By Simon Palmore 19'
For the first eight days of Spring Break, the entire baseball program traveled to central Florida for another iteration of a decades-old tradition. The varsity and junior varsity teams played a collection of very strong teams, and both improved greatly as a result.
We began the trip in a town called Winter Haven. This was a place complete with off-brand fast food, a menacing Walmart, and George Jenkins High School. Ranked 31st in the nation, Jenkins was a difficult first opponent to play. However, St. Albans kept the Eagles to a close 3-0 victory. The game provided a wonderful introduction to Florida baseball. The 75ºF weather was a welcome change from the cold of DC, and the opposing parents’ yodeling and jeering from the stands during the game quickly reminded us that baseball in Florida is more than a casual hobby.
The next stop was Sebring. Based out of the spacious and comfortable Holiday Inn Express, the Bulldogs played the strong Avon Park Red Devils in a retired minor league stadium—a fun experience for all present. By this time, the team had enjoyed a number of excursions, including a fishing trip near Tampa, a team dinner, and an outing to see Black Panther. However, the majority of the games was yet to come.
The next and final destination in central Florida was Okeechobee (affectionately referred to as “The Chobe”). The St. Albans baseball program has enjoyed Okeechobee for decades, and from this small town we travelled around central and southern Florida. We beat Port St. Lucie High School, lost to American Heritage Delray in a close game, and defeated South Fork High School in extra innings. On the final day of the trip, the Bulldogs played a traditional game against Okeechobee High School, a hallmark of the trip.
Before the game, STA Head Assistant Baseball Coach David Baad (STA ‘83) was honored by the Okeechobee baseball program. In a delightful surprise, the Okeechobee announcer read a thoughtful and appreciative speech to Coach Baad, who played against the team both as a player at STA and as a coach. This year’s game was his last as he is leaving St. Albans to be the Headmaster of the Episcopal School of Dallas. The Okeechobee coaches gifted him a bat signed by the entire program and an Okeechobee baseball cap.
The game itself was an exciting one. It was a good team effort from the Bulldogs, but the Brahmans had the advantage. Senior Sean Osceola led Okeechobee to victory with a homerun (the third of his career against STA) and a powerful pitching performance at the end of the game. There were no hard feelings, though. After the game, the Bulldogs and the Brahmans sat together in the bleachers and enjoyed a barbeque dinner while both teams’ coaches reminisced one last time while Coach Baad was still present. It was a wonderful way to end the trip.
The next morning at 3:30, the red-eyed and sleep-deprived Bulldogs departed for West Palm Beach Airport to head back to DC. Both the varsity and junior varsity teams had faced tough, nationally ranked competition, and the entire program improved and matured along the way.