Boys in blue
With hard work by talented players and with lessons from a coach who knows well how to teach and motivate his team, according to observers.
The team won district with a 28-2 victory over the Runge Hornets on Friday, April 21. With the district championship, their first ever, the Marlins get a bye in the first round of playoffs, the bi-district. They go directly to area competition.
The Marlins next will play against the winner of a matchup between Charlotte and Mason high schools, which go up against each other tomorrow, Friday, May 6. The date and location of the Marlins’ area game hadn’t been set as of press time. (For updates on that, keep watching the South Jetty’s Web site, www.portasouthjetty.com.)
Th e players were psyched to win district and are excited about the prospect of going further in the play-offs.
“ They’re ecstatic,” said coach Brian Flack. “This is the first time this has ever happened.”
As of Monday, May 1, the Marlins had amassed a record of 24 wins and just three losses on the season.
The Web site of the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association lists only the top 10 state-ranked teams in 1A, and Port Aransas was just barely hanging outside that elite group as of Monday, May 2, according to Keith Klaus, an official with the organization. With another win, PAHS could find itself in the top 10, he said.
Twin brothers Alex and Andrew Groseclose, juniors, are two of the Marlins’ standouts this year. So is Tyler Pate, a sophomore.
Alex has hit 20 doubles this season – more than any other 1A high school player in the state, according to Maxpreps.com, a Web site that contains a massive database full of United States high school sports statistics.
Andrew has hit 16 doubles this season. Only six other players in the region have hit that many or more, according to MaxPreps. Tyler has hit 15 doubles, which also puts him way up there in the rankings.
Pate and the Grosecloses are good, but it has been a team effort that has gotten the Marlins to where they are now.
As a team, the Marlins are tied with Goldthwaite High School Eagles in homeruns this season, with each team swatting 23 over the fence, according to MaxPreps.
The Marlins also have hit 85 doubles, more than any other 1A high school. Port Aransas leads the state in runs batted in, with 240, Flack said.
Hitting has been key to the season’s success, said Joe Kocurek, the team’s assistant coach.
“The big difference between last year and this year is, this year, we score,” Kocurek said. “If we got down last year, we had a hard time coming back. That’s not true this year.”
The hitting got a lot better partly because Flack has had the players do a ton of batting practice using a “T.” They put a ball up on a T, which looks like a waist-high pole sticking up out of the ground, and they hit it. Over and over, day after day. It’s not an uncommon training method, but the Marlins have used it quite a bit more than most teams, Flack said.
It’s worked well.
“It develops better eyehand coordination and the continuous repetition of the same motion helps too,” Kocurek said. “They’ve become much more disciplined hitters, and it’s made a world of difference.”
Flack said it’s been immensely helpful that a community effort not long ago resulted in the construction of a new batting cage facility at Port Aransas Community Park, where the Marlins practice and play all of their home games. The cages allow a dozen players to practice hitting all at once. The old batting cages had room for only two players at a time.
The team has great depth at the pitching position. Between the varsity and JV teams, about a dozen different Marlin players have won games while playing as pitcher this season.
The team overall boasts an earned run average of 1.42, which makes the Marlins third-best among 1A schools in the state in that category.
Flack said a big part of the reason the team has done so well this year is because most all of the players put in a lot of work during the off season. They played in summer and fall leagues run by the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department.
Credit also should go to Flack, for his coaching abilities, according to Steve Reaves, athletic director of the Port Aransas Independent School District.
When Flack came to PAISD in 2006, he started helping players train at pitching, fielding and hitting once a week, during athletic periods, during the off-season, Reaves pointed out. That’s been going on ever since, and it has made the players get better, faster.
Flack is an adept teacher of baseball and motivator of players, Reaves said.
“ The kids play for him. That’s the biggest thing. … He has sold the kids on the idea they can be really good, and they bought into it, so they put in the extra time to get better,” Reaves said.
It helps that Flack is passionate about the game and plays it well himself.
“He has the skills to get out there and throw the ball and hit it with the best of them,” Reaves said. “He understands skills, and he can demonstrate them. He also has a really good eye for seeing a pitch or a swing.”
Flack deflects the praise that comes his way, redirecting it to his players.
“I tell them what to do, but it’s up to them to do it,” he said.
Asked about his coaching philosophy, Flack said, “My thing is discipline and hustle. No mental mistakes. Those, I rip them for. Anything else – if it happens, it happens.”
Karen Collins said the team members this year get along especially well, and that has made a difference. Collins has three sons who have played on Marlin baseball teams the past few years, and she has watched dozens of games during that time. (A South Jetty staff photographer, she also has photographed a lot of the games.)
“Their personalities meld really well together,” Collins said. “They seem to not have any of the back-biting that has happened in the past. Whereas they might not be friends – not all of them, anyway – off the field, they get along really well on the field. It’s like a family-type atmosphere, as opposed to just being teammates.”
“We’re playing more as a team,” said Thomas Winton, a pitcher.
“Everybody’s stepping up,” said Andrew Groseclose, another pitcher. “Players coming off the bench are doing their jobs.”
The players say they like their chances of going deep into the play-offs.
“We’re on the road to the show!” said Andrew Follett, a first baseman who plays both on JV and varsity.
Flack has enjoyed watching the boys mature as players. While he used to call all of the pitches, he doesn’t do that so much any more. Pitchers often decide on their own what kind of pitch to throw.
“That,” Flack said, “is how they’ve really grown up.”
Questions? Comments? Contact Dan Parker at (361) 749- 5131 or email@example.com.