With their first major trip officially in the books, Kingsmen Baseball returns home to South Carolina with a newfound sense of community and perspective. The team, who had only played two games with each other prior to leaving for Alaska, spent the past 10 days living together in Palmer’s Knotty Pines B&B before traveling north to stay at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. While living with each other, it became apparent a group of unfamiliar college kids were becoming a team.
“I think everyone is gelling well. Being in close proximity, you get to know each other pretty well…It’s a cohesive group and we just have fun together,” outfielder Camden Troyer said while reflecting on the team’s time in Alaska.
Troyer has been a consistent force at the plate for the Kingsmen in the early going, leading the team in batting average, steals, and RBIs. While he admits the surreal opportunity to play in such a scenic environment helped him relax and contributed to his on-field production, the rising junior at Liberty noted the off-field spiritual impact of the trip. “Just being around other guys that are believers,” Troyer said, “I feel like I’ve grown there since they encourage me and push me spiritually.”
Spiritual growth has always been the number one goal for Head Coach Joe Hudak, who founded Kingsmen Baseball with this exact purpose in mind. Getting better on the field every day, playing other competitive teams, and experiencing parts of the world one may never have the opportunity to do again are other important features that makes Kingsmen Baseball unique. The one aspect of the team that will always come first, though, is learning what it means to be a Christian as a collective group.
“I think one of the great benefits of the trip is our guys getting to know each other. That’s one of the cool things about this summer and why we do things the way we do it––our guys really get to know each other,” Coach Hudak explained regarding the Kingsmen living together in Alaska and its spiritual benefits. “I think everything that we did from the spiritual aspect was really good for our guys. Like I said before, the big goal coming into the summer was helping our guys understand what it really means to be a Christian.”
Jack Davis, who will be entering his sophomore season at Limestone, remembers a specific part of the Alaskan trip that had a particular effect on him. “The trip was eye opening,” Davis began, “One of my highlighted moments was the bible study at the dining hall of the University where we talked about building your house out of sand or out of rock. It reminded me that at the end of the day, nothing else really matters other than where you stand with God.”
Davis, who has a team leading .636 OBP in seven games, also took time to reflect on the scenic environment he found himself playing the game he loves in. “It was cool to play in Alaska. Sometimes in the middle of the game I’d look up––” the outfielder paused to gather his thoughts, “It was probably the most fun I’ve had playing.”
Catcher Nick Solorzano, the lone West Coast representative on the Kingsmen, had a similar reaction to playing baseball surrounded by the snow capped Alaskan mountains. The El Dorado Hills, California native said, “The first couple days we were in Palmer, the field was beautiful so there was a bit of taking in the environment and you’re just like ‘Wow, we get to play baseball here.’”
Those first two games against the Matsu Miners and Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks couldn’t have gone any better for the Kingsmen. The team moved to 4-0 on the year, beating the Miners 5-3 and the Chinooks 6-1. However, the team’s trip to Fairbanks would not bear the same fruits as the Kingsmen were swept by the Goldpanners in their four-game weekend series. It was a disappointing end to the trip on the field, but there’s plenty to be encouraged about.
“I’m disappointed in the scores and the outcomes, but not disappointed at all in the effort we put in,” Coach Hudak started. “I tell the guys all the time it takes three things to be good: preparation, effort, and execution. Our preparation was good, our effort was exceptional…we just didn’t execute very well.”
That’s the game of baseball. A team can be as prepared as they can be and give the game everything they have, but putting it together for a full game every time is difficult to do. Nevertheless, Coach Hudak views Alaska as a successful team trip.
“The goal of the trip was to play some good baseball, see a part of the country the guys had never seen before, and try to grow spiritually. I think all three of those were accomplished. Our record on the field wasn’t as good as I had hoped overall…but I think if you look at the goals we had coming into the trip, I think all three were met.”
With the Alaska tour officially over, the goals of playing good baseball, growing spiritually, and sharing new experiences at the Matanuska Glacier and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center certainly were met. Now, it’s time to get back to competing for Christ in the Carolinas and prepare for a summer where minds and hearts will continue to change.