The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

The student news site of Brookline High School

The Cypress

Bandits baseball prepares athletes for high school

The Bandits is a middle school baseball program that aims to develop athletes.

Middle school baseball players warm up for practice early in the day, throwing the ball back and forth across the Warren Field diamond. Coaches stand by, ready to assist when needed. Teammates, some of whom have known each other for years, encourage each other as they develop together.

Brookline has had a middle school baseball program, known as the Brookline Bandits, focused on developing all aspects of its players’ game. The Bandits coaching staff works on creating well-rounded players who can adapt to the mental and physical challenges of baseball.

Coordinator of the Bandits, John Bucci, said part of the difficulty in moving up through the grades as a baseball player is the change in the size of the field and diamond.

“When they’re in 6th grade, they finally feel like they’re big enough for the field. They’re dominating sometimes on the smaller guys,” Bucci said. “And then they get the big diamond. And it’s a whole new world for them because the field is so big, and they can’t hit the ball anywhere near the fence.”

Matthew Meshel, a 7th-grade member of the Bandits team, said the change in bat size poses a challenge as well.

“Usually on the smaller diamond you can use a lighter bat. But then when you get to the big field you have to use a drop-three bat. That’s also a big factor,” Meshel said.

Bryce Hellendrug, another 7th-grade member of the Bandits, said because of the transition to a larger bat and diamond, Bucci and the Bandits coaches tend to be more forgiving of mistakes made earlier in the year.

“He starts off the practices early, so we get a lot of opportunities to play on the big diamond just to transition,” Hellendrug said. “He doesn’t really care if we miss a few throws earlier in the season because he knows that we’re going to be playing a lot, and we’re going to have a lot of time to get used to it.”

According to Bucci, the Bandits develop middle school players by stressing the mental aspects of the game, which become increasingly more challenging as players continue to develop.

“There’s going to be lots of failure along the way. But if they can keep themselves focused, and hustling and working hard, that mental side of it is the difference between the kids who kind of get over the hump and get to the next level and those who either continue to struggle or give up on the game,” Bucci said.

Hellendrung said to achieve mental preparation, the Bandits program does a lot of practice of real in-game situations.

“We do a lot of workouts about certain situations in the game and what to do if they happen. He just drills it into our heads, like what we need to do if something comes up,” said Hellendrung.

According to Bucci, the Bandits have developed a strong community because, rather than taking players from different towns, all Bandits come from Brookline.

“Sometimes the kids on the team only know each other as well as they can get to know each other when they show up for their game to practice. But they can be otherwise strangers to each other. When it’s all Brookline kids, these kids have known each other before they ever joined the Bandits,” Bucci said.

Meshel said the Bandits program has provided him with a good community for developing his game.

“It’s definitely a community welcoming to all players, no matter how good or how you started. All the coaches are just there to give you tips and improve the game,” said Meshel.

Bucci said he believes the community makes the program successful since learning to make choices with the team in mind is critical for players as they develop.

“Every decision you make has to be a team-first decision; it can’t be something that you’re doing selfishly, for yourself,” said Bucci. “And that helps to reinforce the idea of community because you’re all in this together. And when you make a decision, it has to be with the team in mind.”

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