It’s a baseball ritual at Greenwood, the blur of mile markers streaking past as the Woodmen drive to Nashville, Tennessee, to soak up their own adaptation of spring break.
Odd-numbered years mean hitting the road for 18th-year coach Andy Bass, though there has been the occasional even-numbered season included since the first roadie in 2003.
Players, coaches and assorted parents depart Greenwood at 8:30 Wednesday morning.
The Woodmen are scheduled to play at Ensworth High School at 4 p.m. on Wednesday and at Hillsboro on Thursday afternoon. Greenwood battles Warren County in a doubleheader to start at noon Saturday.
“A lot of our kids are anxious to go hopefully to experience some warmer weather and just get out on the field. All three schools we’re playing we’ve played in the past. We send out emails ahead of time and see who’s available,” Bass said.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association permits athletics teams to travel no farther than 180 miles from the Indiana state line in order to face opposition mostly unfamiliar to them.
How successful the trip is won’t be measured in wins and losses.
For starters, Bass gets to watch his players in actual game conditions for the first time this season in locations too far away for opposing Mid-State Conference coaches to scout.
Which Woodmen starter performs best in this situation or while manning that position?
“As coaches we treat it like spring training and try kids at different positions. You’re not going to start experimenting with a conference game,” said Bass, noting that after the Woodmen come back, they will host Mooresville on Tuesday and then play the Pioneers at their place the following day.
“But the biggest thing we’re looking for, the ultimate thing, is for our kids to build a bond.”
Time together be it while traveling south in one of two school minibuses, team meals together or making the most of whatever down time is available can go a long way in determining the tone of the entire season.
“It helps a lot because most of the teams in our conference aren’t doing this,” said senior catcher Brayton Buchanan, a two-year starter who as a sophomore was part of the program’s most recent Tennessee excursion in 2013.
“When we go down to Tennessee, we don’t know anything about the team we’re playing. If the other team is bad you don’t play down to them, and if they’re really good there’s no pressure on us.”
Bass plans to make the most of Friday as the Woodmen don’t play any games.
The first order of business will be touring the campus and athletics facilities of Vanderbilt University, home to the 2014 national champion Commodores baseball program.
Bass had hoped to take his players to watch Vandy play a home game. However, the Commodores will be out of town starting the Southeastern Conference portion of their schedule with three games at the University of Georgia.
The Woodmen will instead attend a game Friday afternoon at Belmont University as the Bruins host SIU Edwardsville.
“More than anything there are a lot of kids who have never been to a Division I facility,” said Bass of the tour of Vanderbilt.
“The purpose of the Belmont game is that if you really want to play Division I baseball, this is the type of competition you’ll see day in and day out.”
Bass wants his players to notice the preparation that goes into every at-bat, defensive shift and late-inning coaching strategy at the collegiate level.
More than anything, he wants his Woodmen players to play some baseball and have fun.
A different kind of doubleheader, but a win-win all the same.
GRAND OLE ROAD TRIP
Greenwood beginning today is scheduled to play four baseball games on three different diamonds two states away:
Wednesday – at Ensworth High School, 4 p.m.
Thursday – at Hillsboro High School, 4 p.m.
Saturday – at Warren County High School (DH), Noon