School is out for summer.
But don’t tell that to local high school baseball players.
They’ll be spending the coming weeks sharpening their skills in advance of the 2020 season next spring.
The Swampland baseball season had its first pitch last week — the 15th season for the annual summer league.
Local coaches say the summer work is invaluable, adding that it allows for critical evaluation before the start of a long offseason before the next season.
“It gives us a leg up before the next season,” Central Lafourche baseball coach Simon Badeaux said. “As coaches, it allows us to get a look at how kids can handle certain situations in game situations. It’s a great measuring stick and it’s good for the kids, too. It lets them get reps against live pitching in pressure situations.”
Swampland features 12 local teams from Lafourche, Terrebonne and St. Mary parishes. Each team will play 14 games throughout June — both junior varsity and varsity contests.
At the end of the season, the top teams will compete in a postseason tournament to crown a champion.
This year’s participants will be South Lafourche, Central Lafourche, E.D. White and Thibodaux, Ellender, South Terrebonne, H.L. Bourgeois, Terrebonne, Central Catholic, Morgan City, Patterson and Berwick.
There is a direct correlation to success in the summer and success in the upcoming season.
Several former league champions have gone on and made deep postseason runs in the following year — almost like a precursor for things to come.
Thibodaux baseball coach Shane Trosclair said his team is treating the upcoming summer very seriously. The Tigers were young in 2019 and narrowly missed the playoffs. Trosclair said he believes the way a team learns to win is by winning, so that’s the Tigers’ goal this summer — to win.
“Anytime they turn the scoreboards on, we want to compete and win,” Trosclair said. “So, this summer, that’s exactly what we’re going to go out and try and do — win as many ballgames as we can and get ourselves ready for the next season. We want to build momentum.”
Ellender baseball coach Jamie Delahoussaye echoed Trosclair’s sentiments and said that for the Patriots, the summer season is important because it allows coaches to establish the culture that will be needed in the spring.
That is important for a program like the Patriots that has long struggled on the field, but is in the process of changing its culture.
“We want to establish how we’re going to play and what we expect of our kids,” Delahoussaye said. “And we think that begins in those summer games.”
But some local coaches say that while winning ballgames is nice, summer baseball is more of a tool for play development.
South Lafourche assistant baseball coach Chandler Guidroz is coaching South Lafourche’s club this summer, the Bayou Boys.
Guidroz said that he and Tarpon head coach Andrew Ravaglia have adopted the same philosophy over the summer — the scoreboard doesn’t matter.
Guidroz said in 2018, the Tarpons went .500 over the summer, then went on to the Class 4A State Quarterfinals. Last year, the team had a losing summer season, but rebounded and had a successful season, clinching a home game in the Class 4A State Playoffs.
The Tarpons will utilize “all-staff” games in virtually every summer contest and will play guys out of position to experiment. Doing that last summer, the team found out second and third positions for several guys, artificually building depth.
“For us, we don’t worry about the score. Whether we win or lose, we don’t pay much attention to it,” Guidroz said. “I know parents sometimes don’t like to hear that, but we’re strictly focused on developing our guys and putting them in situations where they can grow as baseball players.”
Badeaux and E.D. White baseball coach David Constant somewhat agreed with both sides of the spectrum.
Those coaches said that there’s no substitute for winning when it comes to team building, but added that the No. 1 goal of the summer should be to figure out which players can handle certain situations before the games “matter” in the spring.
Badeaux said his No. 1 goal for the summer is always evaluation of talent.
For Constant, he’s looking to plug holes in his lineup card and find depth after losing a sizable senior class — including several college-bound players.
“We want to put some guys into spots and see what they can do,” Constant said.
Even Trosclair said that while his team will do what it can to win, it all comes with a certain caveat.
“We’re going out there to win a ballgame, but we’re going out there to win a ballgame with several freshmen in key spots and younger players all over the field,” Trosclair said. “We know we have to be as patient as we can be and let kids learn through their mistakes. That’s what summer baseball is all about.” •