade shaky iPhone videos shot vertically by someone who is cheering the player on so loudly that it drowns out the actual audio of the video itself. If a player is serious about being a professional, then you have to be professional all the way. This includes online presence. Videos, photos, bios, stats, everything.” A professional experience is what the Cosmos League will give players. From t-shirts and uniforms to lodging and instruction, Gutierrez said the Cosmos League is designed to be in a class of its own.
“I had to create something that sets it apart from everyone else,” he said. “I want players to get something more for their money other than just ‘a chance’ at getting signed to a professional team. Not everyone who attends one of the many other winter or spring leagues ends up with a signed contract.”
Gutierrez explained how he dislikes the predatory tactics used by some organizations that exploit a player’s dream to play professionally. This approach robs the player of funds and often ends up leaving the young athlete demoralized.
“I think it just gives independent baseball a bad name. Indy ball has no governing body that can give anyone the proverbial good housekeeping seal of approval. So it becomes a case of buyer beware.”And because baseball is more or less an emotional game, many players end up making decisions based on emotion rather than logic.
“I think it’s tough for the players. Anyone who understands the emotional investment it takes to be a serious baseball player quickly realizes that an aspiring professional player can easily be reeled-in by flashy headlines or unverifiable statements of success in advertising. Not everyone gets taken to the cleaners but many unfortunately do.” Gutierrez said he wants the Cosmos League to be an honest broker in the fragmented world of independent baseball showcases and developmental leagues. An organization driven by strong ethics and a genuine desire to help players get to the next level in their careers.
“Despite the fact that I’m retired from the Marines, I still adhere to the core values of the Corps. That of honor, courage and commitment. This is what drives every decision I make in my life everyday,” he said. “Some people tell me that I’m a dreamer. My response is that I’m a visionary. What I’m doing now is what I believe others will attempt to duplicate in the future.”
The Cosmos League is scheduled to conduct two showcases in 2015. Each showcase must have a minimum of 50 players. Spaces are limited to a maximum of 70 players per showcase. Players are provided dual occupancy hotel lodging, uniform jerseys, caps, t-shirts, laundry detergent, some non-perishable food items, bottled ice water and towels in the dugout and free bottled water at the hotel.
For more information about the Cosmos League Baseball Showcase go to www.cosmosleague.com and click on the info tab in the top right corner of the page.