Sunday, April 22, 2018
News Roundup

Rooting for Brandon High, a trip down memory lane Eagles ignite a parent's memories

The past fueled the present.

Old names piqued a new curiosity.

Memories sparked hope.

Last weekend, I made consecutive 288-mile treks across the state to watch Brandon High compete for the Class 7A state baseball championship in Port St. Lucie — because my sons once played youth football for the Brandon Cowboys.

Baseball and football?

On the surface, it may not have appeared to make sense. We moved on to Armwood's Friday night lights a few years back, letting go of the daylong marathons that consumed our Saturdays with the Cowboys.

Admittedly, the decision didn't prove difficult. The adult conflicts that arose from a child's game dotted my time with the Cowboys — particularly my two-year tenure as a board member. Arguments better suited for Judge Judy stained the good times.

Sometimes, I joke I'll never get those two years back. Sometimes, I'm not joking.

Egos and eccentricities create a strange brew when added to the emotion of parents rooting for their children. If you've served on a youth sports board, you know.

But when I looked at this year's Brandon High baseball roster, only the good flooded my mind. I remembered how four of the Eagles — Tyler Raymond, Eric Hinostroza, Adam Sass and Trey Taylor — starred as Cowboys.

Raymond, Hinostroza and Sass all played with my son on the Cowboys' junior varsity team in 2007. Raymond, a quarterback, always played with a certain grit, but I'll never forget how he ignited a season-opening celebration with a crazy dance.

Sass dazzled as a running back and Hinostroza, who played all over the field, may have been the most versatile 12-year-old athlete I've ever seen.

Taylor, currently a sophomore, played on the Cowboys' "super midget" team and displayed a knack for big plays on defense.

But when they weren't at the Cowboys playing field, they were at North Brandon Little League learning another game.

Old names piqued a new curiosity.

Now, the four former Cowboys and their teammates stood two wins away from a state baseball title.

Would I wind my way through Mulberry and Bartow just to see them play? Would I endure the two-lane ride of hell from Lake Wales to Yeehaw Junction?

Would I pay $9 at Digital Domain Park, spring home of the New York Mets, to watch them play baseball?

The past fueled the present.

Brandon won the semifinal on May 19, a 7-4 win over New Smyrna Beach, and each of the four contributed.

Memories sparked hope.

I returned to Digital Domain on Sunday, anxious for a repeat performance. I saw a lot of the parents I knew from the Cowboys days.

I teased Taylor's dad, George, about missing the semifinal to see his daughter off to the prom, even though it's pretty admirable that a father exhibited proper balance.

I told the Hinostrozas I would be a basket case if my son took the mound in a championship game. They just smiled.

I looked at John Raymond's intense gaze and saw it reflected in Tyler's face.

But the Eagles fell to Venice 4-2. I told Sass' mom losing in the state final is like romantic heartache: better to have made the final and lost than to have never made it at all.

In the end, I didn't get the storybook ending I sought driving across the state, but I did rediscover a sense of community. In its purest form, that's what high school sports should be about.

That's all I'm saying.

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