Bonding over Ball: Hayfield baseball team, family makes the trip to Florida to get on the diamond

Published 7:01 am Saturday, May 18, 2019

When the Hayfield baseball team was set to make its trip down south for its own version of spring training, Hayfield resident James Tempel was content to stay in Minnesota while his son Joey enjoyed baseball and bonding with teammates under the warm Florida sun.

Then James realized he had never missed one of Joey’s games. That’s when he took it on himself to pack up his car with his wife, his daughter and her boyfriend and make the 46-hour round trip to Merritt Island, which is near Cocoa Beach, Florida.

“I didn’t know if I could tolerate not going (and watching the games),” James said. “We decided against buying last minute plane tickets, and we decided we would drive down there and save the money. It worked out pretty well.”

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James said his family made the trip by taking shifts at the wheel. The only stops were for gas, food and stretching.

Joey Tempel during an at-bat while the Vikings were playing in Florida last month. Photo provided by James Tempel

“It was definitely a bonding experience. We’re a pretty tight family anyway and spending a lot of time in the car together was a lot of good conversations and a good time,” James said. “The way down it was fog all the way through Iowa and being a Minnesotan, I don’t mind not seeing Iowa, but there was a lot of rain in Missouri and Kentucky. On the way back we ran into a lot of traffic and it took us four hours to get out of Florida.”

Joey, who flew in with the team and has made baseball trips to Arizona, Las Vegas and Utah with the Blizzard, a club baseball team in the Twin Cities, said the trip was memorable because it was with his high school teammates.

“It was a great bonding moment for the whole team. It wasn’t all baseball and it was really fun,” Joey said. “We were always with each other and we were always doing stuff together. We never did anything separate. We always went to the beach together and always went to the pool together. It was real fun.”

Joey, a sophomore, is on the team with his cousin Isaiah, who is also a sophomore. James has coached that group of players with his brother Ben since they were third and fourth graders. Following his son and nephew through baseball over the years has been a great experience for James.

James and Tina Tempel enjoying some food at Molly’s Seafood Shack in Merritt Island, Florida. Photo provided by James Tempel

“We’ve been working with these boys and trying to develop them for years and I think the hard work is paying off,” James said. “Going down south is huge for development. There aren’t too many teams up here that are getting any outdoor time before the season. We were playing teams from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was really cool for a high school team to be able to do that.”

James said the Hayfield players learned a lot from watching the New Jersey teams that featured Dominican and Cuban players on their rosters. He said their joy for the game was clear by the high level of play and chanting from the dugout.

“It was neat for our boys to see how they communicated and how they played ball,” James said. “They’re very skilled, very well coached and they’re very into baseball.”

While the Hayfield kids were able to get a lot of baseball in during a time when most Minnesota teams are in the gym practicing, the memories they built will also last. The team did everything together, including going out to eat and going to the beach, over a stretch of six days.

“Building the relationships and the camaraderie is huge for them. I think it’s a big thing for them,” James said. “I think it was a fantastic bonding experience for all of them.”

The Hayfield baseball team enjoys some time on the Florida beach during a trip down south for some early season time on the diamond. Left, the team during their trip to play spring ball in Florida. Photo provided by Kasey Krekling

This story found in the latest edition of Austin Living Magazine.