Spring break gives students a much-needed break from the rigors of the classroom.
For a dozen Pikes Peak region baseball teams, however, class remains in session on the road at baseball tournaments in the desert Southwest, away from the area chill.
"I do think going down here gives you an advantage," Pine Creek coach Glenn Millhauser said. "The timing is critical, right before league. And the kids come back motivated. I'd sell any coach who wasn't sure that he's got to do it, if he can."
Millhauser, who previously took his Rampart and Air Academy teams to Arizona prior to taking over at Pine Creek, can't say enough about hitting the road and playing tough competition. In Arizona, weather is guaranteed to be gorgeous and baseball is in the air with spring training around every corner.
The Eagles, along with teams from Palmer, Lewis-Palmer, Liberty, Palmer Ridge and Air Academy, start competition, beginning Monday, at the renowned Coach Bob National Invitational at several sites throughout suburban Phoenix.
Coronado, Discovery Canyon, Falcon and Widefield are in the same area, but will compete in the 19th Greenway Festival. St. Mary's will play a pair of games in the Southwest heat, as will Rampart, entered in the Chris Moon Memorial Cherry Field Classic. Cheyenne Mountain makes its return to Las Vegas.
Most of the teams have been there before. Falcon, a school without a playoff victory in 24 years, hopes the new competition can help the program reach new frontiers.
"We're finally going down to Arizona, to see the big boys," Falcons second-year coach Don Thompson said. "We've never made that trip. We're trying to build a program. To make that trip is big for our program. We're excited to see the competition we've heard and read about."
Millhauser recalls packing his teams into 15-passenger vans and making the long road trip. This week, the longtime coach flew, although many of the families still drove but made a vacation out of the journey.
He cautioned his team that the result might not be pretty, but the top-quality teams would toughen them up for 5A Metro League play that starts in April. Not coincidentally, Pine Creek has won or shared the league title the past four seasons.
"The competition is really good, and you're guaranteed games," Millhauser said. "Some years, we've just been hoping to win a game. Other years, we've done really well. You always hit tough competition, and you might lose a few games. Through it all, the kids have found a way to enjoy it. It does get you ready for league. We're always excited to go down to Arizona."