DeLand Suns of Florida League provides low-stress training ground

DELAND — Baseball, according to Mike Powers, is defined by three Fs: fear, frustration and failure. But he thinks that needs to change.

“It should be an F, and it should be ‘fun,'” Powers said.

That’s what he insists on as the DeLand Suns’ third-year head coach. The Suns compete in the Florida Collegiate Summer League and serve as a low-stress training ground.

Some players are recovering from injuries. Some are between schools and seek to impress potential recruiters. Some are simply trying to improve before their next college seasons.

This doesn’t always lead to great win-lose results. DeLand dropped his first 10 games and went 8-21 in Tuesday night’s contest in the final week of the season. But it’s huge for the players.

“We were in the villages, and (broadcast trainee Dylan Pescatore) said to me, ‘Well, coach, I know you’re having a hard time,'” Powers said. wrong? Struggling? We’re not struggling. We’re maturing.”

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Powers recruits his athletes. College coaches often call him and ask for players to be considered. Other times, Powers asks his players from previous summers to recommend people.

This year’s Suns roster mixes several players who graduated from high school this spring with others who have been in college ball for a few years.

“Some teams, you walk in there and you can say it’s a really easy adjustment. Some teams just come together,” said Sean McArdle, a wide receiver who also played for the Suns last summer. , the other teams are like pulling your teeth in. This team probably took about two weeks (to gel).

Receiver Sean McArdle is playing in the FCSL for the third time, his second season with the DeLand Suns.  He has played the past two springs at Daytona State College and is currently looking for his next school.

The Suns hail from more than a dozen different schools, so many of them didn’t know each other until this summer. And unlike college programs, the Suns all travel to the stadium separately each day. They don’t get the team-building activities that come with hours and hours on the same bus.

This is where Powers comes in.

“He’s the icebreaker,” said outfielder and first baseman Jesse Simmons. “Nine times out of 10 you don’t have a coach like that.”

Simmons is from DeLand and played many of his high school games on the same diamond the Suns use at the Sperling Sports Complex. He spent last year at Hillsborough Community College in Tampa, but missed the season with a wrist injury. Entering Tuesday, he had played 18 games for the Suns — his first real baseball action in two years.

“It’s like a freedom to grow,” Simmons said. “I feel like you have a better advantage over college guys who don’t play summer ball. They sit – and yes, they practice – but they don’t play every day. That makes it easy to transition into fall workouts.If you’re hot coming out of summer, you can stay warm.

Each player works on different things.

Simmons is trying to regain his playing form. McArdle, a left-handed hitter who played at Daytona State College the past two seasons, raised his hands in his hitting stance. He wants to become more of a power hitter.

“I really struggled for the first week and a half,” McArdle said. “But knowing that I’m not going to get chewed out for doing what I do (that’s awesome).”

McArdle’s Daytona State teammate Sean Sparling tweaks his swing to generate more power with his legs and find more barrels – something that’s harder to do with FCSL’s wooden bats than the metal ones used in college games.

These players also have help.

Powers was drafted and suited for three minor league seasons in the early 1980s. He has decades of coaching experience. Assistants Jason Umberger, Kurt Schluter and Jordan Almodovar each played in college. And another assistant, Rick Hall, is the winningest coach in FCSL history. He led the Suns until 2020, when he handed over the reins to Powers.

“In college, if you don’t play two games in a row, you get benched for the next guy, and then you won’t see the field for a week or two, and you have to figure that out without having those live reps” “Here, if you go into a little slump, there’s a direction to go. You’re going to have a constant opportunity.

And I hope you have a little fun.

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