Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Prep baseball: Hurricanes looking to make G.T. Bray more like home

(photo by Paul Videla)

As the area's lone baseball team that plays its games off campus, Manatee is doing everything possible to try and turn G.T. Bray, a community park located about 30 blocks west of the high school, into its home.

That's easier said than done. Bray's sprawling complex is also home to softball, soccer and football fields, a cross country course and an outdoor swimming pool. And the diamond the Hurricanes play on is also in use during Little League season.

But it was apparent Tuesday night the Canes are making an effort. Red and black hurricanes flags flapped in the breeze above the ballpark, and a colorful banner boasting of last year's run to the Class 5A state semifinals hangs on the back of the fieldhouse and is visible as fans make their way to the bleachers.

"We're doing the best we can," coach Dwayne Strong said Tuesday following Manatee's 6-4 season-opening win over Tampa Berkeley Prep. "We decided to get some flags out here, just to try and give it a home-type feeling."

Strong unveiled the sign to his players prior to Tuesday's game. It features last year's roster, the Manatee logo of an M and two crossed flags and 12 various action shots, along with blue and white lightning bolts.

"I kind of snuck that by them, and then I came out (Tuesday) and put it up," Strong said. "When they came out (Tuesday), they were really excited."

The board is more than just a way to commemorate last season, however.

"Show my young guys: 'If you want your picture on here, take (the board) off. Do something,'" Strong said. "That's the kind of the way we kind of want to roll with that. If you want your picture up here, win a state championship."

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