The summer of 2009 was the first time Tyler Hesselgesser, Andrew Wilkes, Tyler Helphenstine, and Mike Sinnott met each other. It was also the first time they set foot on the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL to compete in the Wood Bat League. Fast forward a year and the foursome are back at it. They loved the coaches and the competition so much that they all enrolled for another summer of baseball. Beyond that, they became such good friends they decided to room with each other.
When you start talking to theclosegroup of four, two juniors and two seniors, you realize they all have a passion for baseball and the Wood Bat League. They even noticed the improvements IMG has made in the past year. "The facilities improved. They only had two batting cages and now they have twelve. It allows us all to get more repetitions" Wilkes said. They also noticed the coaching improvements this summer. "The coaching staff has always been great here, but this year it has gone to another level. I think their expertise will help us now and into the future when we start looking at colleges."
College thoughts are still relatively far off for the four from Nebraska, Mississippi, Florida, and New York. For now, their concentration is very much on the Wood Bat League. With all four competing for different teams, it makes sharing a room interesting when one team plays another. "Since we are on different teams, there is definitely a friendly rivalry between all of us", Sinnot said. That rivalry was tested when Helphenstine and the Marauders defeated Wilkes and the Conquistadors 5-3. When I asked Wilkes about the loss, he said, "Of course I was a bit annoyed after that loss. I didn't want to talk to Tyler for a little bit. But after an hour or so, we were back to normal hanging out in the room and going to dinner." Although baseball is important to these four, it is clear that friendship will always come first.
Itwas a shame when the summercame to an end last year. All fourhad topart ways and hope to reunite a year later. However, this summer will have a different ending. Sinnott, Helphenstine, and Hesselgesser will all be returning for the full time program in the fall. In fact, they will be roommates once again. Although the four friends will have to wait until next summer to all be together again, having three together for a year is not a bad alternative. I guess they will have to leave some space on the couch in case Andrew Wilkes decides to visit!