JEFFERSON — Over spring break, as many high school students were filling up on chocolate bunnies and absorbed into Netflix, Jefferson Area High School’s varsity baseball players were competing in Tarboro, N.C., at the Easter Classic. Directed by coach Scott Barber, the boys engaged in tough competition, strengthened their bond as a team and improved their skills as baseball players.
The trip only lasted from April 2 to April 5 but required a lot of preparation. Planning began last season when players and parents alike expressed interest in heading south for spring break. Fund-raisers consisting of football parties at Wildside, a restaurant located in Jefferson, and a baseball skills camp for children grades one to six were planned and utilized to help with the cost of the tournament. Likewise, precautions had to be taken.
“Some players need a certain talk about what is expected of them before you leave on a trip like that. Also parent contacts need to be in place in any case of emergency,” said Barber.
Luckily, Barber had much assistance in coordinating the event. Justin Smith, who played on Barber’s JAHS baseball team in the late ’90s, was appointed “tour director” and made sure that all events were arranged in an organized manner.
While many of the teams that competed in the tournament were already 15-18 games into their season, weather in northeastern Ohio prior to the Easter Classic did not permit Jefferson’s baseball team to practice outdoors.
“Our first game at the Easter Classic was the first day we had been on the field,” said Barber.
Although they were cooped up in a gym, Jefferson’s baseball team made the most of their practices.
“We just did our normal practices and worked harder to get ready for the teams we would compete against in North Carolina,” said Brett Powers, a senior three-sport athlete at Jefferson.
Jefferson viewed the tournament as a great opportunity to practice on fields while many of their regular season competitors were forced to practice indoors. Barber was grateful for the preparation that the tournament provided to his boys.
“The weather was not very good here while we were gone. We were able to have four quality practices on their fields along with the games that we played,” Barber said.
Proud of his teammates’ efforts at the Easter Classic, senior right-fielder Powers said, “We made a statement with our play. Nobody believed that a small town school like us could compete with bigger and typically better schools than we are used to.”
And compete they most certainly did. Coming out with a record of 1-1, Jefferson achieved a victory over Southeast High School with a score of 9-6 in an 8-inning game.
The tournament was a great learning experience for the younger players who are on the varsity team.
Matt Barber, sophomore first baseman, said, “The tournament allowed us to see a lot of better pitching and practice in very nice weather.” Although the practice that the trip offered will be valuable for the team’s success this season it is the team bonding that they truly cherish.
“We pulled a lot of pranks on one another and that just made it more fun and enjoyable. It helped us to become closer and our bond grew stronger,” said Powers.
His teammate Barber agreed that they became closer on and off of the field. Scott Barber also enjoyed spending time with his team and watching them acquire a strong team chemistry.
“Each day the team became closer not only on the field but in other aspects of the trip,” said Barber.
The group, consisting of 17 players and three coaches, all admitted that although there were only two games they fostered valuable team chemistry that they will be able to take with them through the rest of the season and throughout their future endeavors.