While their peers have had to be content with taking swings in school gyms or off-campus batting cages, the Broadalbin-Perth baseball team has had a chance to get on a real field. And face live pitching.
“It was just great, all the way around,” said Broadalbin-Perth varsity baseball coach Dan Simonds of his team’s recent four-day stay at the Cal Ripken Experience in Myrtle Beach, S.C. “The kids were so jazzed about it that the day we came back, they started asking if we could go back next year.”
Simonds was looking for a spring training experience for his team as far back as four years ago, when he took over the varsity.
“I consider the Saratoga Catholic program to be a model Class B program,” said Simonds. “if we wanted to raise our level to get where they are, we had to do some different things. I know they go to Disney World, but that was a little too pricey when I started looking around.
“I came across the Cal Ripken site, got prices and approached my AD and principal. They were very supportive, so I emailed the parents and presented it to them. We charged the players $800 apiece, and they were all able to go out and find sponsors so that it didn’t cost anyone anything out of pocket.”
Simonds felt so good about the trip that not even a 2 a.m. bus trip through a late winter storm to Albany International Airport gave him second thoughts.
“Even the Southeast had a tough winter, so I wasn’t sure what we’d find. We got down there and got four absolutely perfect days,” he said.
On the field, things didn’t start so well for the Patriots, who lost their best pitchers from last year’s 11-10 squad.
“We played two 4A teams from Pennsylvania and got slaughtered, and the third day we played another bigger school from New Jersey and we tied, 4-4,” said Simonds. “We had an agreement we’d only go eight if we were tied because we were both out of pitching. The last day, we played another New Jersey team, Absagami, and lost, 9-5.
“After the tie, the kids felt better about themselves. I just wanted them to be able to get in some playing time on a real field against live pitching.”
“We’re going to be young, and it was a good chance to get everyone together and get them all some playing time. I think it gives us a little jump on other teams, though we came back and really haven’t been able to do much outside.”
The Patriots, like every other Section II team, have had to juggle their schedule. They lost a couple of scrimmages this week, but might get one in on the school’s artificial surface field.
A home game set for Saturday with Mohonasen has been moved to the Rotterdam school, which has a playable field.
But even if that game gets played, the Pats will go another 10 days between games,
“The Foothills Council starts late this year,” said Simonds. “I don’t want them to have that long without anything, so I’m trying to get some scrimmages scheduled.”
He may also use the break to plan another trip to the Ripken facility.
“Everything was just so well done,” Simonds praised. “You sent them your check, and they took care of your schedule, workout times, meals, every detail.
“And the facility itself was tremendous. There were nine fields, all turf. There were batting cages everywhere. There must have been 100 different places you could hit.
“Originally, the plan was to try to go [somewhere] every two years, so that every player who was on varsity two years would get at least one trip,” said Simonds. “Then I found out that they offer discounts for more than one team, so we’re trying to get our softball team, and maybe teams from Fonda or Gloversville or somewhere else to also go.”