Warriors are a team all year long

Published 9:14 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A good portion of the Nansemond River baseball team currently in the regional tournament has been playing ball together or against each other since T-ball and coach-pitch leagues at Bennett’s Creek Little League.

More recently and more directly related to the success of the Warriors as a varsity squad, practically the whole team has played together every summer for the last three years.

In 2008 and ’09 the Warriors made up the core of American Legion teams. Last summer, the Warriors and a few added recruits from neighboring schools played as a Tidewater Summer League team, facing challenges such as wooden bats, high-level opponents and opponents fielding a few collegiate call-ups to boot.

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So did talent and athletic ability come before all the constant hard work? Chicken or egg? Love the sport and have a drive to excel or innate ability — and probably some paternal prodding — and then appreciate the game more and more?

Of course, there’s no good answer. What’s true, though, is that a team being a team for this long is a rarity.

Even taking February as the official start to the high school preseason, that makes for a seven-month season by the time summer leagues finish.

The Warriors, while not always officially as the Warriors, have made 60-game seasons their norm, largely with the same pitcher-catcher, second base-shortstop combos and so on most of the time.

Then, by the way, in June, July and August practices full of heat and humidity are by definition twice as trying as games. During a game, you’re in the dugout half the time.

On another note, the Warriors have only four seniors on this team. In most ways, this season’s come a year ahead of schedule. There’s still this coming summer, building off of this season and wherever it winds up, for the Warriors to work toward next March.

Nansemond River head coach Mark Stuffel takes no credit. Anytime he’s asked, he says his players’ dedication comes either from their self-motivation or from the bond of being a team for so long now, and not wanting to let the rest of the team down.

“You want everything for this group of guys, because they’ve worked hard. They’re great to coach every day. They’re easy to coach. You want stuff like this to happen for kids like this,” Stuffel said following the game that clinched the regional tournament berth.

Whether or not the Warriors continue through regions and states in the next couple weeks, what’s made Nansemond River’s team a team has already been striking.