How I Survived Spring Training
By Noah Hellermann
The Hitmen, your own varsity baseball team, travels to Florida every spring for an intense week of baseball. Contrary to the Peglegs’ notorious “Hell Week,” our trip is not filled with horrendous workouts in 90-degree weather, nor do we ache for a month after the trip. Even though we play baseball day in and day out, there are no manly scars to take away afterward.
Living with your team for a week will teach you to love your teammates, but also to hate them for never washing the dishes or cleaning the microwave after they attempted to heat up a Pop-Tart for eight minutes before it exploded. I shared a condo with seven other teenage boys for a week, which is not something I would recommend to anyone overly concerned with personal space or hygiene.
We ate, slept, and played together, and when times got desperate, we even tried to cook together. I guess it’s not that hard, after all, to mess up brownie mix, or to overcook pizza until it melts all over the inside of an oven.
After vacuuming the cereal off of the floor three or four times, I began to stop focusing on the condition of our room, and I noticed how perfect our trip was in regards to baseball. Baseball deserves to be played on large, sunny, grassy fields, and that’s just about all we could find in Florida. In New York City, we’re often stuck in the shadow of a building, where a ball hit over the fence doesn’t even count as a home run because the field is too small.
The trip to Florida gave me the chance to step onto a dirt mound on a brilliant afternoon with a brand new baseball in my hand. I could see that the foul lines had been freshly chalked, and as I caught the ball from my third baseman, I remembered washing a large pile of dishes with him just that morning. The baseball team’s “Spring Training” in Florida is about more than the sport—it brings the team together both on spotless fields and in dirty condos.
Scoring at the Plate and at Walmart
By Kevin Moy
As much as I will remember the gorgeous fields and the beautiful weather of Florida, the moments the team spent off the field are just as memorable. When we arrived in Port St. Lucie at 8:00 p.m., we went straight to our condos. The team was split into three houses, with each house holding six to eight players. Each house split into two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen, a small living area, and a patio. It was pure freedom.
The second most complex task of the trip, right behind figuring out our coach’s signs from third base, was deciding on what food to buy from Wal-Mart. Some of my fellow teammates were sensible and bought water, frozen pizzas, and Cheerios. Others splurged and bought Sunny-D, brownie mix, and Cookie Crisps. I was one of those foolish individuals, and I later suffered for it after discovering that Cookie Crisps is not a wise breakfast decision before a baseball game. The meal was really just an incredible overdose of sugar, lacking a lot of the nutrients necessary for getting through a grueling day on the fields.
The trip to Florida also opened my eyes to how much I value my parents. It is startling to realize what I could and could not do by myself. For instance, I was capable of making myself ramen noodles and plunging the toilet. But on the last night when our room had to clean up the dishes, three people were needed simply to figure out how to use a dishwasher. We guessed where to put the detergent, closed the door, and prayed that the glasses and plates would not shatter. My teammates and I cheered and high-fived each other upon discovering that the wash cycle and the dishes were cleaned and intact.
Baseball is about the team, and living with each other for a week helped strengthen that bond. It’s also important to be able to pull your own weight: to hit the ball with runners in scoring position and to make the routine play or, off the field, to wash your own dishes and to throw out the trash. This trip taught me how to handle my responsibilities and to make sure I followed through. Otherwise, in the future, the team might stay down a run or worse– the house might smell.
On the Field
By Luke Morales
There’s no doubt that when you’re on a team with someone, you bond with that person. The Stuyvesant Hitmen is a very closely-knit team, as we spend most of our time after school with each other, during practices, and even just hanging out. Once every year, we share the amazing experience of going down to Florida together for a week to improve our skills and work on both team and individual flaws.
On Thursday, April 5, we touched down in Fort Lauderdale and then took an hour-and- 40-minute drive south to Port St. Lucie and the condos that we would live in for the next week. Though we did not play any baseball during the first night, we knew that we were facing a rigorous schedule for the rest of our week.
Almost every day in Florida, we played either teams from the area or other teams that had also taken the trip down south to play in the warm weather and on perfectly groomed fields. The competition was incredibly tough. Many teams in Florida are able to train year-round because of the forgiving weather conditions. Before the first game of the week, our entire team was in awe (and also in fear) of our competitors’ physical size and the way they took their infield-outfield practice seamlessly.
However, it wasn’t the competition’s knowledge of the game or strength that really pushed them over the top—it was their use of metal bats. When we go there, we hit with the same wooden bats we would use in a standard PSAL game. Since other teams are allowed metal bats in their own leagues, routine fly balls hit by wooden bats turn into bombs over the outfielders’ heads.
We even experienced the dangers of metal bats and why New York City and the PSAL decided to ban them from league play. During a night game against a team from Ohio, one of our pitchers took a line drive to the hand because he was unable to evade the hard-hit ball in the mere milliseconds of reaction time that metal bats offer. Luckily, his fingers were only badly bruised and not fractured, so he was able to pitch again toward the end of the week.
Overall, the Florida trip did bring us closer together as a team and made us stronger and hungrier for wins. As we resume our league schedule and our quest for a 16th consecutive playoff berth, I know that the 2012 Stuyvesant Hitmen will definitely play better baseball than they ever have before.