By Dan Hardenbrook

With wintery weather returning just in time for spring break, the Newberry varsity baseball team headed south, looking for warmer temps, sunshine, and clear fields to prepare for the upcoming 2024 season.

Fourteen players, led by coaches Dan Hardenbrook and Ben Rahilly, traveled to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina last week to participate in the 2024 High School Spring Training Program hosted by the Ripken Experience. During the week, the Indians baseball players practiced, trained, and scrimmaged, with the season opener less than two weeks away. It was their first outdoor activity of the season.

The Ripken Experience is a destination for baseball and softball programs of all ages, and for a six-week stretch from late February to mid April, JV and varsity teams from across the country head to the Myrtle Beach complex to prepare for their seasons.

While Newberry was at the Ripken Experience, nearly four dozen high school baseball and softball teams were in attendance. Due to MHSAA regulations on allowed activities out of state, the Newberry boys originally were not allowed to compete in games or sanctioned scrimmages, instead only practicing at the nine-field, all-turf facility just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean. However, a chance encounter with another Michigan team traveling through the area on their spring break helped make most of their limited opportunities.

This lucky discovery led to joint practices and scrimmages between Newberry and the Sand Creek Aggies, a Division 3 school located just north of the Ohio border. The teams competed head-to-head multiple times during the week.

Another highlight was the rare opportunity to work with professional coaches and trainers through the Carolina Elite Sports Baseball program. The staff from Carolina Elite spent multiple days and sessions working with the players giving them an extra boost in performance and confidence heading into their new season.

The Newberry varsity baseball team thanks all volunteers and donors who participated in off season fundraising and the events, as well as former Head Coach Jason Tokar, who helped coordinate training sessions, and parents who transported players on the trip or oversaw meals and team activities. The entire spring training trip was self-funded, with no charges to the school and no out-of-pocket cost for players to attend.

The Newberry Indians open the 2024 baseball season on April 12 at Mackinaw City. The home opener is scheduled for April 17 against Brimley.