SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – With book bags full of school supplies now tucked away until the fall, cheers were plentiful at this weekend’s Schools Out baseball and softball tournaments at Carrier Park.
Put on in conjunction with the Sports Zone Academy and Salt City Sports, the tournament had parents excited to watch their kids make the most of their summer.
“We all love softball,” parent Bethany Crocker said. “So it’s fun to watch them succeed at something that they love doing too.”
Officially starting in 1995, the Sports Zone Academy was formed by Dick Woodridge, a former star baseball player at Syracuse University before he was drafted by the San Diego Padres.
Starting off by mainly training pitchers, the program quickly grew to train players in all positions. Now including hundreds of not just baseball players, but softball players as well, the sport was added full-time around five years ago.
Earlier this year, the program made a big move and acquired Carrier Park, making it the new home for all of their tournaments. For Chris Cafalone, the assistant manager of the park and baseball coach for the academy, this only opens the floodgates for what’s possible.
“With us being able to have this facility, Carrier Park, right down the road from our facility which is in East Syracuse, the sky is the limit,” Cafalone said.
Tournaments like these and other sports are often what keeps kids busy during the summer months when there is no school. But Sports Zone Academy isn’t just focused on keeping kids from being bored, as they emphasize building their athletic abilities as well.
“If they have the opportunity after college to go ahead and play pro baseball, that’s even the best,” Cafalone explained. “But to give our kids an opportunity to excel at either baseball or softball and to go ahead and play at the next level, and for us that’s college.”
What’s next for the academy? The program isn’t hesitating at all, quickly planning new additions to the complex they just acquired.
“We are in the process of building two, 90-foot, lighted baseball fields,” Cafalone said.
But the new fields aren’t what keep Cafalone and the many others involved with the Sports Zone Academy coming back, as it takes time to see his favorite part of the academy.
“But to see the development of the players, whether it’s baseball or softball, and have them develop in to a better, not only person but a better ball player as well,” Cafalone explained.
The next youth tournament taking place in Syracuse will be the Salt City Fireworks Invitational, featuring both baseball and softball action on July 2-3. For more information, head to saltcitysports.org.