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The simple approach works for Weimer's Bucs

By JOHN COTEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2001


In one sentence -- one quite remarkable sentence -- Gulf baseball coach Shaun Weimer says:

"I don't want to hear anything about yesterday ... I just want our guys to get a little bit better every game, every day ... if we hit a slump, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. ... We need to take it each day at a time ... we can't worry about the peaks and valleys ... we just have to take care of our business."

With an aww-shucks twang, Weimer fires off cliches like batting practice fastballs.

Though he lists Ridgewood coach Larry Beets among those he has learned the most from and admires, Weimer has not mastered Beets' folksy art of creative expression.

Maybe one day, crossing that bridge will become something Beets-esque, like kicking the raccoon out of the backyard garbage can. And taking things one day at a time will some day become taking the dog for a walk in buttered grits.

(Editor's note: We don't know for sure if Beets ever said those things, which make no sense we realize, but it wouldn't surprise us if he did.)

But for now, the ordinary suits Weimer just fine. He doesn't think those things are cliches, which by definition are trite and overused expressions.

Okay, so maybe they are overused. So what if they are, he says. Weimer believes in them as if they're gospel.

That simple approach is appealing to the county's hottest baseball team. With Weimer and his boys you get nothing fancy. Practice hard, play hard, play together.

Win games.

The Bucs take after their coach, and are winners of five straight heading into tonight's home game against River Ridge. They are in first place in the Sunshine Athletic Conference. They are playing team baseball (cliche), playing their hearts out (cliche) and starting to believe in themselves (cliche).

"I don't think those are cliches," said Weimer, in his first year as the Gulf coach. "It's what we're doing."

Trite? Or just right?

The Bucs are only 6-4, but they were 1-4. Following a loss to Zephyrhills, Weimer laid it on his underachieving, bickering troops. Made them run a sandy, sun-whipped hill behind the baseball field 48 times. Made them play like, well, a team.

"They've known each other all their lives and maybe that's the way they've played together," Weimer said. "But as a new coach I wasn't going to permit a lot of (griping) and negative remarks.

"We lost to Zephyrhills 9-3, and I heard a lot of negative remarks from the bench. There was separation. Players talking about other players. One even remarked on a decision we made on a change in the middle of the game. Another was taken out of the game and had some remarks. So we met to settle our problems in house. We went to the hill and ran it 48 times.

"Things are on more of a positive note now."

Winning will do that. And there really is no explanation for it other than the aforementioned cliches. There have been no sensational performances save for a no-hitter and four consecutive complete games tossed by lefty Joe Dan Fagan.

The Bucs two big bats, Ryan Richards and Paul Krisanda, hit No. 3 and 4 but are both below .200. Only Sidney Gibbs is hitting above .350. Their lineup has some good players, like Dave Pirman and Johnny Wirick, but nothing out of the ordinary.

But the Bucs do the little things (cliche), come up with all the clutch hits (cliche) and are united (cliche).

"You look at Ridgewood and River Ridge and they got two, three or four imposing players, guys that can hit the ball out of ballpark and dominate a game; then you look at our lineup," Weimer said.

In the same breath, he then credits Pirman for ably stepping in for the injured Krisanda, praises the hitting of Nelson Rodriguez and Joey Aldridge and the pitching of Mike Stanzione. No superstars in the group, no Division I scholarship signees.

"We're just playing together," Weimer said. "We have six kids over .300; the team batting average is .250. But we're making clutch plays, getting clutch pitching and one or two clutch hits a game ... then we just strap it in and hang on."

For a program that prior to getting 11 wins last year had averaged six wins its previous six seasons, the mood around the team is cheery. Imagine: players are now asking how come Dunedin (ranked No. 4 in the country) is on Land O'Lakes' and Hudson's schedules and not theirs.

Somewhere on that hill, a team was born. Or made, by a shrewd rookie coach.

"The aura is going around," Weimer said. "The feeling is that we can win the conference, that we can be up there. I didn't see that in the beginning of the year.

"They think they can play with anybody."

Trite? Or right?

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