Winning the Northern Region baseball championship might not have prepared them for conquering the world, but Coach Ron Tugwell and his West Springfield Spartans are away this week broadening their sphere of competition in Florida and the Dominican Republic.
After opening with victories over Madison and Stuart last week, West Springfield packed up for spring break: five days at the Florida Baseball School, which is directed by ex-major league shortstop Bucky Dent, and four days in the Dominican Republic.
"As far as I know, we are the first Fairfax County team to ever go out of the country," said Tugwell, whose team finished 18-8 last season, including a 3-2 loss to James Wood in the Virginia AAA state semifinals.
Tugwell had to go through many channels to arrange the trip, which will cost each player $660 in addition to the $2,000 produced by fund-raising projects.
"The biggest problem was with Haiti, which is part of the same island as the Dominican Republic," said Tugwell. "At the time we were trying to sell this to everyone, Haiti was having all their problems."
Tugwell expects the trip to enhance his team's chances of repeating as regional champion.
"We only have one star, but we have good balance, which is what you really need," said Tugwell.
The star is senior pitcher-outfielder Mark McMillen, a .340 hitter last year who also has a fast ball clocked at more than 80 mph.
For many years, people across America spent winter afternoons watching some of the world's top athletes compete -- and often embarrass themselves -- in sports other than their specialty in the made-for-television "Superstars." Now, those watchers have a chance to be the superstars.
Billed as the "Nation's First Sportsathalon," a group of local businessmen has put together a competition to determine an overall champion, based on 10 of the 12 events offered. Entry fees of $65 per competitor will help supply the $10,000 first prize in the $40,000 total purse.
"I think the market for this type of thing is there," said chief organizer Jeff Potter, who hopes to eventually market his idea for profit into regional competitions and a national event. "We are looking to find the best overall athlete and give everyone a chance to compete for money."
The competition is scheduled for four weekends in June. Competitors must complete their events in one day at the Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Md. The events are a one-mile run, triple jump, shot put (12 pounds), football (pass, punt, kick), hitting golf balls closest to pin, horseshoes, discus, javelin, hitting and throwing a softball, strongman (carrying objects such as buckets of concrete), throwing a baseball for distance and accuracy, and an obstacle course.
Potter's organization will need about 700 entries to break even. It has 150 to date, including individuals from Florida and California. Rob Muzzio, a senior at George Mason University and the NCAA decathlon champion, is entered.
Potter said details are being checked to safeguard the amateur status of any competitor who wins money. Details can be obtained by writing to Sports Promotions Unlimited, P.O. Box 400, Clinton, Md., 20735.