The Horizon Honors baseball team packed up its equipment bags after a day of hard work on the diamond in preparation for a game the next day.
The schedule states it will be a home game for the Eagles, but in name and last at-bats only.
Horizon Honors doesn’t have a home baseball field so many times they play at the opposition’s field, but get to bat second as the home team.
Sometimes they get to use a practice field at the Tempe Diablo complex or just about any other field administration can schedule.
“We are road warriors, but we are used to it,” junior outfielder/third baseman Bryce Pharr said. “We’d love to have a field to call our own, but we kind of know we have to play more like a team than everyone else because we never have a home game.”
First-year coach Brad Downes knew it was going to be an issue when he took over from Kevin Burdette, but now understands how it can drain a team.
“It poses a lot of challenges,” he said. “We don’t have (batting) cages to work on hitting while doing other drills to make better use of our time. We are always on a portable field, having to carry everything everywhere we go, so we don’t have a chance to use our time more efficiently.
“Of course, we never get the home field advantage for our games. Because we are having to jump around we are learning a new field all of the time while (the opponent) knows the bounces of the field and how the wind affects a fly ball. We are learning it on the fly in most cases.”
It hasn’t stopped the Eagles from winning as they took a 9-5 record heading into Thursday’s game at Combs. The offense has a .342 batting average and on-base percentage of .479 while the team ERA of 3.46 will keep any team in a lot of games.
Sophomore Joe Holguin (.436 average, 23 runs, 14 RBIs, 12 stolen bases), Pharr (.400, 15 RBIs, 13 stolen bases), sophomore Chase Edwards (.394, 21 runs, 16 RBIs) and senior Jack Kenzler (.325, 15 RBIs) have done most of the damage offensively, while sophomore Connor Sorrells (1-1 with a 0.00 ERA in 20 2/3 innings) and Pharr (4-1, 1.73 ERA in 24 1/3 inning) have been the aces on the mound.
“We’ve been up and down, but played really well at times,” Downes said. “We understand what we are trying to achieve with a good group of boys. We are moving upward and trying to take on everything we can and improve.”
Downes said it was difficult getting the 13 players on the roster wasn’t easy, mainly because there is little recognition of the program because the games are not on campus.
“It’s hard to get the boys to come out or they leave and go to one of the very good programs around us,” he said. “We would love to have them stay. We struggled to get the 13 boys we have. Since there is no field on campus people don’t think about it daily.
“We are working hard to make it more of a presence (on campus). We have a new logo, stickers for the parents’ cars and doing what we can.”
The school is planning on building a new parking lot so the idea of an on-campus field, like the softball team has, is far from becoming a reality and hasn’t really been discussed since the inception of the program years ago, according to athletic director Nate Agostini.
It doesn’t keep the players from hoping it is the case one day.
“It would be nice to walk out to our own field sometime,” sophomore corner infielder/pitcher Chase Edwards said. “It can drain a team playing every game somewhere else.”
High school coaches like Desert Vista’s Stan Luketich and Mountain Pointe’s Brandon Buck — and even some college coaches — help build team camaraderie by having the players take care of the field. They manicure the grass, wet the infield dirt, chalk the lines and do everything they can to make their field their home.
“You want to set up a field that shows that this is your place and the pride you have playing there,” Downes said. “The top programs have their own facilities and when you go in there you are aware of it and maybe even fear it.”
The Eagles have never had one so they’ve made the best of the situation, especially all of the time logged on the rides to all of the different locales.
“We have a good time on the ride,” Pharr said. “It’s our time together where we can be together and just hang out before we get focused. It’s the closest thing we have to call our own.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JskodaAFN.