In 1989, four people in the Texas Rangers organization, who all went to Pine Bluff High School, put on a baseball camp.
Two of those organizers were professional scouts Jeff and John Gross. The duo co-founded PRO-DAY baseball with the goal of helping players reach the next level.
Fifteen years later, the PRO-DAY baseball organization, which expanded with the use of showcases in 14 states, has helped thousands of players get to college and hundreds get to the professional level.
John Gross died in 2012, but his headstone will forever serve as a reminder to the impact he made.
“There’s a PRO-DAY baseball logo in the bottom-right corner,” Jeff Gross said of his older brother’s headstone, “and it reads ‘Helped many players advance to the next level.’”
A second annual memorial tournament to honor the mark John Gross left on Pine Bluff baseball and the entire southeast region began on Thursday at Taylor Field.
“I think he would be really touched,” Jeff Gross said. “I think he would be very proud of the tournament. I think he would be more proud to see former players and their kids playing in the tournament. That would make it even more special.
“His goal was always to help players get to the next level.”
PRO-DAY helps achieve that goal through showcase tournaments and camps. The showcases allow for college coaches, especially those with limited funds, to see a lot of players in one place. PRO-DAY makes evaluations of players and even sends them to up to five college programs of the player’s choice.
This weekend’s tournament, though, is less about the exposure of the kids playing — although there will be workouts and evaluations today — and more about remembering the impact John Gross had on baseball prospects in the area.
Five teams will compete in the tournament with every team playing each other once.
Today, the workouts and evaluations will take place from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — those interested should arrive at 9:15 to sign up — with opening ceremonies to take place at 3 p.m.
Proceeds from the tournament help fund the John Gross Memorial Scholarship Foundation, which presents a scholarship to a national high school baseball player each October at the PRO-DAY World Showcase in Orange Beach, Ala.
“It’s great,” Jeff Gross said. “You hardly ever see a full-ride scholarship in baseball. John always said, ‘You have to make your grades, too.’
“Because if you can get a baseball scholarship and an academic one, well, it all adds up.”
PB Tigers 8, PRO-DAY Elite 6
PRO-DAY got off to a good start, leading 4-0 after two innings, but the Tigers used a five-run fourth inning to help earn the comeback win.
Gealander Harris III led the way for Pine Bluff, which also scored one run in the second and two in the third. Harris finished 1 for 2 with a run scored, and the catcher also made a great play on a wild pitch to throw a runner out at home.
PRO-DAY opened the scoring when Tyler Young came home on a sacrifice fly in the first inning. Young reached base in each of his three at-bats and scored twice.
Pine Bluff cut into PRO-DAY’s early lead when Harris scored in the second inning. After the Tigers had trimmed the deficit to one run at 4-3, PRO-DAY responded with a pair in the fourth to restore the three-run cushion.
However, a lightning delay during their at-bat slowed PRO-DAY’s momentum and Pine Bluff responded with their five-spot to steal the win.
White Hall 7, PB Tigers 6
Kirk Baugh hit a walkoff double to score Justin Archer from first base in the team’s opener of the John Gross Memorial Tournament.
Baugh, who had new life after a bunt attempt of his was dropped, finished the game 2 for 4 with a home run, two RBIs and a run scored. Archer, who reached on a single with one out in the seventh, ended up 2 for 4 with a double, two runs scored and an RBI.
In total, White Hall pounded out 10 hits in the game, but six of them came in a five-run first inning.
Pine Bluff had five hits and drew seven walks in the loss. The Tigers scored two runs in the fourth and four runs in the fifth to tie the game at 6-6.
Jaylen Jackson led Pine Bluff at the dish, finishing 1 for 2 with two walks and two runs. Jordan O’Guinn was 2 for 4 with a run scored.
PRO-DAY Elite 6, Crossett 3
Crossett had three times as many hits as PRO-DAY, but scored half as many runs in the opener of the John Gross Memorial Tournament.
PRO-DAY managed just three hits but used five walks and a hit-by-pitch to help plate a run in the first, three in the second and two in the sixth.
Crossett, which finished with nine hits, three walks and a hit-by-pitch, could only scratch across single runs in the first, sixth and seventh innings.
Michael Boyd led PRO-DAY with a 1-for-2 day and two RBIs, while Tyler Young scored two runs. Logan Harrington paced Crossett, going 2 for 3 with a walk and a run scored.
Floyd Allen earned the win and Lane Chapman was saddled with the loss.