The forecast for next week in Tennessee is sunny with temperatures in the 50s.
Not exactly beach conditions, but by Northwest Indiana standards for late March, it's downright tropical.
Rather than deal with Mother Nature and her fickle ways, Portage coach Tim Pirowski has opted to do what the birds do each winter.
"I was talking to (Jeff) Sandor from Lake Central -- they were throwing some things around, trying to get down South -- and saying how nice it would be to go somewhere for a tournament," Pirowski said.
Pirowski began checking on the web for a warm place to go for games and found an event hosted by Chattanooga Central. He contacted Pounders coach Glen Carter, who held the Indians a spot in the 16-team field. Pirowski got the thumbs up from the athletic department and central office, which didn't have any reason to oppose it, considering the baseball program was footing the entire bill, which comes in at around $8,000.
The expenses are being covered by money raised from a winter baseball camp and an electronic coupon book the players are selling. The largest chunk of money will pay for a charter bus complete with a bathroom, flat screen TV and Wi-Fi.
"They were going to give us the little buses for free, but we wanted to go in style, make it as comfortable as possible," Pirowski said. "It's a long ride."
IHSAA rules allow a team to travel 300 miles from any border of its state. The site is 287 miles from the southernmost tip of Indiana. Portage will play in a minimum of four games over three days, beginning Thursday.
"Ever since we found out it was a possibility, we've all been really looking forward to it," senior Eric Mesarch said. "It's going to be a unique experience. It's the first time any of us will have been out of state for high school baseball and there are some guys who have never been out of state for anything baseball related. It's going to make us a better team and chemistry-wise, we're going to work together a lot better after getting to know each other."
Most of the teams are from the Volunteer State, but the field includes teams from Vero Beach, Fla. and Huntsville, Ala. Other than Lafayette Jefferson, most of the teams started their season a few weeks ago.
"The advantage is we're hoping to play some good teams down there, to see what we're made of," Pirowski said. "The main thing with being able to do this is building some team chemistry, being with each other. We want them to have fun, but this is a business trip. Believe me, they've been warned."
While Mesarch has played travel baseball for several years, not every teammate has done that, so Pirowski doesn't minimize the significance of the trip from that standpoint.
"A lot of our guys don't play high competitive travel ball like some other schools do," he said. "It's an opportunity for them to actually experience hotels, be out with the guys. It's a life experience, something I think they're going to remember a long time."
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