Written By: Pete Chalfin
Penn State Club Baseball, 2005-2008
For starters, playing for a northern school (Penn State) meant that Spring Break usually provided our first opportunity of the year to play outdoors, and our first time facing an opponent in a different color uniform. After months of preseason indoor practices facing our own teammates, this provided a refreshing change of pace. Everyone loves the feel of Opening Day, but starting the season in sunny Florida during Spring Break made things just a little bit sweeter.
From a baseball perspective, the Spring Training Showcase provided the perfect opportunity for our team to get some games in and work out the kinks before heading into conference play. Having played a week’s worth of games down in Florida gave us a huge leg up over our conference opponents that were just playing their first games of the season against us. The Spring Training Showcase was also a great chance for our entire roster to get valuable playing time, and for our coaching staff to evaluate the players and settle on a starting lineup for the regular season.
I played in (and watched) many great games at the Spring Training Showcase. From extra-inning marathons ending in walk-off hits to brilliant pitching performances, there was no lack of excitement at Mike Sansone Park. The showcase offered the opportunity to play against schools from around the country that we otherwise never would be able to face, with the exception of the NCBA World Series. It was great meeting and socializing with players on other club teams that were in this thing for the same exact reason as us – for the love of the game.
But the truth is, baseball was only a part of what made those trips so much fun. Some of my best memories from our Spring Break journeys were not on the field. For us, Spring Break officially started with a 20+ hour bus ride from State College, PA to Tampa, FL. While it may sound miserable, it was anything but. This was our first opportunity to get to know some of the rookies outside of practice and see their true personalities. Often it wasn’t until Spring Break that we discovered that the kid that we thought was all business turned out to be a complete clown. (As I type this now, I realize that’s probably what the seniors said about me my freshman year.) The bus ride was always full of practical jokes, classic baseball movies, laughter, card games, way too many fast food stops and, most importantly, excitement over what was about to come.
Certainly I made my fair share of Spring Break mistakes - like forgetting to put on sunscreen at the beach, agreeing to let my coach give me a haircut, that hanging curve ball to the infamous Virginia Tech slugger Chris Crum, that chick from the karaoke bar and taking a cab back to the hotel while leaving our centerfielder behind - but looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.