Aspiring young softball and baseball players received top notch training from Bridge City Cardinal and Lady Cardinal players and coaches Saturday. Almost 150 youngsters ages 4-12 converged on the Bridge City baseball and softball complex for the annual Cardinal Athletic Booster Club’s baseball and softball clinic.

Barbecue dinners were sold and stacks of Cardinal and Lady Cardinal fan wear dwindled to small bundles. The event raised $3700 for the CABC. Under blue skies on a warm day perfect for the event local little leaguers rotated from station to station and came face to face with some of their heroes and mentors for two hours of basic training.

Last year the event was rained out and it is generally seasonably cool during the annual clinic but not this year. Lessons is nearly every aspect of the game was introduced. For the youngsters it was just part of the fun of being little leaguers. Older players spent much of the clinic at the bating cages. Most of the participants came from Bridge City and Orangefield but the event was open to all youngster from throughout the area.

Cardinal head baseball coach Billy Bryant directed the boys squads as the youngsters came face to face with returning standouts from last season’s Region III Semi-Final Championship team. In 2007 the Cardinal blasted through Region III in a season that ended in the final inning of the final game in the regional finals against eventual Class-3A State Champion the Jasper Bulldogs.  The little leaguers stood in the shadow of some of their admired Cardinals.

On the softball field, Lady Cardinal head coach Sophia Mount helped the girls through drills designed to improve skills and give them a jump on the 2008 BCLL season. No surprise, Lady Cardinal Shandi Conner gave pitching instructions and the Angelle sisters, Lauren and Jenna, taught fielding grounders and making the throw. Mallory Guidry, the bunt. Emily Navarro, outfield.

In her second year as head coach, Sophia Mount led the 2007 Lady Cardinals to the Dist. 21-3A crown and as always her squad is under pressure to continue bringing home the championship, and then some. On this day, Coach Mount was training-up future Lady Cardinals with the help of her team. When the Lady Cardinals take the field for their Dist. 21-3A season opener on Feb. 26 hosting Hardin-Jefferson they will be cranking up a season that goes into play with a staggering 75 consecutive district wins. The little league softball gang was thrilled.

Maybe there is a “trickle-up” theory at work in Bridge City like the “Little Dribbler” program has done for Orangefield basketball.

CABC member and former member of the board, Charles Warner, thinks so, “The Bridge City Little League is one of the reasons we have had such successful baseball and softball programs over the span of so many years. By the time these youngsters reach high school they have a good foundation for the game. “

Warner, who has dedicated much of his life involved supporting Cardinal athletics, coached for many years in the BCLL program and served as board member.  His son, Chas, was a key player at first base for the 2007 Cardinals that stunned Region III defeating the state’s No. 1 Ranked Carthage in a best of three semifinal series and almost upset Jasper in the regional final dragging them out in three games as well. Even with the loss of Warner, Johnny Dishon, Troy Bolton and pitchers Jeff Stringer and Phillip Meeks, the Cardinals return a roster of young talent and key veterans as well.

Sophomores Matt Hicks and Joseph Robertson are no strangers to playoff pressure and senior Casey Jackson is back behind the plate. In his fourth year in the Cardinal lineup Jackson had already been in two UIL Class 3A State Championships Tournaments under Coach Bryant before his 16th birthday. Last season he almost went back. His returning teammates, slugger Jadon Dillon,  pitcher Jason Clark, Dustin Breaux, Anthony Cessac and Blake Hubbard were among the Cardinals ‘pitching in’ on behalf of the next generation of baseball players during the annual clinic.

Warner admits though that there is more to it than just training young. “Good coaching and talent has alot to do with it too,” he says.

That is two factors that will make for exciting diamond action in Cardinal Land this season. Coach Bryant begins his 5th year with a record of 121-25-3, 28-8-1 last season, and he is known to field his best talent. Under Coach Mount the Lady Cardinals marched through Dist. 21-3A undefeated for the championship in 2007 in a season that ended in the area round of the playoffs. They are missing powerhouse Christina Jaques, but returning most of the team.

The Cardinals capped off the CABC clinic Saturday with a scrimmage against Beaumont Ozen. The team began the early season scrimmage rounds against Buna last week. Monday they host Liberty and Saturday travel to Lumberton for a 1 p.m. contest. The Cardinals will open season play in the Lumberton Tournament, Feb. 21-23. Dist 21-3A action begins on the road March 4 against the Silsbee Tigers. The Cardinals will  host the annual CABC Tournament, March 6-8.

The Lady Cardinals have been in scrimmage mode as well hosting Beaumont Kelly this Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Coach Mount has planned a busy schedule for the Lady Cardinals  who will enter the LaPorte Softball Tournament, Feb. 14-16, and host the Nederland Lady Bulldogs Feb. 19. The Lady Cardinals will travel to the Pasadena Tournament, Feb. 21-23. The Lady Cardinals host Hardin-Jefferson for their Dist. 21-3A season opener on Feb. 26.

Coach Bryant is assisted by coaches Elmer Laird and Chris Moore. Lady Cardinal assistant coaches are George Navarro and Alan Asworth.

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