The high school season might end in the spring, but baseball’s a summer sport for most varsity-level players. Case in point: Martin seniors Trip White, Josh Watson and Grant Jones are using summer ball to improve certain aspects of their game.
But for the trio of Warriors, summer ball’s not just a training ground for the upcoming school season. The players say their summer leagues are on par with the highest level of high school varsity competition. And the name of the game is still the same in summertime — trying to play a high level and win as many games as possible.
“It’s a lot of fun,” said White, a second baseman who plays for the Arlington A’s. “I like playing summer ball and playing with some of your friends from around the area. It brings another level of competition when you get to the regular season and go against some of the guys who are on your team in the summer.”
Jones, a shortstop, is playing on Airhogs-Martin this summer with a particularly memorable foe of the Martin High varsity team. “I’m actually on the team with a guy who beat us in the playoffs and knocked us out,” Jones said.
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Watson, an outfielder for D-BAT, enjoys playing alongside talented athletes from other cities. Some are from the Metroplex, while in some cases, they come from points farther out — in some cases, much farther out. His teammates come from the likes of Irving, Southlake and Paradise. There’s even a player from El Paso. “A lot of them are kids I play against during the season,” Watson said. “It’s a good opportunity to get to know these guys and learn more about their game.”
Jones considers the summer season a chance to get ahead of some other varsity players. “Playing in the summer is a huge part of the game,” he said. “It does get you a step ahead of those guys who aren’t playing in as high of a level of summer ball.”
Watson, who mans center field for Martin and mostly patrols left for D-BAT, was in Oklahoma last week trying to win a qualifier to reach the Connie Mack World Series. He compares the summer tournaments he’s played in with the highest level of 5A (now 6A) varsity competition.
“I think it’s very, very important I feel that you go out and play summer ball,” Watson said. “I feel it’s a very high level and you see some really good pitching. I feel it’s playoff-level pitching and play.”
Jones agreed. “It’s definitely playoff-caliber in the bigger tournaments,” he said.
White’s used summer ball to improve on a particular aspect of his game. “It gives you a lot of chances to work on your weaknesses,” White said. “[Martin coach Curt] Culbertson said he wanted me working on double plays. I’ve definitely gotten faster.”
While White fine tunes his fielding, Jones is focused on becoming a better batter. “My hitting has improved dramatically,” Jones said. “Just seeing the ball, seeing a lot of pitches, getting a lot of at-bats and going against some really quality pitchers.”
There’s no shortage of hitting and fielding chances in the summer. With up to six or seven tournaments to play in, the teams can easily play between 40 and 50 games. Martin’s varsity team played just under 40 games in the 2014 season, regular season and playoffs combined.
They might not be representing their schools in summer play, but White said the drive to win is just as strong as it is when they take the field for the Warriors.
“Anytime you take the field, it’s the same intensity, because you want to win,” White said.