Serious road trips for local teams

Published 4:47 pm Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The middle of the summer means once again that it’s time to be amazed at how fare abroad Suffolk’s athletes get to travel to show what they can do.

The Smashers all-star softball team from Suffolk Youth Athletic Association played in PONY Nationals recently in Round Rock, Texas.

Many Suffolk track and field athletes from age 5-18, mostly from the Suffolk Stars club but also from other track clubs around the region, will be in the AAU Junior Olympic Games next week in New Orleans.

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Select baseball clubs with standouts from Suffolk have been all over the southeast, from the Carolinas to Florida.

The Suffolk Special Olympics powerlifters earned national championship gold medals, specifically bringing the medals and plaques home to Zuni, from Las Vegas.

One of the many Team Evolve AAU basketball squads, all of which have packed summer schedules, is down at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando for the boys’ 10th-Grade Division 1 National Championship.

No matter the sport or age group, working toward and earning a true road trip to a major event is a lasting experience.

From the 7- and 8-year-old softball players on the Smashers, who are too young – even these days – to think about much more than learning the game and having fun, to the select baseball and AAU basketball tourneys, where getting noticed and recruited is the main purpose for working hard through the summer — traveling as a team has similarities.

For some, the big road trip to the big event means the first time on a plane. It can be the first time traveling to Florida, Texas, Las Vegas or anywhere outside a few hours from home.

Winning all the way to the national level means running into other elite athletes and teams. So there’s the good possibility of finding the opposition a little too tough somewhere along the line.

Performing under pressure in Las Vegas, or in front of a crowd of more college scouts than parents, or in front of fans at the ESPN complex in Orlando, or in front of thousands in a large stadium at the AAU Junior Olympics, is a rare challenge, win or lose.

The reason for the trip is the competition. There’s always a lot more gained, though. It goes double for the younger kids, as the hotels (with a pool), friends, other sights, sounds and fun — even time with parents and siblings — will be as memorable as a home run and far more so than a bobbled ground ball.