FORT MYERS, Fla. – If a team don’t succeed in the spring time, it’s never too late for it to come back and try again in late summer. In fact, the bridge that leads from the Memorial Day holiday weekend to the Labor Day holiday weekend can be delivery system to newfound riches just as often as one to further disappointment.
Attatude Baseball, based in the Tampa Bay area, is a case in point.
The Attatudes made their Perfect Game tournament debut back in May as part of the field at the PG WWBA 16u East Memorial Day Classic held here in Fort Myers. Nine of the Attatude Baseball players competing at this weekend’s PG WWBA 16u Labor Day Classic were also on Attatude’s roster at the Memorial Day event when the team finished 0-4.
Its four losses were by scores of 8-6, 6-4, 7-6 and 3-2, and the 8-6 setback was at the hands of the South Florida Elite Squad-Louisville Slugger which went on to finish as runner-up at the season-opening East Memorial Day tournament.
“It was kind of a test for us, to see what Perfect Game is all about,” Attatude head coach Mark Attaway said Sunday morning from the Player Development 5-Plex. “We went 0-and-4 but we were in every game; every game there we were right in it and we just found a way to lose. We knew we were competitive but we didn’t do what we needed to do. We added a couple of pieces here and there and now I’m not afraid of any team.”
Nor should he be. The Attatudes actually clinched a spot in the 16u Labor Day Classic’s eight-team playoffs by virtue of a pair of wins on Saturday – 8-2 over the Florida Express and 5-2 over Miami Stars Baseball. Their 15-5 drubbing at the hands of the previously winless Fat Cat Thunder Sunday morning was inconsequential.
Attatude Baseball was scheduled to play in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs early Sunday afternoon and should it win that game, the semifinal round is slated for later in the afternoon. The two teams that emerge to play in Monday’s 9 a.m. championship game at jetBlue Park will have played three games in about 10 hours on Sunday.
“I couldn’t feel any better about this group, to be honest with you; if we don’t play three games (on Sunday) I’m going to be mad,” Attaway said. “This game right here (against the Fat Cat Thunder, we’re just going to put some guys out there and let them have some fun.”
As the 16u Labor Day Classic playoff field began to come together Sunday afternoon (the quarterfinals and semifinals at the PG WWBA 18u Labor Day Classic are being played simultaneously) it became evident how balanced the field is:
Only two teams – the Florida Surge and the CFL Vipers – emerged from pool-play unbeaten at 3-0; all four teams in Pool J – Xtreme Baseball Navy, Lakeland Legends of the Batters Box, Broward Nationals and SWFL Prospects Underclass – completed their pool-play games at 1-1-1.
Attatude Baseball has been around for a little more than two years, with a group of coaches starting their players out at the 14u level and playing a year-up the first two years. At this tournament they are a “true” 16u team with eight high school sophomores (class of 2016), four juniors (2015) and one lone young senior (2014).
“It’s kind of coming to fruition and it’s a kind of maturing type of thing,” Attaway said. “It’s a solid squad, and we’ve kept bits and pieces of (the original group) together; we’re all from Piniellas County.”
The players come primarily attend four high schools – Pinellas Park, Seminole, East Lake and Osceola – so opportunities to get together and practice are limited.
“Talent-wise, these guys are pretty good; if they had a better coach who knows where they’d end up,” Attaway said with a laugh before adding, “but it’s all kind of coming together right now.”
Despite the different high schools, there is a lot of familiarity on this squad. In fact, it’s easy to sense a real feel of family inside the dugout.
Attatude Baseball’s tournament contact sheet lists four coaches: Attaway, Tom Tharp, David Griffith and Kevin Coffey. The team’s 14-man roster includes the following players: Bryce Attaway (2016, Largo, Fla.), Ryan Griffith (2016, Seminole, Fla.), Matt Tharp (2016, Seminole, Fla.) and Larry Coffey (2015, Largo, Fla.). Yes, that is four sets of fathers and sons.
The four coaches have known each other for several years through different Little League affiliations, coaching both with and against one another.
“I like coaching period, and actually coaching my son makes it a little more difficult, to be honest with you,” Attaway said. “It’s fun, but there are difficulties that come with coaching your own son.”
All four boys are regular position players and all but Coffey, a catcher, also does some pitching. Through three games, Coffey was among the team’s leading hitters at .444 (4-for-9) with a double and four RBI; Joey Coca (2015, St. Petersburg) led the way at 4-for-8 (.500) with a triple and five run scored.
Coach Attaway said he played high school baseball and played some in military leagues over in Europe when he served in the Army, and began doing some coaching there. He has now coached his two sons, with Bryce being the youngest, and has just kind of gone from there.
“I’m just a grown-up Little League coach,” he said.
The group of “grown-up Little League” coaches have their team in the final-eight in only their second trip to a PG tournament, proving once again it’s never too late to cross that bridge.