Spring training is year round

Published 10:43 pm Friday, January 28, 2011

Greyson Milburn waits for an open batting tee or spot in a batting cage during a Suffolk Slugger practice Thursday evening.

Mitts popping, bats pinging and chatter are just as much the sounds of winter as they are of spring or summer each night at Sluggers, a baseball and softball batting cage, indoor training facility and pro shop that’s been in business for the last couple years on W. Constance Road.

Local travel baseball and softball players are the usual players taking advantage of the roof, heating and space to work on their arms, swings and glove work.

Four Slugger-sponsored select baseball squads, ranging from 8-and-under to 14U, are some of the teams practicing a couple nights a week or more throughout the offseason, which is rapidly coming to a close.

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There’s still time for anyone interested in trying out for the Sluggers or any of the other travel baseball or softball teams in and around Suffolk, but not much.

The first tournaments of the new year will get going in early March said Suffolk Slugger 12U head coach and co-owner of Sluggers Mike Sargent.

The Slugger clubs are entering their third season, making them actually a year or so older than the building and business. The eight, 12 and 14-and-under teams still carry the Slugger nickname. The 10-and-under team now goes by the Suffolk Tribe.

All the age groups started out as Sunday select teams playing at Suffolk Youth Athletic Association and soon moved on to travel leagues, tournaments and the longer, more competitive schedule select teams follow.

“It’s definitely better competition,” Sargent said, “and the kids get to see a larger variety of competiton. They’re always playing versus different kids.”

Sargent has been an assistant coach the last couple years before taking over as head coach going into this spring.

“We’re open to tryouts. That’s for sure,” he said.

One newcomer was in working out with the team and trying out at a practice Thursday evening.

Greyson Milburn, a King’s Fork Middle School student, is going on his third season as a Slugger veteran. Most of the kids in each age group have stayed teammates throughout.

Every Thursday and Sunday is the practice schedule through the winter Milburn said. He’s a catcher for the Sluggers and working hard on his defensive skills there has been a focus for the last couple months.

“We won our first tournament last season,” Milburn said.

The Sluggers won the Monster Bash in Newport News last year.

Andrew Teixeira, a third baseman/outfielder, is also a returning Slugger, going into his third season. He’s been practicing to add pitcher to his list of positions.

“I work on (pitching) about once a week here for about an hour or two,” Teixeira said.

Teixeira says he’ll likely be on First Baptist Christian’s junior JV baseball team this spring in addition to his Slugger schedule.

Practicing as part of a team through the offseason is great for baseball fundamentals of course but it’s not the first reason on Teixeira’s mind.

“Being with friends and playing baseball,” he said.

The schedule, from March until July or August is made up of tournaments each weekend or doubleheaders on Sundays. Sargent guesses his Slugger squad played 50-60 games last year. They’ve already got trips to Yorktown, Newport News, Mechanicsville and Rocky Mount, N.C. on their slate this season.