By Hayley Tafuro
Stamford students may be taking a break from school for the summer, but the baseball never stops. With the high school baseball season just coming to a close, many of the players from surrounding schools including Stamford, Westhill and Trinity Catholic have opted to play in the Babe Ruth summer league and extend their activity in the sport.
Babe Ruth provides players with the opportunity to hone their skills whether they are looking to improve for their high school season or take a step toward playing at the college level. Many of the Stamford players choose to seize this chance to work on their game.
The down time between seasons, especially for the teams that made a deep run in the postseason, was just enough of a rest so that players would not lose their groove. However, the transition from high school to summer league is not all that smooth. Not only is the weather hotter, but the players are also getting used to an increased game schedule, new workouts and a different group of coaches and teammates.
The Babe Ruth league has about a month to put all of these pieces together to ready themselves for Regionals, and progress toward their goal of earning a trip to the World Series, and hopefully a ring.
Jim Serafino, the coach of the 18U team, and two of his players, Anthony Hoegemann of Trinity Catholic and Cam Elkins of Westhill, explained the pros and cons of the differences between seasons and how they work with the different aspects of the transition.
Out of the comments made, the following were three major differences between the Babe Ruth league and the high school league that each of them touched upon that had the biggest effects on the players:
An increased amount of practices calls for more hours spent on the field in the blazing sun for the players of the Babe Ruth league. A lot of that time is dedicated to different conditioning workouts than players might be used to.
“With the hot weather it’s more intense. I think this is a better workout than what the high school workout is,” Hoegemann said.
According to Serafino, the fact that he does not have to operate under the same rules as the high school coaches gives him a lot of flexibility in terms of when he can work with his players and the time that they can spend conditioning.
“We do a lot of it, because the high schools are constricted by rules so they can’t have these kids all year long,” he said. “I don’t have any of those rules, so I can work with these kids even in the winter if they wanted to.”
Despite the difference, this is an aspect in which both leagues feed off of each other. Babe Ruth league, as well as the workouts that they may offer in the fall and winter seasons, allows players to stay in shape during the offseason instead of taking all of that time off.
“We really like to work in a partnership with these high school coaches,” Serafino said. “We really try to get these kids ready as best we can.”
It’s hard for any player to join a completely new team with new teammates and coaches. Not only is this part of the transition to Babe Ruth league, but the players are also now playing against in-town rivals from any of the three high schools in the area. However, when asked about what it’s like playing with some of their biggest FCIAC competitors, Hoegemann and Elkins had more positives to share than negatives.
“It’s a good atmosphere,” Elkins said. “It’s a lot of fun because we get to talk about what we’ve been doing against each other independently and do a lot of trash talking.”
“We’re friends,” Hoegemann added. “On the field, if we’re on opposite teams, you know, we’re enemies. But if we’re on the same team, we’re going to be one and we’re going to be a family.”
On the other hand, Serafino explained how bringing together players from multiple high school programs can be a challenge for him in terms of getting the team ready for their most important games.
“The biggest hurdle that we have is that I’ve got people coming from different schools, kids not used to playing with each other, and the biggest thing is that I have a month really to get them to start playing as a team,” he said.
In order to accomplish this, the team doesn’t waste any time it has to prepare. They make sure to schedule scrimmages and tournaments beforehand in hopes to ease along the cohesiveness of the team before the bulk of the season begins.
Along with this comes the challenge of meshing together what each program has taught the players and incorporating the styles of all of the different high school coaches.
“The biggest difference is playing without the coaches that I’ve been used to playing with,” Elkins said.
Serafino said that each of these coaches has their ways of doing things during the high school season, and that another obstacle for the team was getting everyone on the same page while at the same time, incorporating what they have been learning from spring season into summer.
Finally, a benefit of the league is a heavier game schedule. Whereas in high school most teams practice as much as they play games, Babe Ruth league alters this, giving players more chances to improve through in-game situations rather than simulations in practice.
“We’re playing a lot, and we play a lot of games in a shorter period,” said Serafino. “We probably have about four or five games a week and we’re practicing the rest of the nights.”
They are also on the road playing in different towns all over Connecticut, and hope to have the chance at the end of the season to make the trip to the World Series.
With all of these games means more exposure for the players, and that is where the league, particularly the 18U team, helps the players move on to the next level of their baseball careers, whether they are still in high school or looking to play in college.
“Once we get to the 18-year-old level, we start getting kids who maybe want to play next year in college or are coming back for their senior season and want to make a difference on their varsity team,” Serafino said.
This is true for players like Elkins, who has made big contributions to his high school team, as well as Hoegemann, who helped Trinity reach the semifinals of the state playoffs and hopes that the Babe Ruth league can help him get somewhere far with baseball.
Each of these factors plays a huge part in the transition between seasons, but also show the dedication that these players have to sticking with the sport in the offseason. As for right now, Serafino, Hoegemann, Elkins and the rest of the team hope to conquer the hurdles one at a time in order to ready themselves for yet another season of Stamford baseball, and this time not for a FCIAC or CIAC title, but for a shot at a World Series ring.
The Stamford Summer Baseball Report is sponsored by Mark Smith & Associates