Most high school baseball teams have the benefit of playing their home games on the same property as the school. With its Central Phoenix location too small in size to accommodate a field, the St. Mary’s Knights baseball team does not get that same benefit.
The Knights play their home games at Tempe Diablo Complex, 10 miles away from the school. Most of their games are around rush hour, so the commute can take up to 30 minutes. They also occasionally practice at Eastlake Park, three miles away from campus. For many teams, having this long of a commute would be very problematic, but that does not seem to be the case with this team.
The players and coaches believe playing home games at Tempe Diablo Complex is actually beneficial to the team’s success. They spend lots of time on the team bus together and they’re able to use it to their advantage.
“The biggest impact is it helps us come together,” senior Antonio Flores said.
The quality of the facilities at Tempe Diablo Complex, the site of the Los Angeles Angels spring training and minor league team practices, is also an advantage for the Knights. Most teams do not get the chance to play at a facility as nice as Tempe Diablo.
“We have [the facilities] we need in order to succeed,” coach Michael Nunez said.
Commuting to practices and games is not a huge issue for the team, as the coaching staff prepares the players well with having structured times for warming up, swinging in the batting cages, changing in the locker room and other pregame activities.
Missing class time to leave early for games could be detrimental for these players. Adding this amount of travel time to the commitment of playing a varsity sport leaves the players little time for procrastination. Many nights, they get home from practices or games as late as 9 or 10 p.m. and still have to eat and do their homework before getting up early for school the next day.
“If kids don’t do well with time management then it might have an effect on their studies,” Nunez said.
The players do a great job of managing their time. Flores added that the commute does not affect his school schedule much, as he is able to “adapt.” Freshman Eddie Cotto gets home late and has late nights doing homework but he prioritizes well, avoiding any academic issues.
Nunez believes the location of Tempe Diablo Complex is an adjustment for parents and fans attending games, but they have a good “track record” of fans coming to games. Cotto said the commute does not affect his friends and family attending games. The team has a very committed following and the parents and fans are committed to the program as well.
“St. Mary’s is all about sacrifices,” Flores said. “My friends and family know that and they make the sacrifices to be able to attend my games when they can.”