A brand new baseball season is here and the Palmetto High School Panthers will begin it with the annual Blue and White Game on Feb. 2. The scrimmage, which combines the varsity, junior varsity and under-16 players, is free to the public and starts at 11 a.m. at Coral Reef Park.
“We are very excited about this upcoming season and the Blue and White Game is a great way to begin it,” says Martha Levey, the parent of one of the team members and the event chair. “The Palmetto spirit will permeate throughout the day.”
The festivities will include Palmetto’s marching band, the school mascot, color guard, cheerleaders and the competitive dance team, the Chatonettes. Various Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay dignitaries, Palmetto school administrators and staff also will be in attendance. New World School of the Arts senior musical theater student Lauren Teller will open the day’s festivities by singing the national anthem.
As the smell of delicious barbeque wafts across the field and after the fans have taken their seats, a special surprise guest will throw out the first pitch.
“Without using a name, I can tell you that the honoree is very near and dear to the Palmetto baseball family,” says Panthers head coach Danny Smith. “If anyone is familiar with the history of the program, we would invite them to come out and be part of this celebration.” Coach Smith, who is also an active Coral Gables police officer, has been involved with Palmetto baseball for 12 years. Earlier, he was a University of Miami Hurricanes baseball star and was the 1982 College World Series most valuable player.
“I coach the high school players as if they are at the college level, with intensity and a demand for perfection, just as I was coached in my years,” he says. “Our goal as a coaching staff is to prepare each player for the next level, whether it is attending college or playing professional baseball.”
The former UM player understands the complexities of coaching high school baseball players and over the years he has fine tuned his methods to get the best results from his team.
“What makes a great coach is realizing that you are no longer a player, and when you can identify that part of the game, you become better,” he says. “I continue to coach out of love and respect for the game, and also because of the satisfaction of watching a player that wants to play grow as a player and succeed at the next level.”
Palmetto’s two main teams are looking at a busy season this year. The seniors have 22 games ahead of them and the Junior Varsity team will play 19 games. It all begins with the Blue and White Game on Feb. 2.