SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Springs baseball team returned to Florida for the second straight year, escaping the snow of upstate New York for days filled with sunshine and spring training games at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
The Blue Streaks played four games over the weekend, starting things out last Thursday with a walk-off single by junior catcher Camden Rhude.
The defending Section II Class AA champions then played a doubleheader last Friday, and another game on Saturday, before heading back to New York on Sunday.
“I’m just trying to get the rust off, get built up for the season and get going again how we were last year,” said Michael Mack, a junior right-handed pitcher. “I’m really hoping that we make the most of this. This really helps us create memories together and build a bond as a team.”
“We left some snow back home, and it allows us to get some reps outside, which is always a bonus,” said Saratoga Springs coach Andy Cuthbertson. “I think the main focus of this trip is really trying to identify who we are as a team and create some chemistry. It’s always my hope that when we get back on the plane, we have an identity and a mission in mind as we head into the season.”
It’s a trip that the Blue Streaks know they can’t take for granted, after they weren’t able to visit the ESPN complex in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a trip that everyone really looks forward to, and it really bummed guys out during COVID when we couldn’t come down here,” said Mack, who announced his commitment to pitch in college at Northeastern University during the offseason.
“It’s more than the hype,” Saratoga freshman shortstop Raul Rodriguez said of his first spring training trip. “They just said it was spring training, but the experience has been awesome. Coming down here with all the guys and just getting to play baseball in warm weather.
“The second we stepped in the airport, it was a memory already. Then onto the bus, I’m going to remember this whole trip forever and I’m just trying to soak it in.”
Rodriguez spent a portion of his summer competing in USA Baseball’s National Team Identification Series (NTIS). After being selected as one of the 18 players to the 14U Northeast Stars, Rodriguez then got to play games at the USA Baseball headquarters in Cary, North Carolina, competing for a spot on the national team.
“Obviously he’s got a lot of talent, but the maturity he’s got is different from a lot of other kids his age,” Mack said of Rodriguez, who came up to varsity last season as an eighth grader and took over as the starting second baseman and leadoff hitter. “His maturity helps him being up here on varsity, and he really helps the team.”
The Blue Streaks are coming off an 18-8 record in 2022, having defeated Shaker in two games in the Section II Class AA championship series, including a marathon 12-inning affair in the first game.
Saratoga’s season came to an end with a 10-2 loss to Fayetteville-Manlius in the state regional championship round of the state tournament.
“It’s a clean slate,” said Cuthbertson. “We erase the white board, get out the marker and start it all over again.
“We set a bar for what we want to accomplish,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve got to make sectionals first, then win sectionals. We want to redeem our regional loss that we had and hopefully compete for a state title.”
A key component of the Florida trip for Cuthbertson is figuring out what his pitching staff looks like before beginning regular season games.
“We’re trying to fill in the gaps,” he said. “Who’s a starter, who’s a reliever and who’s reliable.”
Rodriguez simplified the trip as best he could.
“Wake up. Shower. Eat. Play a game. Then do it all again,” Rodriguez said. “Shower, eat and baseball, that’s it.”
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Categories: High School Sports, Saratoga Springs, Sports, Sports