Monday, August 25, 2008

Verona Home Talent is a family affair

MARSHALL – The Verona Cavaliers lost the opening game of the Home Talent League championship series round robin due to a Sun Prairie walk-off homerun, but all is not lost. If they keep focused on what got them to the “Final Four,” there’s still hope.

What got them as far as they did was some family-oriented baseball.

Manager Dale Burgenske has two offspring that are starters on the Verona nine. Son Derek was the team’s starting centerfielder on Sunday while his brother David was right by his side over in leftfield.

But that’s not all. First base coach Dan Prochaska’s son Derek was behind the plate catching for the Cavaliers.

“It's not just me being his son,” said Derek. “He looks after everybody else on the team. He and Dale are dads for everybody. It's just nice having that family aspect of it.”

Even if none of the other players have brothers on the team, they can at least feel like they do. That’s been one of the key ingredients in Verona’s recipe for success.

“I think it relaxes the kids a little bit knowing that they're not just being watched by strangers,” said Dan Prochaska. “They can relax a little and feel comfortable out there knowing that they have support behind them, not just the players, but family support.”

The family aspect has gotten Verona a long way. They rode into the game against Sun Prairie on a seven game winning streak, they had the best record in the Western section during the regular season, and they’ve made the championship series in six out of the past eight years.

In fact, Dale Burgenske has a 94-17 record in the regular season since 2002. It’s fair to say that Verona has been one of the league’s most dominant teams during his tenure. And according to Burgenske, the family-like bond is part of the reason they’ve seen so much success.

“You've got to get that camaraderie,” said Dale Burgenske. “You play on Thursdays, you play on Sundays, and sometimes it's the camaraderie that gets you the five or six extra wins, or it gets you into the ‘Final Four.’ So we have a great time. It is kind of a family thing here, and we enjoy that part of it too.”

In the storied eighty year history of the Home Talent League, Verona has never been able to win it all. They just haven’t been able to get over the hump, but this could be the year that changes that trend.

Thanks to the league’s unique round robin format, no team is eliminated from contention after the first round of play. And no team has the championship wrapped up for that matter either.

“No one's ever out of it,” said Dale Burgenske. “Everybody always wants to win that first game, because all then all they got to do hopefully is split the rest of the way out, and they still got a chance to be in the sudden death playoff. But yeah, our backs are against the wall now.”

Their backs may be against the wall, but with the family-like feel the Verona team has, at least the players know that somebody’s got their back.

Next weekend’s Home Talent League road trip: Sun Prairie at Utica in the second round of the championship series round robin on Sunday August 31 at 1:00.

Photo caption: Verona's Derek Prochaska waits to receive a warm up pitch in the opening game of the "Final Four."
Photo credit: Brian Carriveau

No comments: