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Imagine: Spring break on the baseball diamond in Pasco County

This week, Hillsborough County prep baseball fans have submerged themselves in pool play of the Saladino Tournament. Last week, Pinellas purists ingested the balmy spring air at the Dunedin Invitational.

Meantime, we in Pasco languish with nary a bracket to ponder.

For various reasons, Pasco has never staged a countywide spring break baseball tournament. While most local teams are playing during the break, they're dispersed throughout the state.

Land O'Lakes, Sunlake and Pasco are competing in a holiday tournament in Port Orange. Wesley Chapel just wrapped up its appearance in the sprawling Saladino. River Ridge played in the Dunedin Invitational.

But why don't they consolidate? Why not converge at, say, three schools — with sites alternating annually — for a five-day tournament to crown a county champion? The overhead would seem minimal; the excitement optimal.

"It would be a lot of fun," Ridgewood coach Larry Beets said. "I'd love to see it."

Think about the potential. With 12 public schools in the county (including soon-to-be-opened Anclote), the tournament could consist of three four-team pools.

Each team would be guaranteed three games in pool play. Pool champions — and one wild-card team — advance to the semifinals, followed by a title game. As the county grows, a fourth pool could be added.

"I think now is an opportune time," Beets added, "because of the fact I don't know how much longer the (Sunshine Athletic) conference is going to be a viable part of the season."

Others, however, aren't so enthusiastic.

"I don't know," said Land O'Lakes coach Calvin Baisley, who annually takes his team to the East Coast during spring break. "My thing is, I like to go play somebody different. I don't want to play the same teams I play all year long."

Former Zephyrhills coach — and current athletic director/softball coach — Craig Milburn shares that sentiment. During his 16-season baseball tenure, Milburn annually staged a spring break tournament featuring local, state and national teams.

"We play each other so much now," Milburn said. "Especially if they're cutting us to 20 games."

Therein lies the most glaring hurdle. Should the Florida High School Athletic Association's Board of Directors vote this month to reduce the regular season in several sports, including baseball, to 20 contests for the next two years, a county tourney might not come off in the near future without some type of loophole.

Alas, there may be one.

FHSAA spokeswoman Cristina Alvarez said during last month's Athletic Directors Advisory Committee meeting, a proposal was raised to count FHSAA-sanctioned tournaments as a maximum two contests toward each team's schedule. The Board of Directors would have the final say on such an idea.

But even if the state obliges with such a provision, a county tournament still would need widespread support locally. Is the idea conceivable? Sure. Practical? Seems to be. Desirable? Depends on whom you ask.

"I play (Ridgewood) twice, I play Hudson twice," River Ridge coach Jack Homko said. "To turn around and play them again in the spring break, I don't prefer to do that when I'd rather face different people."

fast facts

Picture this

Here's our scenario for a Pasco County spring break tournament featuring pool play, semifinals and finals. Each team would be guaranteed three contests.

East Pool


Wesley Chapel

Wiregrass Ranch


Central Pool


Land O'Lakes


River Ridge

West Pool





Sites: Three at most (one for each pool; semifinals and finals held at one pool site)

Schedule: Pool play — Saturday, Monday, Tuesday (each team plays the other three in its pool); semifinals — Wednesday; championship — Thursday

Tiebreakers: Should two or more teams complete pool play with equal records, the tie could be broken with any number of formulas (head-to-head result, most runs scored, in-county winning percentage entering tournament, etc.).

Wild card: Could be determined by pool-play winning percentage, most runs scored, etc.

Imagine: Spring break on the baseball diamond in Pasco County 04/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, April 9, 2009 10:43pm]
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