This year’s roster includes players from colleges throughout the country.
The Winter Garden Squeeze is quickly approaching the middle of its season, with its next three-game series against Leesburg taking place June 23 to 25.
As of press time Tuesday, June 21, the Squeeze sat at 6-7 for the season.
The Squeeze’s 2022 roster comprises students from universities from all around the country such as Tulane University, the University of South Florida, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and Eastern Florida State College, among others.
The team, just as the others in the area that play in the Florida Collegiate Summer League, offers college players the opportunity to continue playing baseball during their months off school.
“It’s an opportunity to get guys from around the country that you don’t really know,” head coach Mike McDaniel said. “Getting them together and playing for the summer — it’s fun.”
General Manager Adam Bates has been involved with the team since 2004. For him, the best part of the summer league is the community aspect of the games.
“Any time they are playing, kids are watching,” he said.
Prior to the start of the season, most of the guys on the roster had never met one another before.
Isaac Castro, 19, originally from Miami, is a rising sophomore at FAMU majoring in pre-physical therapy who plays middle infield and third base.
“We didn’t know each other that well before,” he said. “Over the days and games we’ve been playing, we’ve become closer and (have) started to build a relationship.”
For Tracy Mitchem, 19, the Warriors baseball field is familiar territory. He is a West Orange High School graduate currently double-majoring in business and computer science at Tulane University. He plays outfield and first base for the team.
“When I was little, my parents had me do everything; basketball, soccer, baseball, but not football,” he said. “I guess baseball is the one (sport) I fell in love with. … I would say, the biggest difference between high school and college (baseball) is the speed of the game. Everything is moving faster, and balls are getting thrown stronger.”
Former Warrior and TNXL graduate Noah Dickerson joined the Squeeze late in the season. Dickerson, 22, is a rising junior at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he is studying finance and completing an MBA. He plays right field for the team.
“I’d played with them two years ago during the COVID-19 years,” he said. “I reached out to coach Mike, and he said that they’d be happy to have me.”
Dickerson was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds out of high school. It’s been three years since his decision to attend college, and this upcoming year at college means he has the opportunity to enter the draft.
“I guess whatever happens, happens,” he said.
Similar to pro ball, the FCSL has games scheduled for almost every day of the week. The difference? No traveling.
Sonny Rao, 19, a rising sophomore at the University of South Florida majoring in finance, plays first base for the team.
“We play more than in college,” he said. “We have a game every day, so you need to figure out when to get your food and your lifts in.”
The team had a few mandatory practices prior to the beginning of the season. However, since the games started, practice times are less strict. Players who want to hit some balls have the option to report to the field starting at 3:30 p.m.
“I want to gets my reps in and have some fun playing baseball, because it’s something I like to do,” Castro said.
For Dalton Robinson, 19, a rising sophomore at Eastern Florida State College majoring in sports medicine, spending his summer days with the Squeeze has provided him the opportunity to return to the pitcher’s mount. Robinson is also has played in the outfield and first base.
“This is my first time back since my senior year in high school,” he said. “Here, you get a variety of pitchers and learn how to work the zone, too. You see slower pitchers to faster pitchers. You get to see everything that expands your view in college and helps you longer in your career.”
As the games unfold, camaraderie has improved and the connection between the players have become more palpable, therefore, improving their communication on the field.
“As we get to know each other better on and off the field, we (also) learn how to communicate with each other better,” Robinson said.
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