Geneva College
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Geneva College baseball and softball teams in FL

The saying goes something like this: “Spring showers bring May flowers.” But for Geneva College baseball and softball teams it should be more like, “Because of snow, we must go.” Go where? Florida.

Just like thousands of college students across the country, spring student-athletes make an annual pilgrimage to the land of sunny skies and warm temperatures. But for them, vacation is the farthest thing from their minds. More than a tradition, spring break in Florida has become a necessity for teams who want to gear up for the competition.

During the 21-year tenure of head baseball coach Alan Sumner, spring break in Florida has been a way to prepare the team for the upcoming season. Similarly, the Geneva softball team heads south when the calendar hits March.

This past spring break, the baseball team began its journey with a trip to Georgia to compete against Toccoa Falls. After a four-game series, the Golden Tornadoes continued their trip to Ft. Pierce, Florida, where they played seven more games during the next seven days. The Geneva softball team went directly to Kissimmee, Florida to compete in the Rebel Spring Games tournament, which consisted of 10 games in nine days.

“The difficult thing about coaching and playing on teams in the Northeast is that there is little time to prepare outdoors,” says Sumner. “We are fortunate to get some time on the new stadium turf, but it is not the same as playing on dirt when we get to Florida.”

Coaches have been using creative ideas for years on how to best prepare their teams for the rigors of the season. “We do our best to simulate game-like situations in the gym, but there is nothing like the real thing once we get to Florida,” says head softball coach Van Zanic. “When we start playing in Florida, the games count on our schedule, so we need to be ready to go with the very first pitch.”

For the coaches, these spring trips are about getting ready for the northern portion of the schedule. They need to find some team chemistry and get their teams prepared for some quality competition. But what do these trips mean to the student-athletes? After all, almost all of the money that goes toward the cost of the trip is raised by the student-athletes themselves.

“It can be the highlight of the season,” says senior softball player Amy Pearce. “It is the incentive we use during pre-season practices in the gym. We know we have that light at the end of the tunnel and we all look forward to getting into the sunshine.”

From car washes to concession stands, and from apparel sales to media guide ads, the cost for these trips is put together dollar by dollar each year. “We discourage our players from getting hand outs from mom and dad to pay for the trip,” says Zanic. “The cost of their education is expensive enough, and the responsibility of raising these funds should be on the student-athletes.” However, the coaches still continue to find creative ways to raise money to support these endeavors.

Although every coach would tell you that these are business trips and not vacation, there is still plenty of time for student-athletes to enjoy the warm weather and to take advantage of the sunshine. “We are all about getting better,” says Sumner. “But these kids break speed records getting to the pool after we are done playing for the day.”

The combination of competition and warm temperatures has gone a long way in boosting the success of Geneva baseball and softball over the years. So you can be sure that next March you will find them loading the buses and heading south, along with hundreds of other hopeful teams across the country.

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