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The members of the Monticello Panthers baseball team gather for a photo outside the Cocoa Expo entrance during their recent spring training trip to Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Monticello High School baseball team enjoys recent spring training trip to Florida

Contributed Story
COCOA BEACH, FLA. — April 23, 2010 — Monticello High School’s baseball team returned on Friday, April 2 from a week of baseball in the Sunshine State.
The Panthers traveled to The Cocoa Expo near Orlando, Fla. on Monday, March 29. For the next three days, they played three scrimmages against teams from the Northeast. They are also practiced every day and used the batting tunnel for a third daily workout.
The facility near Cocoa Beach, Fla. has been used as a spring training base by both the Houston Astros and the Florida Marlins. There are seven fields, including a stadium, and teams get the chance to play teams from all over the country.
More than 300 high school and college teams from 26 states are making similar spring break excursions this year to the Cocoa Expo Sports Center, a multi-sport facility housed at the Houston Astros’ former spring training site some 40 miles southeast of Disney World.
“We got more done in five days in Cocoa than in three weeks up north,” said Monticello Coach Mike Marra, who is in his second year as skipper of the Panthers.
Marra has previously taken his 1993 John A. Coleman Catholic High School team to the Cocoa Expo and has also taken advantage of a spring trip while coaching at Kingston High School (Puerto Rico, 1998) and Sullivan County Community College (Myrtle Beach, S.C., 2007, 2008).
“Taking a trip of such magnitude is an incredible team-building experience,” Marra said. “From the flight to and from Florida to the dining hall in which we eat as a team, we note players bonding as teammates and becoming a unified group. They become closer as a unit on the field in the games and off the field in their daily activities.
“As more and more northern teams do in the early season, we headed south to prepare, to build camaraderie, to expand the horizons of the players both individually and as a group, and to assess the team in early season competition,” he continued. “This allows us ample opportunity to better evaluate the players and their abilities in game situations.
“This spring trip is another brick in the foundation of a quality baseball program here at Monticello High School,” Marra added. “Last year, we resurrected the American Legion summer baseball program after being dormant for 60 years.
“This year, we added the spring trip and winter skill development sessions at Pro Prospects [Training Center]. It takes a year’s worth of hard work to be an overnight success; we are building this program brick by brick.”

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