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Baseball teams find new spring destinations

Published: Friday, March 28, 2014 10:05 p.m. CDT

Cincinnati, Myrtle Beach, S.C., and western Tennessee loom as spring break destinations for various Chronicle-area baseball teams next week.

Yup, the Sun Belt usually beckons this time of year, although Lincoln Highway is a gateway for some getaway games, too.

Batavia scheduled Kaneland, Willowbrook and Naperville North for neutral-site action at Wheaton College’s Pfund Stadium, whose artificial surface offers a happy medium between tundra and sand.

“I’m telling you, it’s a lot less hassle,” Bulldogs coach Matt Holm said. “I would like to lock in several years down the road, too, just for weather purposes.”

There’s another way of getting around Mother Nature, of course, and it hinges on traveling any which way but north.

St. Charles North, forced to find new plans when its usual tournament in downstate Marion did not align with spring break, is bound for Dyersburg, Tenn. Kaneland, a recent visitor to the St. Louis area, has switched its itinerary to metro Cincinnati, and actually is set to watch the Reds host the Cardinals on Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Two home-grown former Reds, Barry Larkin and Ken Griffey Jr., played at Archbishop Moeller in the Queen City. The Knights face the current Crusaders – back-to-back Ohio Division I state champions and nationally ranked by USA Today – Friday.

“You know what I like to do; I like to go out and schedule as hard as we can, and I think we’ve accomplished that yet again,” Knights coach Brian Aversa said.

Aversa grew up in West Chester, Ohio, outside Cincinnati, and called the iconic King’s Island amusement park “my babysitter down there.” He remained connected to the area after his family relocated to Geneva during Aversa’s freshman year of high school, and recently became a frequent winter caller to Crusaders coach Tim Held.

This time, Aversa reached Held early enough to get the Knights on the schedule.

Opting for a change after last season’s St. Louis trip included a freak snowstorm, Aversa also arranged games against Cincinnati Elder and Dixie Heights in Crestview Hills, Ky.

Past history also drew Burlington Central to its spring break destination. Coach Kyle Nelson coached a college team in Myrtle Beach, S.C., a few years ago, giving him insight into the Cal Ripken Experience and its slate of tournaments.

“We looked for a place that we felt like we’d be able to go there and get some games in, and since it’s all turf, we thought that would be a good match,” Nelson said. “And we can get workouts and practices in outside for something a little different.”

Anything other than jostling with other spring sports teams for gym time and battling cabin fever sounds good to players and coaches.

As Holm attests, you can even escape a few miles down the road – weather permitting.

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