This past weekend was undoubtedly the best weather of 2013. So why weren't we training outside?
The value of youth sports isn't simply found in the athletic development and discipline attained through its training.
The core value stems from the social interaction and friendships that are fused beyond the game.
I remember big games and special wins as a child. Equally clear though are the memories of swimming in hotel pools and running around the halls together.
Our preseason getaway took place this past weekend and I'm confident that my players etched some lifetime highlights into their memory banks.
As a youth team manager, it has been my intention to create a family atmosphere in which each individual feels compassionately obligated to become a joint family in what is otherwise a very isolating world.
Sometimes that means cheering for another child's hit and sometimes that means vacationing together with no "baseball" scheduled.
The 2013 Mississauga North Tigers Spring Getaway
The team arrived at Clifton Hill in Niagara Falls on Saturday at noon. We checked in and headed over to Nightmares Fear Factory.
Being the players first year to face live pitching, I wanted to give them a lesson in fear and how to overcome it.
I told them that no one was allowed to chicken out. If one of the team got too scared, the others would support him and make him feel safe.
Proudly, the team managed to make it through the darkened halls. Not before proving who was the most chicken of them all... the coaches!
After the haunted house, we walked down to a park along The Falls. The boys had a tennis ball and played some "sandlot" style baseball in front of one of the Wonders of the World.
With the weather being so great, there were hundreds of spectators who passed through the park and caught a glimpse of what has been a tradition for decades in Canada. A bunch of kids finding a piece of open land and playing a game of baseball.
The parents had an opportunity to simply sit in the grass, forget their worries and enjoy the beautiful weather. Raising athletes makes life busy and difficult. Here was a moment to just be relaxed and watch their children forging lifelong friendships.
After working up a sweat and an appetite, we walked back up Clifton Hill for a pizza party dinner and arcades at Boston Pizza.
The kids had free range of the games while the parents had some refreshments and played some pool.
I was so happy to see all the families being together with their children. There were plenty of smiles and it was a great way to get ready for an evening by the poolside back at the hotel.
On the wall of the Boston Pizza was big picture of Jim Morrison. I grouped the players together in took what has become my favourite picture of them.
One of the parents of the team posted it on Facebook with the following quote by Jim Morrison
The day truly had come full circle. Beginning with a moment for the children to face their fears at the haunted house, they were left with the remaining day to simply BE FREE.
The night finished with a 2 hour long swim in the hotel pool. During tournaments, we give the players an early curfew so that they aren't too tired for the games the next day.
With no game in the morning, we were able to let the boys stay up a little later than usual and enjoy the night with their friends as much as they had the day.
In the morning, we took the boys to Community Park Field in St. Catherines. Coach Jeff Lounsberry of the Brock University Badgers invited them onto the field for pregame batting practice.
My players got to hang out and talk to the players that a decade before were starting their Rep baseball career.
The Badgers players were awesome. They invited my Tigers players to sit in the locker room and dugout with them.
The highlight was having Mississauga North alumni Tyler Harrison put on his "Property of MNBA" t-shirt during batting practice.
Our weekend finished with eating some ice cream and watching some Canadian University baseball on a warm sunny day.
Stress free and relaxing before the grind of a full season of Rep baseball unfolds.
I'm confident that I have the athletes to compete at the highest level in Ontario. I'm certain that they will work as hard as they can and never give up.
We will give ourselves an opportunity to win every baseball game this year.
When the season is finished on labour day weekend, the 2013 summer will not only be a string of exciting baseball games.
It will be the accumulation of value that youth sports brings to a family. A value that was forged in Spring with a weekend getaway that was highlighted by moments beyond baseball.