With spring right around the corner, the Palmetto High school baseball team is setting up for the start of the season. The Panthers reached the district playoffs before getting knocked off last year, and this time around they’re hoping that their experience will take them deeper into the playoffs.
Thirteen seniors lead the lineup heading into the 2015 season. The varsity squad is confident in their abilities on the mound, so they’re working to perfect their game plan when they step up to the plate.
Former University of Miami pitcher and head coach Danny Smith says he is teaching the players to have a strategy set before getting up to bat. By anticipating what pitch will come their way, he’s certain the team’s hitting will help them put up wins on the scoreboard.
“We’ve got all it takes,” says Smith. “As long as we hit, we will be very competitive and tough to beat.”
Smith says the team is coming to the field with a stronger defense and a veteran pitching staff. He prides himself on having a well-disciplined team that knows how to get the job done. The Palmetto Panthers aren’t setting their minds on counting wins or scoring a title. This year, the boys in blue and white are taking it one game at a time.
“It’s about how we play the game,” says Smith. “If you lose the game, did you play hard during that day? If you won the game, did you do things the way they should have been done? Play each game and then worry about the next step after that.”
In addition to teaching the boys the fundamentals of baseball, Smith works to instill important values that come into play off the field.
“If you want to be successful you work hard everyday,” says Smith. “If you’re better today than you were yesterday, and you’re better tomorrow than you are today, then you’ve accomplished something.” Smith believes all 13 of his seniors have the talent to further their athletic careers.
Many of those boys have already been in contact with scouts from several colleges around the country.
Smith is expecting big things out of senior pitchers Brent Teller and Carter Nash, along with outfielder Kevin Barbato.
“Our District 1 is one of the most competitive districts in the country,” says Barbato. “You’re always facing guys who are going to play at D-1 schools. You get to watch them play and compete against them. To be the best, you have to beat the best and you get a lot of those players here.”
The varsity and junior varsity teams practice together every day on their field at Coral Reef Park. Working with each other allows the younger boys to learn from the veteran players while giving the varsity team a chance to pass down their best advice.
“I try to give them some little hints that I do to keep myself doing the right thing,” says Barbato. “Whether it’s tips I came up with or learned from other people, I try to pass them along to help them do something right and be consistent.”
Not only do the boys work together on the field, they continue to enhance their team’s chemistry after the seventh inning ends. Teller says coming together with his teammates makes a big difference during game time.
“I think as a team we all connect better than last year,” he says. “We are better at team bonding because we hang out a lot together and we have good relationships with each other. That’s going to be a big factor in our season.”
The Panthers are still working on finalizing their roster for the regular season. Interested athletes can try out for the team after the New Year.