Vince Lombardi probably wouldn’t fully enjoy coaching in the Central Carolina Scholastic Summer League, because winning isn’t the only priority in the annual hot-weather baseball tradition.
Instead, coaches and players alike focus on continued development with a goal of having players effectively prepared for the following high school diamond campaign.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with winning the games. The East Wake Warthogs – comprised of current and soon-to-be members of the East Wake High School baseball team – went 8-6 overall this summer against strong competition.
“We try to balance (winning and development),’’ said East Wake assistant coach Dave Cunningham. “Part of it is letting these kids know the expectations we have as a program and what it takes (to be successful).’’
For Cunningham, one of the beauties of the CCSSL is that it offers opportunities for instruction in both the good and bad things that happen during the course of a game.
As East Wake was working its way through a summer season-ending, 19-2 home loss Monday against Sanderson, Cunningham was consistently busy giving pointers to his roster members – even when the outcome of the event had all been determined.
“You can always have teaching moments,’’ Cunningham said. “You can evaluate attitude in these situations. You can see who will step up and continue to fight. You can see who will take the teaching and respond to it correctly.’’
The summer also gives East Wake’s coaches the ability to work with younger players – some of whom they don’t see as much during the prep season when they are on the junior varsity.
And incoming performers also receive an indoctrination to the program that helps them be much better prepared when high school practice opens next February.
One of those players is rising freshman Dawson Creech, who was pitching at Zebulon Middle School just a few months ago.
Creech started Monday’s game and flashed some promise for the future against older competition.
“I’m getting to learn my new teammates and learning how these guys work together as a team,’’ Creech said. “It helps a lot, but it is different because I’m going up against a lot bigger kids. Some of these kids can tell what pitches you are throwing by your motion, so I know I need to keep working on that.’’
Unlike other summer and travel ball teams, East Wake High School’s coaches are allowed to serve as skippers in the CCSSL, so they can work with potential varsity and junior varsity players up close – as opposed to watching from the stands.
“That is a big key for me,’’ Cunningham said. “It’s nice to have a few more months with the players. You can continue to develop the older guys, and you can work with some of these younger guys for the first time.
“And we have a unique situation at East Wake because of all our varsity kids have participated (in this summer’s CCSSSL schedule) at some point. They have commitments with other teams, too, but they are with us when they can.’’
One of those performers is rising senior Justin Torres, who was a mainstay in the infield and in the lineup last season for East Wake’s varsity squad, which reached the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A playoffs.
“This is a chance to keep playing in the summer,’’ Torres said. “You get to work on things, learn the game and have fun. You just have to keep working hard – that’s all you can do.’’
There is also an in-house competition ongoing for the few varsity spots that will be up for grabs next spring.
East Wake returns 11 players from its 2016 varsity squad, including reigning Greater Neuse River Conference Pitcher of the Year Will Davis.
“I think next year can go really well,’’ Torres said. “We’ve got a bunch of rising sophomores, and we have a lot of our (varsity) team back. But we still have a lot of things we need to work on.’’
Which is exactly why Torres and his teammates were in action Monday evening, as opposed to enjoying some other form of summertime fun.