While most in northeast Ohio are settling for the cold, dreary and depressing weather, the Niles Red Dragons baseball team has it good. Niles is scheduled to begin their season today at Lakeview for a doubleheader, but from April 2 through April 5, the Red Dragons will be in Myrtle Beach, S.C. enjoying the warm weather and sunny skies.
"We scheduled five games down there playing at the Ripken Experience," Niles coach Mike Guarnieri said. "Cal Ripken and Billy Ripken have a whole complex in Myrtle Beach. We went last year. It was the first year we went and it's an awesome experience. The competition is great. It's great experience for the guys because we felt it really brought the guys closer together. They bonded together and grew as a team."
For Guarnieri, he believes it is beneficial for his team to leave Ohio for a few days to play in Myrtle Beach.
"It's a big advantage knowing full well that you're going to be really tested down there," Guarnieri said. "Unfortunately everybody up here I'm sure has not had the opportunity to be outside too much. You can only go so long inside, in cage scrimmages. In our building, the pitchers are throwing in our cage live behind an L-screen. It's the best we can do but it's certainly not like when you're out on the field and playing."
Last season, the Red Dragons won the All-American Conference, Americian Division championship by finishing the season 19-8 and 9-1 in the AAC. Niles made it to the Division II sectional final but lost to Cardinal Mooney. Guarnieri states that in order for the team to be successful in 2013, they have to take one step at a time.
"We go into it every year with one basic goal in mind and that goal is to get better everyday and when tournament time rolls around in May that we're peaking at the right moment, that we've made progress to that point," Guarnieri said. "From there, working backwards, we always look at our league... you go day to day in conference, you try to win every game and move on to the next. The AAC is so good with Canfield, Poland and Howland, Fitch, Struthers and Beaver (Local). It's a great conference so you know you got to be ready to go."
Going into the season, things look promising as the Red Dragons bring back eight seniors - Noah Arvin, Brennen Baker, Jacob Foster, Ian Hileman, Ryan Ifft, Grant Martin, JC Pierko and Tyler Wheeler. Guarnieri is excited to have a veteran crew for the upcoming year.
"It's a great luxury to have. Its been uncommon for us... last year we only had two seniors," Guarnieri said. "When you have all that experience coming back, practices are easier because they know the routines, they know how to work. They're very professional at they do and the way they go about their business. As a coach, it makes all the difference in the world."