In the last year, Rochester has produced two early round baseball draft picks, two NHL draft picks, an NBA draft pick, a priority NFL free agent signing, and a new PGA tour player. Plus, a team of Rochester only Division I basketball players could have won half the conferences in America last year.
Never before has Rochester been so well represented in professional sports. The explanation for the spike in top level talent comes on multiple levels.
Summer sports like baseball are now a year round affair in Rochester thanks to new facilities like Diamond Pro.
Matt Dryer, the founder of Diamond Pro, says “There’s no reason for them to not get their work in around having a life and playing other sports and getting their homework done.”
In golf, it’s the same. Athletes are able to work on their game 365 days of the year.
“We have simulators. We have strength and conditioning,” says Joe Lusardi, local golf coach of PGA tour player Dom Bozzelli and University of Texas golfer Gavin Hall. “The ability to train 12 months a year exists now in Rochester where 10-15 years ago, it didn’t.”
In hockey and baseball, Rochester pros from 20 years ago have come back to coach. Not just at the elite levels, but at all ages.
“More and more high level guys are coaching youth hockey and high school hockey and different level hockey,” says Al Vyverberg, who coached at McQuaid for 30 years. “Guys that have been there. In the old days, back when I played high school, some of the coaches couldn’t skate back then.”
“We’ve spent our whole lives doing this. We’ve had tremendous success, not only in our own career, but post-career,” says Dryer. “The connections that we’ve made and the contacts that we have allow for a kid from western New York to not worry about where they’re from.”
As Rochester’s best athletes get better, it forces all Rochester athletes to get better.
“Multiple kids who can play the game at a high level is a big thing,” says Lusardi. “When you only have one or two kids who can play the game at a high level, you lose that desire to get out there and tee it up.”
“It’s more of a drive,” says Vyverberg. “If I see some other guys from Rochester, I think I can do it.”
Chris Collins, an 8 year hockey pro and the founder of Evolution Sports, says that the local Rochester hockey talent is gathering interest on the national level. “Rochester right now is a special area and there’s a ton of buzz around the country about the kids coming out of Rochester.”
As more Rochester athletes turn their pro dreams into a reality, they continue to open doors for the next generation.
“The kids see other kids making it and it’s encouraging for them,” says Kala Gause, the founder of Next Level Beyond. “That’s why you see the uptick.”
“There is an unbelievable group of talent all the way from 10th-11th graders all the way down to 4 and 5 year olds,” says Collins. “I don’t even think we’ve scratched the surface.”
The one thing that is universal across all sports is the belief that the amount of Rochester players making to the pros is only going to increase.
The process feeds on itself and the days of Rochester being well represented in professional drafts will keep coming.