While a junior at Ransom Everglades High School, Dan Otero, now a pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, said one of his best opportunities to prepare for a future with Major League Baseball came from his days with Dave Westberry’s Team Florida Baseball.
“Dave is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet in baseball,” Otero said during a recent telephone interview. “He never wants to take credit for anything but he gives high school players an incredible chance to compete and learn the sport.”
Team Florida was established in 1985 by president and head baseball coach Dave Westberry to assist young players with the college r e c r u i t m e n t process and get them to the next level of play. The n o t – f o r – p r o f i t o r g a n i z a t i o n , Team Florida, is hosting its “First Annual Golf Extravaganza and Poker Tournament” on Saturday, July 7, at Redland Golf and Country Club, 24451 Krome Ave. Registration opens at 11 a.m. and a shotgun start is set for 1 p.m. “We want to reach out to past players and bring them back to the family,” Coach Westberry said about the fundraising event.
“We haven’t seen some of these guys in a while. It’s a great way to find out where they are and what they have been up to while helping the kids.”
Team Florida competes in the American Amateur Baseball Congress (AABC) and Continental Amateur Baseball Association (CABA) by bringing promising young ball players from as far north as Pensacola to the Euclid, OH, CABA High School World Series every July. More than 400 former Team Florida players have gone on to play at the college level and beyond.
Major League Baseball clubs such as the California Angels, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners and Florida Marlins have welcomed alumni players onto their rosters.
“We have had kids graduate from West Point and Harvard and go on to the big leagues,” Westberry said. “Our coaches have all been or currently are high school coaches. I work for the Department of Corrections and we have veteran police officer coaches. We know how to instill values for success on and off the field.”
Otero said Coach Westberry also was a strict disciplinarian and no one got special treatment.
“We learned how to follow instructions and discipline ourselves to be on time and play hard. It didn’t matter who you were; if you didn’t follow the rules, you didn’t play.”
The Golf and Poker Tournament will help raise funds for this summer’s CABA World Series trip.
“The first year we went to Ohio was in 1988 and there were 12 college teams represented,” Westberry said. “This is a national tournament and a showcase tournament. Last year there were 65 college teams watching and this year there may be more.”
Eligible students for Team Florida must have played and passed high school baseball (along with SAT and ACT pre-college exams) and have a potential future in the sport. The Golf and Poker Tournament will help raise money to finance the trip for players from varied socio-economic backgrounds so everyone has a chance to travel and play.
“We have been doing Team Florida for 27 years now and we are getting support from guys who have played in the past,” Westberry said. “Everybody is excited about the tournament; it is something new and we’re trying to get the word out. It’s really ultimately all about the kids saying they had a great time playing, and the parents, too, who I have met over the years and become friends with. The camaraderie is the best reward.”
For more information contact Coach Dave Westberry at 786-258-6184 or Coach Phillip Wisser at 305-283-5277.