FARMINGTON — After making a fourth consecutive Connie Mack World Series, Strike Zone Baseball is once again calling upon its wealth of experienced players to help the current team prepare for the upcoming tournament.
Many former Strike Zone players are using part of their summer breaks from college by scrimmaging against the current Strike Zone team as it prepares to open the CMWS on Aug. 2.
The two teams played a pair of games over the weekend to keep the current Strike Zone team ready as it warms up for its CMWS against South Plains Regional winner D-BAT Leach on Friday.
"This coming week is where we really want to start preparing for the D-BAT team," said Strike Zone head coach Adam Morrissey. "You know you're in for a big game that Friday night, so that's what you're preparing for."
The former players are enjoying the chance to come back and compete against their old teammates as the get ready to return to college ball in the fall.
"I always saw myself coming back to play in this scrimmage, but I always kind of wanted to be on the side of the guys playing in the series," said former Strike Zone and Piedra Vista star Shane Woodson, who is currently playing for Campbellsville University in Kentucky. "It is fun coming back and helping these guys out and getting them ready though."
Playing in front of the large crowd at Ricketts Park can be overwhelming the first time, and the former players believe that having fun and keeping their emotions in check are the keys to having success during the series.
"Being in CMWS, there is nothing like it. You can go upper levels of baseball, but this stage fits any (Division I) level with all the people," said three-time CMWS veteran Damion Lovato, who has also helped coach the team in recent years. "You just gotta go up there and have fun and stay focused. You can't let the crowd get you too pumped up because you start doing things different when you are too amped up. Stay with your approach and have fun and learning from the experience. I would tell the guys you can't make it bigger than what it is."
Lovato believes the key to the series is playing with confidence.
"If you go into it without condience and see Midland across the field and think how good they are and how many times they have won it and everything like that, you can't think that way," he said. "You have to know you are there to compete and play and that any given day you can win that game."
Five current players -- Danny Rowley, Connor Dugan, Matt Huffhines, Ian Doughty and Clay Miller -- have been on past CMWS rosters and Morrissey has seen them pass along their experiences to the newcomers.
"The way we're going into it, it's about controlling your emotions that night," Morrissey said. "But it's tough when you're playing in front of about 6,000 people from your home town."
For the former players that don't have a tournament to look forward to this week, the scrimmages provide a chance to get some at bats against good pitching before they return to college. It is also a chance to reminisce with their old pals.
"The last time we played together was the last game we played in Connie Mack together," Woodson said. "To come back and play with these guys and some of the older guys like Eli Freese and Damion Lovato, it is a lot of fun and brings back memories."
After the two sides faced each other in a two-game series before the city tournament and split the two games, there were bragging rights on the line during Friday and Saturday night's contests.
"We don't want to lose," Lovato said. "They may call us washed up, but some of us are still playing college ball so we still have it."
Joshua Perry can be reached at 505-564-4577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jperrysuu. John Livingston can be reached at 505-564-4648 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.