Sunday, July 31, 2011

Summer Highlights

Even though summer officially doesn't end for several more weeks, our summer vacation is sadly, drawing to a close.  So I figured I'd share some of the highlights of our jam packed summer days. 

TP:  Without a doubt, TP ranks right up there as one of the best highlights of our summer.  Our first experience with travel ball couldn't have been any better.  J grew so much as a player, made great new friends, and had fun, too.  We enjoyed making friends with all of the parents while we spent so much time cheering on the boys.  TP is truly a family and we're looking forward to the fall season.

Coach C:  We've known a lot of coaches in J's years playing baseball.  Some great, like my dad, and some not so great.  Coach C definitely falls into the great category.  He may be young, (he turns 19 tomorrow!) but he has a true gift for coaching.  I think one of the TP dads said it best when he said that Coach C coaches well beyond his years.  J is so lucky to have such a great friend, mentor, and coach.

A's Crush:  There's nothing quite like a girl's first crush, and A's crush on Coach C is a doozy.  We've laughed ourselves silly over her shameless and innocent pursuit of him.  It became even funnier once hubby spilled the beans to Coach C, who was pretty surprised to find himself the object of her affections!  He's been a terrific sport about the whole thing, being sweet as can be to A and tolerating all of hubby's jokes about being our son in law with good humor.  A's going to miss him when he goes back to college in a few weeks.

TP's Championship:  TP had a terrific summer season, but nothing beats the Apopka tournament where they swept the whole thing and took home the trophy. 

Family:  Aunt S and Cousins M and B's visit was another great highlight of the summer.  The kids always enjoy being with their cousins and this was no exception. 

As we get ready to head back to school and a daily routine that doesn't revolve solely around baseball I'm going to miss this summer.  My kids are growing up fast, making these carefree summer when we're all together all the more precious.


Saturday, July 30, 2011

UF Camp and Looking Towards the Future

J attended University of Florida baseball camp during the first part of the week.  I blogged about my thoughts and feelings on the day I dropped him off.  Now I'll share something about his camp experiences. He said the camp was very intense and they did a lot of hard work.  It was pretty much baseball from morning til night, including speed and agility, field work, position specific work, hitting and games.  The camp was run by the head coach of UF baseball, who in the words of Coach C is a baseball genius.  Assisting him were the UF assistant coaches, along with coaches from several other colleges and some current UF players.  J felt like he learned some valuable skills at camp to improve his game, had fun, and made some new friends along the way.  Being on the UF campus playing baseball also reinforced in him the dream of college baseball.  Which brings me to the second part of this post.

J has three years til college.  That's it.  Three short years before my baby leaves home for college and the pursuit of his greatest dream.  As a mother, my role is to support that dream, however out of reach it may seem at times.  I never want him to look back one day and regret not going for his dreams.  Even if all of his dreams don't come true, I want him to always have the certainty that he did everything possible to make them a reality.  That being said, I want to be able to provide him with all the tools he needs to help him achieve his dreams.  I've spoken all summer of what a terrific coach Coach C is.  Not only has J learned a lot from him, he looks up to him as a friend and role model.  The two of them clicked right from the start.  Coach C says he sees a lot of himself in J.  All of this led hubby and I to the realization that perhaps Coach C was the perfect person to mentor J along the road to college baseball.  We decided to ask him how he felt about doing something like that and happily, he said he was both honored and flattered that we had such faith in him.  I also asked him flat out if he truly thought J has a shot at college baseball.  The answer was yes, without hesitation.  J has a lot of hard work to do to get there, but Coach C definitely sees college baseball in his future.  He's working out a pretty rigorous training program for J, along with helping him with a list of possible colleges, coordinating future trips to showcases to get him scouted, and most of all continuing to be the friend and role model J has come to know and admire this summer.  Hubby and I offered to pay him for his time but he refused, saying that he was truly happy to be able to mentor J through this exciting time in his life.   We consider ourselves very fortunate to have such an upstanding young man to mentor and guide our son.  Hopefully, in the next few years, I'll be able to report that the team of J and Coach C have achieved the pinnacle of baseball success, both as player and coach.  Along the way, hubby and I will continue to offer unconditional support as J reaches for his dreams.         

USSSA World Series

TP competed in their final tournament of the summer this week, the USSSA World Series.  They had hoped to finish off their summer season with a big win, but it was not to be.  They lost their first playoff game this morning, ending their run for the championship. 

The tournament began on Tuesday.  J missed Tuesday and Wednesday due to being away at camp at UF.  But Coach C kept hubby and I in the loop, so we knew TP won their first game, 3-2, and lost their second game, 3-2.  Thursday we headed over for the third game, which ended in a 6-6 tie.  Friday morning they played hard and won that game, 5-2.  They were in 10th place in their pool of thirty teams going into today's single elimination rounds.  Today's game started off with a bang and they had 3-0 lead for the first half of the game.  Unfortunately, the opposing team was playing as hard as TP and managed to tie it up by the 4th inning.  A well placed hit in the bottom of the 6th gave the other team a three run lead.  As the visiting team, TP failed to score any runs in their last at bat and they lost 6-3.

It has been a great summer season.  This team has the best 16U record in Top Prospects history.  Coach C has been a phenomenal coach and the boys have learned so much this summer.  He told them today how proud he is of them and that he's looking forward to continuing to coach them this fall and next summer.  We'll have about an eight week break til our first fall tournament.  The fall season will be a bit different since Coach C will be away at college.  He's planning on doing five weekend tournaments between September and November.  he'll either come home if the tournaments are local or meet us at whatever part of the state we're traveling to.  I'll of course be posting about our experiences this fall.  I'm sure it will be just as much fun as this summer has been.  In the meantime, here's a team pic taken after today's game.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

One More Step Down the Path

Today my mom and I drove J to the University of Florida for a four day baseball camp.  And I'm having a major mommy moment over it.  Now, to some it might seem like going to a camp is just another summer activity.  And maybe for some boys it is.  But for J, it goes a bit deeper than that.  UF is currently his top college pick. He wants to play baseball at UF.  He wants to play baseball for the New York Yankees.  In short, he wants to live every boys MLB fantasy.  And today he took another step towards achieving his dreams.  When we got to the stadium and checked him in, it was like a light switch had been flipped inside him.  He couldn't wait to take the field.  As we dealt with all the practicalities of getting his key, getting him settled in his dorm room, eating lunch, he just kept wanting to get back to the field.  When it was finally time he listened with rapt attention to the orientation given by the coaches.  Every so often he'd shoot a glance at me and nod as if to say, "See mom, I know I can do this.  This is where I'm meant to be."  As I watched, it hit me that in three short years, J's dream of college baseball may very well become a reality.  He believes it can happen, Coach C believes it can happen, and oh yeah.  I believe it can happen.  Something happens to J when he steps onto a baseball field.  He walks a little taller, carries himself with just a tad more confidence, and his face radiates pure happiness.  Baseball is his heart, and there are few with a bigger heart than my J.  So, I've been a little misty eyed today, picturing my tiny boy who first told me he wanted to be a ball player, and envisioning my soon to be grown son who is rapidly becoming a ball player. Whether it ends up being UF or some other school, J is determined to make his dream a reality.  And today I had a glimpse of just how hard he's willing to work to make it happen.     

Saturday, July 23, 2011

TP Picnic

Today TP held a team picnic to celebrate their successful summer season and to get geared up for their final summer tourney.  I was the organizer and I think it went off rather well.  We rented a pavilion right on the river at a local park.  The weather was beautiful, but scorching hot.  We were thankful for the river breezes!   We ate, played games, and enjoyed the company.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of being part of TP is the friendship of the players, parents, and coaches.  It truly feels like a family.  I really hope every player is able to participate in the fall season.    

No TP get together would be complete without a game of wiffle ball, and it didn't take long for Coach C to get everyone playing.  You have to understand that wiffle ball is serious business in TP land, taken very seriously by Coach C and the boys.  Coach K's team snuck by Coach C's team for the win. Following lunch, a parent/player water balloon toss took place.  As you can imagine, it turned into a free for all, with  Coach C and Coach K as the most common targets.  After dessert, a touch football game rounded out the day's activities.  I've included a few pics below.

A playing catch with Coach C.

 J fishing a wiffle ball out of the river.

 Team huddle.

 The other team's huddle.

 A taking her turn at bat while N, J, & Coach C look on.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Nearing the end of Summer

My kids go back to school in just a little over two weeks.  Insanely early in my opinion.  Whatever happened to a three month summer break?  For the second year in a row, I'm not ready to let go of summer.  Last year we'd been to Hawaii and I was in such a mellow mood, summer could have gone on forever.  This year, we've enjoyed TP so much that I'm sorry to see the summer end.  Here's how we're wrapping up our final days of summer.

The TP team picnic is this Saturday.  I've sort of become the team mom and have been in charge of organizing the picnic.  We've reserved a big pavilion at the park and plan to grill hamburgers and hot dogs.  Everyone is bringing a picnic dish to share.  And between my mom and Coach C's mom, we have some seriously sinful desserts coming.  Coach C is, of course, planning a wiffle ball game and J had me buy a bucket of 600 water balloons.  It should be a good time.

J leaves for baseball camp at the University of Florida on Sunday.  He and his friend R will be rooming together for the four day camp.   My mom and I are driving them to Gainesville Sunday morning, then staying for a few hours to watch the camp.  R's parents will pick them up Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, I'm transitioning back into my head homeroom mom mode and hosting a get acquainted play date for incoming pk and k students.  The school thought this would be a nice, informal way for the kids and parents to meet before the start of school.  We're meeting at a park for playtime and light refreshments.  A will be starting k this year and she's looking forward to this.

Also next week, TP will be competing in their final tournament of the summer, the USSSA World Series in Kissimmee.  There are 60 16U teams entered in this one.  It will be interesting to see how TP stacks up against all these quality teams.  If they go in with their trademark heart and fire, my guess is they will finish quite well.  Maybe even win the whole thing.  Wouldn't that be an awesome end to their summer season?

Note above that I said summer season.  Originally TP was just going to be a summer season team.  We thought we were done at the end of July.  And I have to be honest, it made me kind of sad.  But, Coach C just told us that we'll be doing a fall season.  Hurray!  He's going to come home weekends from college to take TP to tournaments.  Between Sept and Nov we'll do 4-5 tournaments.  Now, I don't know if the entire team knows this yet.  Coach C told us when he spent the day with us going to another baseball event J was participating in.  I hope everyone is able to do the fall season.  We have such a great group of players and parents.  Coach C says he's enjoyed this team so much he'd really like to continue on.  So we'll do the fall, then take a break during the high school season til next summer. 

So that's how we'll be wrapping up our summer.  Stay tuned for posts about the TP picnic, J's adventures at UF camp, and TP's final summer tourney.   

Friday, July 15, 2011

Top Prospects

It occurred to me that all summer I've been telling you about Team TP, without ever really telling you anything about their sponsor, Top Prospects Baseball Instruction.  TP is an indoor baseball and softball instruction facility.  Team TP holds hitting practices here, as well as bull pen sessions, and indoor conditioning.  You can read about the TP facility here:  The link with team rosters is not current, it still lists Coach C as a 16U player instead of coach, but everything else is up to date.  And you can read a little about Dave Mastro, the owner, and how Top Prospects came to be.  We first discovered TP back when J was around 10 years old.  He attended several camps and lessons there.  In fact, Coach C was a junior instructor at one of the summer camps he attended.  When we were looking to get involved in travel ball it was only natural that we contact TP to see what they had to offer.  And we're so glad we did because this has been an awesome experience.  So thanks to all of the great staff at TP who have made Team TP a possibility.  You're dedication and hard work are appreciated!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Her First Big Crush

My five year old is boy crazy.  There, I said it.  I'm not sure how or when this happened, but A is boy crazy.  Maybe it comes from having two older brothers and being around their friends all the time.  For a while now, she's had J's best friend R in her sights.  R has known her since the day she was born and is like another brother to her.  But recently, my baby girl has developed her first real crush, on none other than Coach C.  This all started when he let her be in the team picture after TP won the championship in Apopka.  From then on, she's had stars in her eyes whenever he's around.  Which, since we're at baseball all the time, is a lot. This past weekend in Auburn, she followed him around as much as she was able.  He made her day Friday when he let her sit in the dug out during the game.  She pulled J's cooler right up next to Coach C's chair and chatted his ear off while he gave signs to the catcher.  Saturday she presented him with three brand new wiffle balls I had picked up for the team.  She claims she is going to marry him when she grows up.  Since he's 18, she has a lot of growing up to do!  This humiliates J in the extreme.  He lives in fear that she is going to propose to Coach C at any moment.   I admit, the whole thing makes me laugh.  A will no doubt have many crushes as she grows up.  But none will ever be as innocent and sweet as this first crush.  Check her out hanging with Coach C in the dug out. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Auburn Invitational

This post is a bit late in coming because I was hoping to have some positive results to report.  TP got off to a shaky start here in Auburn.  Their first game ended in a 6-2 loss, mostly due to errors.  Coach C was not happy with them and told them they needed to man up and play ball like he knew they could.  The second day they played in two games, both at the Auburn University baseball stadium.  Their first game started out poorly, but they rallied and ended up with a 4-4 tie.  Their second game was dismal, ending in a 5-2 loss when it was called early due to a thunderstorm.  They might have rallied, but we'll never know.  Following that game, Coach C was, to put it bluntly, pissed.   They were not playing with the heart and fire that has become their trademark this summer.  He called a team meeting for 10:30 in the parking lot of the hotel and told them to wear running shoes.  They discussed what was going wrong and ran sprints and suicides for about 45 minutes.  He also took the time to point out a strength of each player.  And wiped the slate clean.  Today when TP took the field, they had their fire back, and proved it with a 4-2 win.  Coach C was pleased, not just with their win, but with how they played.  It's not the losses that upset him, it's how they earn those losses.  Simply being out played is one thing.  Handing games away is another. When they play with heart and give him their all, he's proud of them, win or lose.

 We're finished here, and will head home in the morning.  a few families left tonight, along with Coach C and Coach K.  But several of us just didn't want to start an 8 hour drive this late in the day.  If we get an early start, we'll make it home by late afternoon.  Drive safely home TP families!    

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Auburn Invitational, Day One

The drive to Auburn was fairly easy.  As easy as an eight hour drive can be anyway.  Traffic was light and we made decent time, arriving around 2:30 local time.  The hotel had our room ready and we were able to check in to our very comfortable, two room suite.  I think we may have been the first TP family to arrive.  About an hour later, several other families and Coach C and his assistant, Coach K arrived.   Coach C was originally going to ride with us, but at the last minute Coach K was able to come and they rode together.  Within a few hours everyone was here and the boys got a wiffle ball game going out behind the hotel.  Coach C is big on wiffle ball and has passed that on to the players.  Even the little siblings got in on the fun.  After the wiffle ball game, the team relaxed in the hotel hot tub while the parents chatted by the pool. During this time, Coach C received a call from the tourney director informing him that this was a wood bat or BBCOR bat tournament.  Um, that would have been nice to know before we left home!  Luckily we have a couple BBCOR bats and three wooden bats among all the players.  We also found out there is  no championship round at this tournament.  It is strictly a showcase, with college scouts in attendance.  Being a 16U team, it's a chance for our boys to get their names out in front if the scouts.  And for the 18U teams here, it's an opportunity to perhaps get offered a scholarship.  We play a game tomorrow, two on Friday, and a final game on Saturday.  Coach C is a little perturbed at all the last minute information.  He's been trying to get in touch with the director for several days.  The boys are excited to be here though and are confident they can play well.  First game is at 4:30 tomorrow.  Go TP!  

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Auburn Bound

Team TP will be competing in their fifth tournament of the summer this week when we travel to Auburn, Alabama for the BEST Baseball Auburn Invitational.  The tournament runs July 6-July 10, with TP playing in their first game the afternoon of July 7.  We're heading for Auburn on July 5.  It's about an 8 hour drive from our home in Florida and we don't want to be rushing to get there.  So the next few days will be spent packing and getting things organized for the trip.  N has opted to stay home with my mom.  He'll hang out with Uncle D, who's retired, while she works.  A is going with us, as is my dad.  Coach C is riding with us as well.  We're planning on hitting the road by 8am Tuesday morning so I most likely won't post again until sometime  Wednesday.  Until then, have a great Fourth of July and stay tuned for updates on TP's progress at their biggest tournament yet!