Patriots ballplayers heading to the Cal Ripken Experience

BROADALBIN – The Broadalbin-Perth baseball team is looking to get a jump on the upcoming season.

The Patriots are heading south to Myrtle Beach, S.C., for a team-building experience and to play baseball at the Cal Ripken Experience.

“This is the first time since I have been head coach, but I believe the team hasn’t gone since the early 1990s,” Broadalbin-Perth varsity coach Dan Simonds said. “We originally looked at going to Disney World for their program, but the price was just too much. I started investigating other options and I found this place in Myrtle Beach called the Ripken Experience. The price was right, I made some phone calls, put a meeting together with the kids and parents to see how much interest there was and it kind of emerged.”

The facility is run by former major leaguers Cal and Billy Ripken and features nine full-size and youth-size synthetic fields, training areas that contain a Ripken-designed infield training circle, bullpen mounds, batting cages and bunting stations, which are used for pre-game practices.

The team is paying its way through fundraising, with the bulk of the funding coming from a benefit golf tournament. The fields are designed after historic ballparks, including Griffith Field, Navin Field and The Polo Grounds.

“We have been running a golf tournament that was named in honor of Theo Higgins, who passed away,” Simonds said. “On average, we make about $4,500 profit from the tournament. We have always spent it on things like new jerseys and jackets for everyone or we have bought equipment for the team.”

The process for the trip started last year, but everything came together quickly.

“We actually put it together in about 24 hours,” Simonds said. “We had a meeting with the parents, the school board and the superintendent. They all were very supportive. It has been a collaborative agreement between everybody to put this together. Our agreement with the school board is that we are going to do this every other year. That way, if someone plays two years of of varsity ball, they will get an opportunity to go.”

The Patriots completed tryouts and will carry a 16-man varsity roster this season. Simonds said every player was involved in the fundraising.

“The total cost for our trip is $850 for four days, so each kid had to come up with sponsorships,” he said. “We did the entire thing with the golf tournament from last year. We are already fund raising for this years golf tournament. Each player had to opportunity to get sponsorship last year and go back this year. Some decided they didn’t want to do that and opted just to pay for their own. We also have some kids who decided the trip is not for them and decided not to go. which is fine. The parents have been great and we have had a lot of business owners and the community has been great stepping up to support us and help these kids have a great experience.”

The team will be in Myrtle Beach from March 20 to March 23 with games and practices schedule each day.

On their first day the Patriots will scrimmage North Hills High School of Pa. followed by scrimmages with Laurel Highlands High School of Pa, Pascack Hills High School of N.J. and Absegami-Crosley of N.J.

“$70 a day gets you the hotel all the baseball, game balls and umpires. It is an unbelievable deal,” Simonds said. “We get four scrimmages and four practices, but I don’t know if we will use the last practice. We may go play miniature golf or something and let the kids have some fun. The first three days we are down there we will jam-packed with stuff going from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The last day we are there we will let them do some things they want to do.”

The Patriots parents following the team south in their vehicles also are providing the team with a cost-saving service.

“We are doing everything we can to cut cost,” Simonds said. “We are sending the bats and equipment in cars with some of the parents who are driving down. That way we won’t have to check the bags with the equipment. That is a substantial cost. We have some parents going down a couple of days early and they volunteered to help by doing that.”

With snow still blanketing the ground the Patriots continue to work out in the high school gymnasium but will have an eye on getting outside in the warm weather of South Carolina.

“It has been kind of a whirlwind of stuff,” Simonds said. “It seems like just yesterday we started planning this and now it is just a couple of weeks until we get on the plane to fly down. We are taking only the varsity this time. Hopefully, in the future we will be able to take the JV team but we are starting small and taking it one step at a time.”