Saturday, June 30, 2012

Junior Olympics Recap

I know I said I'd post updates during the week at Junior Olympics, but there was so much going on that I decided to wait and post one big recap.  It was a week with a lot of ups and downs for TP, but ultimately will be a week the boys will never forget.  So here goes.

We arrived on Friday around noon, prior to our scheduled event time of 12:30.  The event time was a time for our team to be observed by the USA Baseball scouts.  Each player ran the sixty, then participated in a modified infield/outfield practice.  The entire process took about an hour and we were then free for the rest of the day.  There was a Jupiter Hammerheads game that evening, for which USA Baseball provided tickets. The game was rained out though, so several of the families ended up going out to dinner together while Coach C and the coaching staff attended the mandatory coaches meeting.  Our five pool play games were scheduled for 8:00am, starting on Sat and ending on Tues.  Here's where some of those downs come in, because TP struggled a bit in their pool play games.  I'll give a brief recap of each game.

Game 1 TP came out and played well.  The team they were playing against was extremely good and unfortunately our boys never did get their bats going.  They lost that game 5-0, though they put up a good fight.

Game 2 was also a loss of 4-1.  For that game, they could have played better.  Once again their bats were quiet and they just weren't playing with a lot of heart.  Coach C was starting to get a little irritated with them because they're capable of playing much better.

Game 3 was supposed to be Sunday but got postponed to Monday due to rain.  It turned out to be the most difficult game of the tournament for them, ending in a 7-0 loss.   The pitching on the opposing team was phenomenal and unfortunately it paralyzed our boys' bats.  They let themselves be intimidated, which killed their shot at winning right from the start.  Coach C gave them a pretty stern talking to following the game, and told them to show up that afternoon for game 4 ready to play hard.

Game 4 was the turning point in the tournament for us.  The boys shook off their previous losses and came out fighting.  Our pitcher pitched an outstanding game against one of the best teams competing in the tournament.  This team was undefeated in pool play and TP shut them down with a 6-4 win.

Game 5 was a heart breaker.  TP was playing well, but during one inning they made a coupe fumbles that allowed the other team to score two runs.  They rallied, and scored, but the game ended in a 2-1 loss.

Wednesday was an off day and we found out TP was seeded 36 after pool play.  Only the top 32 teams advanced to the playoffs, but TP would have two consolation games.  Coach C got them fired up and they approached those two games as if they were the championship round.  On Thursday they played with tons of heart and fire, and ended up with a  7-2 win.  Friday's game was another good one, ending with a 10-2 win.

The overall record for this tournament was 3 wins and 4 losses.  Junior Olympics is one of the best youth baseball tournaments in the country, with extremely competitive teams entering.  Many of the teams that enter  are put together  for the sole purpose of competing at this tournament, bringing in kids from all over to play together for a brief time.  The fact that our boys went out there and did as well as they did is a testament to how well they mesh as a team, their talent and skill, and the excellent coaching they receive from Coach C and the rest of the coaching staff.

We have one last tournament in a few weeks, along with a couple local scrimmage games.  The final tournament is the same one we won last year, so Coach C wants to go and defend our title.  If they keep playing the way I know they can, there's no reason we won't be bringing home the trophy again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Graduation and a Tournament

This past weekend, we traveled to Virginia to attend Cousin B's high school graduation.  Along the way, we stopped to visit some friends in North Carolina.  We hadn't seen them since September, so it was nice getting to spend a little time with them and catch up.  We spent the night at their house and continued on our way to Virginia Friday morning, arriving at my aunt's home shortly before 5:00.  She had gotten tickets for my dad, hubby, J, and Cousin M to attend the Yankees/Nationals game that evening, so they left for the metro station shortly after we arrived.  Much to J and my dad's delight, the Yankees beat the Nationals; in fact, they swept the entire three game series of the weekend.  Saturday morning Cousin B graduated, a fact which is hard to wrap my mind around.  She, cousin M, and J are all one year apart in age; she's 18, M is 17, and J is 16, all with February birthdays.  Her graduation marks the beginning of a three year period where we'll have a graduation every spring.  They've all grown up so fast.  I can still picture them as toddlers, ages, 1, 2, and 3 playing together.  They've always been extremely close and I hope that closeness continues as they move into adulthood.  I'm glad we made the trip up to share in B's special day.  I only wish we could have stayed longer.  J, hubby, and I came home Monday.  N and A stayed behind to go to Ocean City, New Jersey for the rest of the week with my parents and the rest of the family.

Which brings me to the second part of this post.  A recap of TP's tournament in Boca Raton.  Obviously we missed this one and from what I've since been told by Coach C, that's not a bad thing.  To call this tournament a disaster is putting it mildly.  The trouble began early in the week.  By Tuesday night, we still had no game schedule for a tournament that was supposed to begin Thursday.  Wednesday Coach C finally heard from the director.  The tournament start date had been pushed back to Saturday and the end date extended from Sunday to Monday.  Right away this caused problems, since everyone had planned their hotel stay around the original dates.  Several parents also had to work on Monday and were unable to stay past Sunday evening.  A call to the hotel solved the lodging issue.  The sales manager there was extremely understanding and wiling to do whatever he could to accommodate everyone.  Games were scheduled for Sat(two games) and Sunday, with Monday being dependent on how they did in those games.  However, by the end of the day Friday the schedule had been changed to one game Saturday, one Sunday, and one Monday morning.  Saturday afternoon I got a text from one of the other moms that they lost 5-2.  Then Sunday morning, I texted  Coach C and told him to be sure to let us know how that mornings game went.  He replied that the game had now been moved to 6:00 in the evening and a couple of our players were going to have to leave, which left the team severely short staffed.  That's when the fun really began.  Following that game I got a phone call from Coach C and he was seriously riled up at the tournament director.  The man had apparently been misrepresenting the tournament to everyone.  It was supposed to have been held at Florida Atlantic University, but had been moved to some high school fields.  Why?  The director owes FAU money from a previous tournament.  Needless to say they weren't allowing the use of their fields.  After Sunday evenings game, the director again tried changing the remaining game schedule.  By that point, Coach C was fed up and began questioning him as to why all these changes were necessary.  He tried explaining that players were having to leave due to parents having work and other obligations.  The director's response?  He threw TP out of the tournament.   From what Coach C told me, other teams were having the same issues with this director.  If you want my opinion, I think he's shady and is pocketing the entry fees.  Each team paid a pretty heft entry fee, yet many teams never played the minimum of guaranteed games.  My guess is he was inventing reasons to cancel games so he didn't have to pay the field fees and pocketing the money instead.  I would also wonder if the games were ever actually booked to begin with.    The very idea of this guy profiting off the backs of young players makes my blood boil.  We all know there is craziness and dishonesty in youth sports unfortunately.  But this level of corruption is a new low.  He misrepresented the tournament from the start by affiliating it with FAU, and likely has pocketed money from numerous teams.  I don't know if anything can be done to stop this guy.  But you can bet that Coach C and every TP parent will be certain to tell this story to anyone who might be considering registering a team for any tournament being run by this jackass.        

So what's next for TP?  We've decided to chalk this tournament up to crazy and move onto the biggest, best tournament of the summer.  We leave Friday to travel down to Jupiter for the USA baseball 17U East Championships.  Seven game guarantee, scout test day, and an opportunity for our boys to really shine.  I'll update from the road for this one since there will be a lot going on.  And let's hope TP brings home the trophy at the end!                       

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tournament Weekend Three, Hardball Baseball Showcase

Today we headed an hour south to Vero Beach for the Hardball Baseball Showcase.  We had two games today and both went very well.  TP played hard and well, once again proving that they are contenders whenever they step on the field.

The first game got off to a shaky start, with the other team scoring three runs in the top of the first inning.  After that though, our boys got their mojo going and started fighting back.  Their bats were swinging well and their defense was solid.  Every player was giving his all, playing hard the entire game.  They won that game 8-4 in six and a half innings.

After a break of two hours, it was back to the field for warm ups for the second game.  TP's bats weren't as hot as they'd been in the first game and they were down 1-0 for the majority of the game.  Finally in the 6th inning, J was pinch running for the catcher and scored on a beautiful line drive double hit by the third baseman.  They held the opposing team in the bottom of the sixth, but then the umps called the game due to an impending severe storm.  The game ended in a 1-1 tie, but I think our boys would have pulled off another run or two if they'd had the time.

Overall, the TP boys played extremely well and Coach C is very pleased with them.  Today's games bring their record to 7 wins - 2 losses- 2 ties.

So how did J personally do you might be wondering?  Especially since I recently posted about the issues he's been having.  I'm happy to report he did very well today, at least in my opinion.  I haven't discussed his performance with Coach C yet, but I imagine he's pleased with him.  He played first base in the first game and did very well, with no errors.  He had three at bats, with one hit by pitch and two walks.  He was annoyed because he'd rather get a hit than take a walk.  But his on base percentage was fantastic so there's the silver lining. In the second game he did duty as pinch runner for the catcher.  He did make a blunder there, and was off on his timing running the bases, causing him to get tagged out at third.   Coach C was pretty steamed at him since it's the kind of error he's trying to teach J to avoid and play smarter.  However, I think he redeemed himself when he hauled butt from first to home in the 6th inning to score the only run of the game.  I wish I'd had my camera out to shoot some pictures as he rounded third, headed for home.  The look of pure determination on his face was awesome.  I'm anxious to get Coach C's thoughts on how he did.  I think he did great, but I'm his mom, not his coach.  I asked him how he'd rate his performance on a scale of 1-10 and he gave himself a 7.

So there it is.  TP is having a fabulous summer season so far.  Next up, they head to Boca Raton for the FAU Showdown tournament.  We'll be missing that one since we're traveling to Virginia for Cousin B's high school graduation.  But I'll  be checking in with Coach C for updates which I'll be sure to share.  Or maybe I'll ask Coach C to do a guest post and write the recap for that tournament himself.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Tales of a TP Team Mom

I love being a part of TP.  I'm thankful that J has the opportunity to play on a such a high caliber team, with an awesome coach.  I enjoy making friends with the other parents and getting to know all the players.   I'm especially enjoying this year since Coach C is graciously allowing me to indulge my inner team mom to my heart's content.    I decided to share some of my favorite parts of being the TP team mom.

1.) I get to spoil the boys.  I love to bake and who better to appreciate my efforts than a team full of hungry baseball players.  As often as I can, I bake goodies to bring to tournaments for the boys to munch on between games, or just hanging out in the hotels.  For the Fort Myers tournament I baked ten dozen cookies and they plowed through the majority of them over the course of the weekend.  Since I was busy with wrapping up the school year and A's recital I didn't have time to bake for them this past weekend.  But they'll have goodies this coming weekend when we head to Vero Beach.  

2.) I get to keep score during the games.  The fact that I'm enjoying this one surprises me.  I've never kept score before and have no clue how to do it in a traditional score book.  But Coach C uses a scoring app on his ipad and asked me a few weeks back if I'd be willing to learn how to run it.  So far so good.  I haven't screwed it up, at least, not that Coach C has told me!  He keeps handing me the ipad before games so I guess I must doing okay with it.  I enjoy doing it because it helps me learn more about the ins and outs of the game.  Since baseball is such a huge part of J's life it makes sense for me to be able to follow it and carry on conversations with him about it.

3.)   I'm the keeper of the swing juice.  What is swing juice?  Swing juice is Coach C's name for the beverage they all swig from during games to bring them good luck hitting.  Truth be told, it's really just raspberry green tea Crystal Light.  Shh, don't tell the boys, Coach C has them convinced it's a top secret blend of ingredients.  I started bringing it along in the cooler because I know Coach C loves it and he usually ends up needing extra drinks during games.  This past weekend I made him a gallon jug and before I knew it, the entire team was swigging from it.  Kind of disgusting I know. But they hit like their bats were on fire so who am I to mess with their superstition.  I'll now be toting a jug of swing juice to each and every game in the special jug I bought to hold it. A wanted to deck it out with sparkly letters spelling out swing juice but I went with basic black letters.  Didn't want to girly the team up too much.  

4.)  I love taking pictures of the team to post for all the parents.  Unfortunately I haven't taken as many I'd like lately because I'm busy scoring.  Luckily another mom also enjoys taking pictures and has been taking care of it.  I'm determined to master running the scoring app and my camera at the same time though.  Last year I made a slide show of the best pictures from the season and plan to do one this year as well.

5.)  I get to plan the team picnic.  Last year's picnic was a huge success and I can't wait to get started planning one for this year.

So there you go, some of my favorite parts of being TP's team mom.  I love to volunteer and be involved in all of the activities my kids are involved in, from school to extracurriculars.  I enjoy all of it,  but TP is near and dear to my heart.  I plan to enjoy every minute of this summer season with Coach C and the boys.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Obstacles to Overcome

I rarely write more than one post in a day, but this one has been brewing in my mind for several days since I've been unsure  whether or not I wanted to write and post it.  Since this blog is as much a journal of sorts for me as it is a place for family and friends to keep up with us, I decided to go ahead and write the post.  Here goes.  I warn you, this may get long.

A few weeks ago I posted about J's rapidly approaching future and some of the decisions he'll have to make regarding college and baseball in the next few years.  Since then, a situation has come to light that could threaten the dream J has held dear for so long.  J is certainly a good ball player.  As I stated in that previous post he has a mixture of some God given talent, a love for the game, and a work ethic that is second to none. He's not that one in a million player, but he's determined to make the most of what he has and achieve his dreams.  So what's the problem?  Coach C had hoped that by this point, he would be seeing certain improvements in J's game.  Subtle things like how he fields the ball, how smartly he plays the game, his approach at the plate while hitting, etc.  Unfortunately he wasn't seeing those improvements.  In fact, he realized that J was missing some fundamental mechanics in his game altogether.  How could this happen?  How did none of us notice this before?  That's easy.    Last summer J did well playing for TP and Coach C fully expected that his school team combined with his training program would help him make the necessary improvements needed to take his game to the next level.  Keep in mind that Coach C was away at school and had not actually seen J play in many months.  Fast forward to the current TP season and the alarm bells started going off.  J seemed to be at a plateau with his game, lacking the finesse that would carry him further.  During last weekend's tournament, J had a pretty rough game, making three very costly mental errors that forced Coach C to pull him from first base for the remainder of the tournament.  That alone was enough to shake J up, but the worst was yet to come.  Coach C told him if he didn't manage to pull it together, he wouldn't be able to play first base at all this summer.  Not only that, if he continues to plateau, his dream of college baseball could end before it begins. Needless to say, J was devastated, I was heartbroken at the thought that my firstborns dream could be crumbling, and it was no picnic for Coach C either.  Remember that he and J have shared a special bond from the beginning and I know it wasn't easy for him to have to be so tough on J.   Many serious discussions and gallons of tears(mine) ensued.  So again, where did J miss learning these mechanics?  Coach C says he should have been being taught these things at the high school level.  It isn't something he would have learned at the Little League level.  That brings me to something that until now I've avoided talking about on the blog except in the most general of terms.  J's school baseball program.  To be blunt, it's terrible, probably one of the worst if not the worst in our county.  It's really nothing more than daddy ball, a hot bed of brown nosing and politics.  The boys really are not taught anything at all.  It's simply an extension of Little League.  Coach C flat out said J's school program has failed him.  However, all of the blame is not at the feet of the school program.  J shares some blame in this, too.  We knew that the school program was nothing great and warned J he needed to be very careful not play down to the level of the program.  It may have been sub conscious but I believe he did exactly that.  His JV coach usually told him he was doing a good job, he was hitting decently, and managing to play a couple of positions that were not his usual.  It was a very short season, only eight games for JV, so J had a lot of time between the end of the school season and the start of the TP season.  I won't spend a lot of time harping on the poor quality of the school program.  I've done that, bending Coach C's ear numerous times throughout the season, as well as hubby's.  Bottom line is there is really nothing we can do about the school program.  But we can do something about J's problem.

One of the things I respect the most about Coach C is the fact that he always plays it straight with J.  If J's having a problem or not getting something right, he says so.  He doesn't pump sunshine and tell J that  he's the greatest thing baseball has seen since Babe Ruth.  He's honest with him, both as a coach and a friend.   This is no different.  Once Coach C had talked to J and to hubby and I about the issues, he set out to do everything he can to help J get over this hurdle and continuing on down the road to his dream.  So what's the plan?  It's simple.  Good old fashioned hard work, along with a crash course in the mechanics that J's missing.  Coach C has enlisted the help of the entire TP coaching staff,which includes himself, Coach K,the assistant coach, Coach P the infield coach, and Coach C Senior, the speed and agility coach and Coach C's dad.  Also on board is Coach C's roommate T, who plays on the club team at UF and is the son of Coach P.  Got all that straight?  They're all doing everything they can to give J extra time in practice, working with him on the things he is missing, and encouraging him.  Last Tuesday night, Coach C, Coach P, and T spent two hours working exclusively with J on his fielding mechanics.  Watching the session, I felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders.  In the back of my mind I think I had feared that the mechanics J was missing would be so huge that he'd never catch up to where he needs to be.  But that's not the case.  By the end of that session, he'd already made improvements.  Coach C is pleased with him and keeps assuring me he's going to be just fine.  J will be working daily on the things that the coaches are going over with him because repetitive practice is what's needed here.  This weekend, he showed improvement.  The differences are subtle, but are evident even to my untrained eye.  He fielded the ball with a little more finesse,  he's a bit more graceful with his footwork, and most importantly his confidence is up and he's determined to be where he needs to be very soon.  He's been struggling some with hitting, too, but did quite well there this weekend as well.  Overall, we're all pleased with how he did and as always are extremely proud of him.  If sheer heart and hard work could achieve his dreams, J would have this thing sewn up.

I do want to say that I am so thankful that J has a coach, role model, mentor, and friend like Coach C.  It's no secret that Coach C is a dear friend to us all, which made this situation both easier and more difficult.  Easier because  it's so evident how much he cares about J and wants him to succeed.  Another coach might have blown him off or given up on him but not Coach C.  He's in this with J to the very end, wherever that may be.    In one of my more tearful moments, I suggested that perhaps if J's difficulties were going to make him a liability to the team it would be better if I pulled him.  Coach C did not take kindly to that idea and promptly let me know exactly how he felt about it. It made me cry when he said that J will always have a place on his team and that he most definitely has a lot to contribute to the team. Then he forbid me to ever try and pull J from the team which made me laugh and lightened the moment. On the flip side, that very loyalty and affection for J makes the situation harder.  I never want Coach C to be put in the position of having to defend himself to other players or parents for the decisions he makes regarding J.  I never want him to feel like his friendship with all of us would be in jeopardy if things don't turn out exactly the way J dreams they will.  I told him he means too much to all of us for that to ever happen.  The fact that he would move mountains for my kid simply makes me love him more, for I do believe he will do everything in his power to help J achieve his dreams.  He also said something to me while I was weepy and sad, not knowing what to do to help J turn things around  that really helped put things in perspective for me.  "Mrs. M, J is so much more than just baseball.  He's going to go far in life no matter what he does because you and Mr. M have raised him right."  And he's absolutely right.  We have done our very best to raise a son who is kind hearted, compassionate, full of life, and not afraid to dream dreams that are brighter than the stars.  J may achieve his greatest dream or he may not.  But no matter what happens, he's going to know that he gave it his all.  And that he had more love and support than most people could ever imagine.  Which is why I decided to go ahead and write this post.  Our family and friends have been so supportive of J as he takes this journey, it only seemed right to share the hard times as well as the good.                           

Tournament Weekend Two, Triple Crown Sports Florida State Championships

TP headed to Kissimmee for their second tournament this weekend.  They didn't take home the championship but they came close, placing either third or fourth overall.  We're still waiting for final tournament results to be posted.  Their final record for this tournament was 3 wins - 1 loss -1 tie.  Like most tournaments, this one was not without some excitement.

TP's first game was originally scheduled for Friday evening at 8:00.  However, the games were all rescheduled due to heavy rain at the fields on Friday.  We were scheduled for two games Saturday, 3:30 and 8:30.  A had her big dance recital Saturday, twirling and dancing in five numbers over three performances.  So Coach C picked J up and gave him a ride to and from the tournament.  I rarely miss games, so it was hard staying behind, although I thoroughly enjoyed watching A strut her stuff in the recital.

J texted me an update following the first game.  They tied that one 2-2.  He played first that game and was happy to report he had done well and that Coach C was pleased with him.  (More on that in a future post)  The team went out to dinner together before the next game at 8:30.  I briefly thought about heading to that one following A's last recital performance.  But it was an hour away and I was just too tired.  Besides, I would have missed most of the game anyway.  They won that one, 4-2, heading for home around 11:00 pm.  Since I was home by that point, and Coach C lives about half an hour south of us, I texted J that I would meet them to save Coach C the trouble of driving him all the way to our house.  It was shortly after midnight when they arrived at Coach C's house. Coach C let me know that they were scheduled for a 10:30 game this morning, though he had some concerns that the tournament organizers had messed up the brackets, therefore assigning us the wrong game time.  However, he had attempted several times to verify and kept being told it was correct.  Fast forward to 1:30am when the tournament people  realized their error and rescheduled the game for 8:00am.  How to contact everyone at that hour to ensure the team arrived at the field by 7:00 for warm ups?  Coach C sent out a mass text and email, hoping that everyone would see it in time.  In my case, I happened to wake up around 2:30 and saw the text alert on my phone.  That meant adjusting my wake up time from 7 to 5, and leaving the house by 6 instead of 8.  J was none to happy when i woke him to get ready, though he promptly went back to sleep once we were on the road.  Amazingly, everyone managed to arrive at the field in time to start the game at 8:30.  We were all a little sleepy and a little grumpy, but there and ready to go. Coach C got the boys revved up and they managed to pull off a 6-5 win for that game.

After that there was time for a quick lunch before heading to a different field for the second game of the day.  TP came out with bats blazing for that one, taking a 4-0 lead by the 2nd inning and never giving it up.  J hit a beautiful line drive for a double in that game, bringing in two runners.  He also did a great job playing first base.  Our pitcher did an amazing job, and in the end, TP shut the other team out, winning with a 4-0 score.  The third game of the day began about half an hour later.  The boys were pretty beat by that time, but they came out playing to win.  And for most of the game it looked like they would be advancing to the championship game.  However, in the bottom of the 5th inning, we had a few errors that allowed the other team to pull ahead, 5-2.   The boys fought hard, scoring another run in the 6th inning, but in the end they lost that game, 5-3.

Coach C is extremely proud of them and how well they did this weekend.  They not only played hard, they played as a team, with heart, sportsmanship, and class.   Next weekend they have a two game showcase in Vero Beach,where they are sure to do well once again.