November 10 – 12, hundreds of Frisco middle school baseball and softball players will step up to the plate for one of the most exciting youth sports events of the year – the Middle School Matchup tournament! Now in its 5th year, this highly anticipated weekend has become a tradition for many families in Frisco.
Middle School Matchup (or “MSM”) is a unique weekend tournament for middle school ball players in areas that do not have formal middle school teams (like Frisco ISD). MSM forms middle school teams for this one special weekend, giving baseball and softball players a chance play with their school friends and neighbors, and wear their school colors for the first time!
The MSM format is unique because it aligns teams by school regardless of skill level, bringing together players from recreational teams, competitive select teams, and everyone in between. For this one weekend, school pride and friendships are more important than skill level or stats. Middle School Matchup is nicknamed “the happiest tournament on earth” (#happybaseball) and players, parents, and coaches agree this title is well deserved. One former player summed up his experience like this:
I’ve played in nearly 1,000 games. . . all over America, and I still think MSM was probably the most fun I have ever had playing baseball. Playing baseball with the kids I grew up with was amazing. Even in high school we still talk about how fun (and crazy) all our games were!”
Middle School Matchup was founded in 2012 by Frisco residents Carrie and Daniel Himel. Their son, a talented baseball player, was in middle school at the time and missed having the opportunity to play for his school, like his friends on the football and basketball teams. The idea for Middle School Matchup came up over casual conversation with friends one evening – and the Himels decided to make it a reality.
Within six weeks the first MSM tournament was held here in Frisco, with 174 players participating. The response from the participants and their families was overwhelming. One parent of a player that first year told the Himels,
We thought it would be cool – we didn’t realize it would be magical.”
Even the umpires asked to come back again the next year saying “this is the most fun we’ve had.” Clearly, something special was happening on the ballfields that weekend and the excitement was contagious. The next year, the Himels expanded the tournament outside of Frisco and hosted more than 600 participants. Since then, the program has exploded in popularity and has hosted over 6,000 players, 151 schools, and 35 cities across North Texas.
Participation and enthusiasm continue to be incredibly high here in Frisco. This year, over 600 Frisco players will participate in the tournament with representation from every grade level in every Frisco middle school. Players register “first come, first serve” through an online registration process and the current record for “filling up” a Frisco team is less than two and a half minutes. The teams are coached by volunteers based on an application process that includes parents, Frisco high school coaches and current high school players. The participation by current Frisco high school teams is a particularly cool aspect of the tournament. Middle school players love getting to hang out with the athletes at the high schools they will attend and the current players and coaches enjoy the opportunity to meet potential future team members.
Scott McGarrh, Liberty High School Head Baseball Coach says,
I love Middle School Matchup! As a parent its great to see my son play baseball with the boys he hangs out with at school. During baseball season they are all on different teams and this event brings them together for a fun weekend of baseball they can’t experience any other time. As a High School Baseball Coach this forum gives me the opportunity to watch my future players compete as one, and I’m able to watch them all in one weekend. The boys have so much fun, they can’t wait to play next year.”
Players, parents, coaches, and community members look forward to MSM weekend all year – and it’s easy to see why. Parents enjoy a break from the rigors of the regular athletics season and get to come together with neighbors and cheer on their children in a relaxed environment. For some players, it’s an exciting preview of what playing on their high school teams might be like. In fact, nearly 80% of players on Frisco High school rosters have already played as a team at the Middle School Matchup – and the percentage is closer to 90% for graduating seniors. For other less serious players, it may be special because it’s the only chance they’ll get to play softball or baseball for a school team.
These differences are just part of what makes MSM such a beloved sports tradition in Frisco. MSM is “less about winning and more about friends and fun,” making it a refreshing and highly-anticipated event for parents and for players. If you’re lucky enough to attend a game this year, you’re likely to see your future Frisco high school athletes and, who knows, maybe even a future team member of the Texas Rangers! But whatever the future holds for these middle schoolers, on the weekend of November 10-12 you’re guaranteed to see them doing exactly what they should be – having fun, being kids, and playing just for the love the game.