If the Venice baseball team got caught up in its own success, who could blame them?
The Indians have won six state championships — five in the past eight years — and have continuously had their athletes sign with top colleges across the nation.
But for anyone at the team’s annual banquet on Thursday night at the Venice Yacht Club, it was clear that the success hasn’t gone to their heads.
In fact, Venice’s run at back-to-back state championships may have brought out what made the Indians special in the first place — true teamwork.
As cheesy as the idea of teamwork can be — “Teamwork makes the dream work” — it really is the engine that drives Venice baseball.
Venice coach Craig Faulkner presented the awards at Thursday’s banquet, and they couldn’t have been more fitting to the team’s theme. Each player received an award for “Most Valuable Teammate” to illustrate what got Venice to this spot in the first place.
Though the Indians are loaded with top-tier talent year-in and year-out, what really makes Venice thrive is the buy-in from every single player on the roster.
There may be no better examples of this than brothers Bradley and Connor Miller. The Miller twins watched their older brother Ryan ascend through the ranks of Venice baseball and learned what it takes to be an Indian as he won a state title and went to play college baseball.
However, the Millers probably didn’t get as much playing time as they would’ve liked this season — Bradley had 40 plate appearance and Connor had 25. Despite this, they never forgot how to be good teammates. From catching bullpens, to serving as a defensive replacement, or even waiting at the ready to drop down a sacrifice bunt, Bradley and Connor did it all with a smile on their faces.
All of this is a big reason why they were each awarded a scholarship from the Venice baseball booster club at Thursday’s banquet.
But it wasn’t just the Millers who were good teammates this year.
Bench players Ryan Marti, Jack Curcio, Hunter Szewczyk, David Morgan, Dillon Pisano and Sam Ottman all saw minimal playing time this year, but each contributed in a meaningful way.
At other high schools, it would’ve been understandable for players of their caliber to sulk or complain. In some cases, some would have even considered transferring schools.
Of course none of the Indians success would have been possible without their star players and regular starters.
Teams need quality talent to win games.
On the other hand, it’s also very likely that Venice’s “forgotten” players playing their part was the difference in a state championship or coming home empty-handed.
Connor Miller drew a walk and scored an essential run in the state semifinals game. Bradley Miller played a little defense, and kept the pitchers warmed up. Curcio drove in the winning run of the state semifinals game as a pinch hitter in extra innings. Morgan was warming up in the bullpen in the state championship in case he was needed. And finally, Szewczyk scored the winning run of the state championship game.
Not everyone can be the star, but on the Venice baseball team, you don’t need to be a star to feel valued.