The last of our three Spring Break reports is by Nick Gazzillo, a sophomore outfielder on the Muhlenberg baseball team.
“My worst fear every year is that someone will get to the gate and say, ‘Coach, I don’t have my ID.’ Don’t let that happen.” This was Coach Goff’s first message to the baseball team during the meeting prior to our trip to Fort Myers, Florida.
Well, apparently freshman infielder Danny Usewick wasn’t paying attention during that part of the meeting. If a 5 a.m. bus ride to the Philadelphia airport wasn’t enjoyable enough for the team, watching Danny scramble through the bus, locker room and his dorm room was surely the thing to get the trip off on the right foot. He eventually found his ID and the Mules arrived in Florida ready for nine days of baseball.
The mission was clear. We were down there to play baseball, collectively get better as a team, learn to “hold the rope” for one another and win some games. The always classy senior Nick “Goose” Busillo kept these goals clear, stating: “We gotta play ‘em one day at a time. I’m just happy to be here and hope I can help the ballclub. I just wanna give it my best shot and, Good Lord willing, things’ll work out.”
Bull Durham quotes aside, the trip revolved around a very busy baseball schedule, one that included 6:30 a.m. bus rides to the field and late returns to the hotel. Through it all, however, the team found plenty of time to relax and get their minds off baseball for a while. Movies, video games and team dinners gave us a chance to unwind and rest.
The trip saw the continuation of two traditions of the Muhlenberg baseball program. Outrageous haircuts and facial hair kept the superstitious happy and the rest of the team embarrassed to be seen with them. Games of “mental warfare” kept the freshmen confused and frustrated and the upperclassmen laughing, especially junior pitcher Rob Shannon, also known as “the ghost” due to both the fact that he was never seen in his hotel room and his very pale skin.
A large outdoor mall located across the street from the hotel provided another getaway for many of the players, although crossing the six-lane highway proved to be a challenge for many, especially when the sprinklers decided to go off on the median.
Players also found time to hang out at the hotel’s pool. While it was relaxing for most, junior outfielder John Muha and freshman infielder Mike Giordano found out the hard way not to stand near the edge of the pool when sophomore infielder John Scuderi is around. On the bright side, both hits and subsequent splashes were captured on camera and can currently be seen on Facebook.
The pool wasn’t the only place that saw hostility. From the time the bus arrived at the hotel every night, it was a race to get to the only two washing machines in the hotel. Many players found their uniforms to have a more pungent scent than others, and looking at our record, that may have given us an edge over the other teams.
We split our first two games on the first day and won two more games over the following two days before a well-deserved day off. Players were able to spend time with families that had made the trip down, while others spent the day at the beach or by the pool.
The Mules went on to win three of the remaining four games, finishing with a 6-2 record for the trip and a 9-2 record overall. As senior Brian Beck put it, “It was a good, successful trip. We played well as a team and picked each other when we needed to. We were focused on winning baseball games and having fun.”
Maybe even more important than the results, the team walked away from the trip closer than beforehand. Senior Mike Speroni gave his view, saying, “The chemistry we have on our team is outstanding. It was enjoyable to get to know the true personalities of everyone, especially the freshmen. I’m really excited about the next few weeks and holding on to the rope.”
The team is off to one of its best starts in history and looks forward to continuing the winning trend back in Allentown. No matter how the season ends up, the Fort Myers trip is sure to be one of the highlights of the year.