Positively Affect the Lives of Its Players Both On and Off the Field
It’s short, but it’s to the point, there is no need for hubris nor noise. The chief and stated goal of the Orlando Scorpions is to “to positively affect the lives of its players both on and off the field”.
On the field, the Scorpions, founded in 1995 by Sal Lombardo, can go toe-to-toe with any team in the country. In the inaugural Wilson Premier Classic, the Scorpions claimed the class of 2017 and 2019 championships, showing program depth and elite talent. As a result, it should be no surprise that former Scorpions can be found on rosters at Florida State, Miami, Florida, Ole Miss, North Carolina, and other bluebloods of college baseball.
The Scorpions have also produced players whose skill transcends college baseball and require a professional organization to call upon their services. Most recently, shortstop Brendan Rodgers, the third overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies, was the must-see Scorpion by scouting directors, GMs, club presidents and the like.
But for the Scorpions to be true to their goal, ensure there is also a positive affect off the field, it’s a care for each and every player in the organization. The Scorpions are there to provide a service in enriching the lives of all who don the Black and Purple. The background of Scorpions President and CEO Bob Rikeman will make sure the Longwood, Florida-headquartered organization stays true to its mission.
“With the Scorpions' name, the value is expected,” Rikeman said. “It's not something people are coming to the Scorpions saying ‘I hope this works out’. You have people coming into the Scorpions with expectations.”
The expectations are to compete at the highest level, aid the development of a player, and provide an exposure platform for a player to reach his goals. And while Rikeman may be at the top of the Scorpions’ food chain, it was just a year ago he was one of those people coming to the Scorpions with expectations.
“I was a parent for the my first year with the Scorpions,” Rikeman said, who started his duties within the organization in December 2016. “(Former president Matt Gerber) played for me at Rollins, so I've known Gerb for a long time. Sal Lombardo's son played for me at Rollins, too. So, when I was the head coach at Rollins, I knew of the Scorpions. Then I retired in August, and I couldn't stay retired for more than a month, I couldn't take it.”
But before he was at the helm, Rikeman’s conviction in the Scorpions was so deep that he sent his son blindly to play for the Scorpions.
“I flew him down last year to play for them because I wanted him to be in a great environment and I knew how good the Scorpions were. I literally sent him down blind for a tryout, he made it, played and loved it. It's been a great experience. I really think taking over the team was a natural fit for me because I knew Gerb so well and I just wanted to get back in baseball.”
Now responsible for facilitating an atmosphere and environment where parents reap the same praise, Rikeman has a focus of providing the most value possible to a player and his family, which is top-to-bottom development.
“I wanted to get more involved with the business side of things, making sure the players were getting developed. Kind of changing the way travel baseball is,” Rikeman said. “It's not all about showcases. Showcases are really for the 10% of kids that are superstars and they don't need a coach or a great person in their life every day. But the 90% of the other kids that really build your business and build the Scorpions, I really want to make a huge difference for those kids and that's why I did it.”
The former coach in Rikeman, who started his coaching career at UMass-Amherst at a time legendary basketball coach John Calipari started at UMass, comes out in wanting to oversee the development of the player.
“I was a grad assistant at the time, I used to go to more basketball stuff than I did anything else,” Rikeman said. “I used to watch him, and how he coached kids, how he demanded of kids, how he developed kids, and how turned that program around in a matter of a couple of years.”
But after coaching for 25 years, Rikeman spent the prior six years in the oil and gas industry, overseeing a company. Its the businessman in Rikeman that is there to make sure the Scorpions are running on all cylinders. That if a family is a part of the Scorpions, they know where they stand always, there is trust, there is no waste, there is the mutual commitment to the overall betterment of the player.
“How are we going to create value for those kids on a daily basis?” Rikeman asks. “The majority of our kids, they're the ones that need the help and that's why I did it. I really wanted to make a difference within player development.”
Being able to combine his baseball background with business past, Rikeman stands out among those who lead travel baseball organizations. That blend allows him to be a position where he relishes the opportunity to lead the way in the Scorpions’ goal, affecting the lives of all players, on and off the field, from the Brendan Rodgers to those who may attend Rollins.
“I just can't believe how impactful it really is, I can't believe what being a Scorpion really means. As a parent, you have pride, you see all of these great players on my son's team that are committing to Florida State, Florida, you see that part of it.
“But now that I own it, it's just amazing to me how many people really want to be involved in it. To me, the challenge is getting that value all of the time to almost every kid you can.”