BELLBROOK — Playing games and gaining bonding opportunities made for a fun-filled spring break trip for Bellbrook student athletes.
Sunny skies and warm weather greeted the baseball and softball Golden Eagles teams during their week in Fort Walton, Florida. The two groups got the chance to compete against several Florida opponents and also a few from closer to home in a warmer setting.
“Every year when we go on that trip, the goal is to go down there and get better to come back and play for a SWBL championship,” baseball head coach Jon Venters said. “And, you know, I think we were successful this year. Our record doesn’t show it, but after every game, our coaches sat down, we talked and we’re all very happy with how we played. We actually felt like we were a little farther along than we thought we would be.”
The softball program has wanted to make a spring break trip for years, but COVID disruptions have postponed plans until now. Head coach Heather Hebrank said her team also gained great experience and thought it was good compliment to the family aspect of the team.
“That’s a big thing that we always talk about,” she said. “I think it was a great opportunity for the girls to get experience and get to know each other better off the field a little bit too. Overall, competition wise, field play wise, off the field, I think it was just a great experience for everybody.”
Conditions allowed for both teams to stay busy during its trips and enjoy themselves off the diamond.
Softball enjoyed cookouts, themed nights, trips to the arcade, go-karts, and more. Baseball got to proudly display their ability to wear jorts (shorts made of denim fabric) in public, blazers with, and other stylish endeavours.
Both groups were also able to take some rest and relaxation by the water and pool, but also went formal for an evening.
Parents also came along to assist with the bonding. Venters said his group had a “mom’s night” which he was glad to see his players take upon themselves to hold.
“That’s something we’ve never done before,” he said. “And I heard great things back from it. I believe part of connecting isn’t just the team, it’s the parents too. So it was exciting and overall I think it helped a good, fun trip.”
The two teams had different types of preparation heading into its games. Softball was not able to have any scrimmages prior to heading down, while baseball could only scrimmage and did not getting a chance to practice on its own field.
Venters noted the differences in seasons between the two areas caused discrepancies in the levelness in competition. While this was the first innings of actual competition for both sides, he said one opponent from Alabama played in the 28th game of its season.
Neither weren’t able to cross over much despite being in the same location due to scheduling conflicts on the field and planned out activities, but the softball team made it to a baseball game to support from the stands.
Hebrank said she was happy with the on-field focus during the trip and thought there was a good balance between gaining reps and experience while having fun away from the field.
She also said the trip created a unique energy within her group that can be useful to carry over to games back in Ohio.
“What you do off the field will make you better on the field,” she said. “That’s my philosophy as a coach. I think it’s one that they would share as well. What you do off the field will make you better when you have to play and come against good competition, because you trust each other.”
Venters similarly thought the trip had a two-fold benefit for the baseball team.
He said in addition to the four games, the ability to practice situations will be an asset. And having a veteran set of players meant they knew how to spend their focus on and off the field.
“I really do believe we have a great group of young men,” Venters said. “Senior leadership, captain leadership, it’s phenomenal. I think that part kind of helped take care of itself because we have those good guys and they are connected off the field on the field.”
“It was a home run for both standpoints. I think both were big strides for us.”
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.