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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
TAMPA - If a team ever reflected the spirit of their coach, it's this year's Robinson baseball team.
Feisty. Aggressive. Loving. Happy.
"What can I say? I absolutely love coaching at this school," Urso said, loudly, as he says just about anything when it comes to baseball. "Looooooooove it."
Then, as always, came the huge grin.
This was Wednesday afternoon in the Robinson baseball fieldhouse, where Urso sat with assistant coaches and players reviewing the previous night's 4-3 victory over favored Dunedin.
He talked about the altercation after the game, in which he said punches were thrown between the teams and players and coaches had to be pulled apart. He said Pinellas County police asked if he wanted to press charges but he delined.
It was time to move on, he said, time to focus on the next contest Friday against Northeast.
"Hey, we're in the second round of regionals," Urso said. "We can't focus on the past. Gotta look forward. Look forward."
That means trying to find every way possible to get as much out of his team as possible. That means Northeast (23-5) should expect lots of base-stealing Knights, who stole no fewer than 20 bases during the Class 5A, District 10 tournament, including 10, with a steal of home, in a 5-3 final loss to Hillsborough.
"Look," Urso said, "we have no choice but to be aggressive. We can't hit so we have to make things happen."
When left-handed ace Steven Evarts is throwing, the level of offensive aggressiveness might lessen just a tad because Evarts keeps the Knights in ballgames.
Cases in point: The 4-3 district semifinal victory over Plant, against whom the Knights (17-10) collected just three hits, two of which were home runs by Eugene Garnett. Then Tuesday night's 4-3 victory over Dunedin (20-8).
In the Dunedin game, Joe Urso, Sal's brother, saw from the stands that a Dunedin runner in the sixth inning didn't touch home plate, a run that would have tied the score at four. Joe told his brother the runner missed the plate and Sal Urso then appealed to the umpire, who took the run off the board.
"That's the Robinson 10th-man factor, baby," Urso said, that huge grin across his face. "We'll try to figure it out any way we can."
KNIGHTS APPEAL: Urso said he is appealing to the Florida High School Athletic Association the ejection of his leftfielder, Shane Scanlon, from Tuesday night's victory over Dunedin.
If the ejection holds up, Scanlon cannot play against Northeast.
Umpires ejected Scanlon after he slid into home plate with his elbows held high to the catcher. Umpires said Scanlon's elbows struck toward Dunedin's catcher.
Urso said Scanlon merely had his elbows raised to defend himself from a possible collision.
"It's perfectly clear from the tape we have that Scanlon wasn't trying to do anything wrong," Urso said. "That tape will be on the FHSAA's doorstep (today) and hopefully it will reverse the decision in time for Friday night's game."