Spanish Springs baseball coach Mike Bosco undertook that task this past offseason and his hard work is coming to fruition this week. Bosco and his Cougars are hosting the AU Invitational today, Thursday and Friday. Participating schools are guaranteed four games, but Bosco wanted to do more for teams than just get them a few games.
The three-day tournament kicked off Tuesday afternoon with a skills competition. Selected players from the tourney’s seven teams competed in a home run contest, a timed trek around the bases and four-player timed around-the-horn event.
“We wanted to give the kids something fun and entice the coaches with an event that would make them want to come back. I’m hoping for a fun couple days,” Bosco said.
Winners of the different skill competitions will be given prizes from tournament sponsor Athletics Unlimited.
“Our kids didn’t really think anything of it until kids from the other kids started showing up today,” Bosco said before Tuesday’s competition. “Then they really started to get excited about.”
Spanish Springs junior Jake Bray certainly had some pep in his step. The Cougars junior all-league shortstop was licking his chops as he prepped to try and hit a few long drives.
“It’s a lot different than other tournaments,” Bray said. “We don’t get to do this. It’s kind of fun to take a break from playing seven innings. I’m excited. I want to win the home run contest. I’ll just keep my regular swing.”
Bray and his SSHS teammates weren’t the only teens excited to showcase their baseball skills in a different way.
“My kids are excited for this skills competition. I wish they were as excited to play baseball games,” said Manny Steffan, coach of Saratoga High, from suburban San Jose, which will play in the tournament this week.
In addition to the skills competition, tournament teams will get the chance to take in a Reno Aces game this week. They are also staying at the Eldorado in downtown Reno, thanks in large part to reduced rates the casino hotel offered participating teams.
“Formerly, we just had to play teams from around our area with the same spring break,” Steffan said. “Then we got conflicts with league games and sometimes would have to play Monday through Friday. Now we’ve got a destination to go to. It’s nice. Plus, we’ve been struggling a bit recently so hopefully this gives us a little bit of a chance to get away and refocus.
Bosco was hoping to get eight teams to attend the event, but had to settle for seven. He said the biggest challenge he faced in recruiting teams to come to the Truckee Meadows, was the Washoe County School District’s relatively late spring break.
“The feedback about the tournament and everything we’ve done has been great,” Bosco said. “It’s just been tough finding schools with the same spring break. Hopefully, the word gets out about a great event and we can get more schools to come next year.”
In addition to Saratoga, Lynnebrook of San Jose and Central Valley of Redding are participating in the tournament from out of the area. Elko, McQueen and South Tahoe from the local region are also competing.
Tournament games start today and are being held at McQueen and Spanish Springs. The SSHS nine will host Elko at 10 a.m. and Saratoga at 4 p.m. today.