Chris Rotolo knew he needed to do something to restore the enjoyment of baseball into his York Suburban High School team.
The program entered 2015 mired in a streak of five straight losing seasons. So, Rotolo did what any good coach would do and took his players all the way back to a time in their lives when the basics of baseball were all that mattered. To a time when the most important things were putting on a uniform, going out to the field and hitting and fielding the ball. When even the final score truly didn't matter.
"We gave them a picture of a tee-ball team and said to them: 'You remember when you were playing and how fun it was,'" Rotolo said. "We're just trying to get back to that."
So far, it's working.
Fast start: The Trojans are off to a 4-0 start and are one of four undefeated teams remaining out of the 22 in the York-Adams League. Perhaps more impressively, however, is how Suburban has gone about attaining its perfect mark.
Through the team's first four games, it's outscored opponents by a 27-1 margin, including three straight shutouts. If the Trojans' recent string of losing seasons made them a team to overlook entering this spring, then their near-perfect start to this year quickly has them back on everyone's radar.
But, there isn't some special formula to the way Rotolo's team is going about its business. Sure, the pitching staff's one earned run in four games is the stat that stands out, but the defense behind the pitching staff hasn't let them down when the ball is put in play. Equally as impressive as the team's one earned run allowed is the fact that the team has also only committed one error on the season.
"I think the biggest thing has been playing defense behind (the pitchers)," Rotolo said. "We've been fortunate, knock on wood, we've made the routine plays and that's what we tell the players. Good teams make every play, and if you make a great one every now and then, it's just a bonus."
Then, at least by Rotolo's standards, Suburban is one of those good teams. But, the process in getting to that point wasn't necessarily an easy one.
Winner's mentality: The Trojans are showing that — despite a 27-61 overall record over the past five seasons — they've had the on-field talent to win some games. But, they've struggled in recent years with the mental aspect of the game and believing that they could win.
Shaking that loser's mentality and learning how to win isn't the easiest thing to do, especially when dealing with juniors and seniors — who make up the majority of the roster — who've been through the recent string of down years.
The belief was there with the coaching staff that this team could be much better than it has been. It was just a matter of getting the players to believe in themselves.
"I think they understand what they're capable of," Rotolo said. "As a coaching staff, we've always felt that they could do more. ... They're off to a good start and we hope it continues that way."
Suburban's mentality is completely different from years past. Not only does the team seem to believe in itself again, but it's taken on more of a winner's mentality.
Even with such a one-sided scoring margin in the team's favor, not all of the Trojans' wins came easily. After thrashing Hanover 14-1 in its season opener and then dispatching York Tech 7-0 in its second game, Suburban's last two wins have each been by 3-0 scores over Susquehannock and Bermudian Springs. This seems to be a team that is finding ways to win, rather than the opposite, and that is something the Trojans can be optimistic about for the rest of the season.
Sometimes all you need is a simple reminder of how much fun the game of baseball can be. A picture of the game being played at its lowest level can restore that passion for the game. And when that enjoyment is back, winning will often promptly follow.
And there's nothing more fun than winning.
"They want to come play and have fun," Rotolo said. "And that's what we really talked about."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com.