We were on our way to a Florida State League baseball game, braving rush-hour traffic as we headed to Dunedin, when my cell phone rang. The caller ID showed it was a call I wanted to take. It was Colin's coach from the Tampa Bay Jr. Lightning, calling on the day when we'd hear whether he'd make the Squirt A squad for the fall and winter season.
After exchanging greetings, Coach Dave got to the business at hand -- Colin would, indeed, be sticking with the Jr. Lightning, having earned his keep, so to speak, over the course of the 10-game summer season. With 41 kids trying out for 22 to 24 positions over two teams, we were pretty psyched to get the news.
"You can't teach speed and tenacity," Coach Dave told me.
We've enjoyed watching him play this summer, learning from his earliest games against much-better teams that playing hard and engaging the competition would make a big difference. Since he started playing, I've stressed the need for him to skate hard and be active. In fact, Coach Dave related how Colin's name came up in conversations with teammates on the player they'd least want to go up against in one-on-one drills.
That doesn't mean, though, there isn't room for improvement. It's likely that Colin will play more defense than forward in the upcoming season, meaning he'll have to learn a more positional game and become a better heads-up stickhandler. Advice like that will give us something to work on over the summer.
A kick in the grass
Over the years, we've taken Colin to many sporting events, mostly hockey and baseball games and a handful of Nascar races. Later today, we're attending his first pro soccer game as the FC Tampa Bay play the Atlanta Silverbacks at Al Lang Field in downtown St. Petersburg.
Beyond having fun with a loud, vocal group known as Ralph's Mob, I'm hoping Colin draws some parallels from soccer that he can use in hockey -- relentlessness, playing your position, pinpoint passing and rock-solid defense.
For me, it'll bring back memories of watching the Tampa Bay Rowdies during my first tour of duty here in Hockey Bay as well as covering the team during my early days as a sportswriter for the Clearwater Sun.