Gil Vieira figures he has one last big project left in him.
The Massachusetts native has been involved in sports in a variety of roles most all of his life. He played baseball in high school and college, led multiple sporting goods companies and, as president of Rod Carew Baseball, helped create RodCarewBaseball.com.
Now, in what might be his most formidable challenge yet, Vieira is working to connect the nation’s fractured youth baseball community through the Youth Baseball Network.
“This is my last hurrah,” said Vieira, the Youth Baseball Network's founder and CEO.
Thanks in part to years of national television exposure, Little League has become symbolic of youth baseball. But Vieira said the organization, while the best-known youth baseball league, represents less than one-third of the nation’s youth baseball players. Most youth players are involved in other longstanding organized baseball leagues such as the American Amateur Baseball Congress, Amateur Athletic Union, Babe Ruth, Continental Amateur Baseball Association, Dixie Youth Baseball, Dizzy Dean the National Amateur Baseball Federation and PONY Baseball and Softball.
Vieira’s goal is to build a marketing and media portal dedicated to the youth baseball industry. He’s already completed the first phase of his plan, which entailed the creation of the YouthBaseballNetwork.com website and the Youth Baseball Network National Championship.
The inaugural YBN National Championship was held in late August in Branson, Missouri, and featured the 12-under national champions from the AABC, AAU, CABA, Dizzy Dean and NABF. Pages were devoted to each organization on the YBN website, which also posted game results, photos and articles, among other content. Vieira hopes to have as many as three other organizations enter their postseason champions in future tournaments. Securing national television coverage is another goal for the event.
“The Championship didn’t need the network, but the network needed the championship,” Vieira said. “To be the new home for youth baseball, we needed the championship to bring the organizations together.”
Phase two of Vieira’s master plan is build out the YBN network with various types of content, including tournament listings, articles, schedules, results, standings, scores and statistics.
“People think the idea of this network is pretty grandiose, pretty large,” Vieira said. “I agree with them. It is very aggressive approach.
“It is all about the relationships, and I'm fortunate to have built some good relationships.”
Through his previous business ventures, Vieira has known several youth baseball organization leaders for years. He said a national tournament similar to the YBN National Championship was held in Memphis years ago.
“A few organization leaders turned to me and asked if I could help them put it back together,” Vieira said.
The Youth Baseball Network site includes a Sponsors section with pages devoted to official products, national sponsors and Branson sponsors. Fourteen major sponsors are grouped in a Sponsors graphic that appears at the bottom of most of the site’s pages.
Vieira grew up about an hour south of Boston in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. He was a three-sport standout at Fairhaven High School, receiving scholarship offers in football, basketball and baseball. He chose baseball, and pitched at Jacksonville University until suffering a career-ending arm injury his junior year. Vieira was formally inducted into Fairhaven High School’s Hall of Fame in 2011.
Vieira said the plan for the Youth Baseball Network has been years in the making, and he expects it to really "get rolling” in a couple of years.
“I think we've got a winner here,” he said.