All fun and games ... or is it?
After all the plastic eggs are found and the Easter lunch leftovers are packed into the refrigerator, high school hardball players from all over the county will spend their Spring Break at McNair Field for the 2013 East Rutherford Easter Tournament.
"It's always a great tournament," East Rutherford head coach and tournament coordinator Bobby Reynolds said. "Great big schools come and bring great players."
The JV and varsity Cavaliers will be joined by county competitors Chase and R-S Central while the varsity squads from Watauga, Gaston Christian, South Caldwell and Alexander Central all make the trip to Forest City for a week of top-flight high school baseball.
South Carolina's Chester High School was originally slated to play in the tournament but bowed out allowing East Rutherford's JV squad the chance to play some of the area's best teams.
"It'll be very good for my JV team to get to play three varsity teams. What would be bad is if my JV and varsity teams play each other and I coach the JV's and let Coach [Preston] Allen coach the varsity and I beat him," Reynolds joked earlier last week.
The JV Cavaliers face the Watauga Pioneers in the tournament's first game Monday night at 5 p.m. The winner will face the winner of Game 2 that showcases the East Rutherford varsity team (7-4, 1-3 SMAC) against Gaston Christian (4-7, 3-4 Metrolina).
"The best player in the whole thing is probably Watauga pitcher Ryder Jones," Reynolds said. "We'll probably see him if we win and they win because I doubt they'll throw Jones against my JV's. But that's alright, because when it comes time for the playoffs we can't say we haven't seen pitching like that."
On day two, Chase (1-9, 0-5 SMAC) battles 4A South Caldwell (6-3, 5-1 Northwestern) before R-S Central (8-3, 4-2 SMAC) faces Alexander Central (12-1, 7-1 Northwestern).
"It's always a really nice tournament. Some good baseball is going to be played," Hilltoppers head coach Chadd Fowler said. "The biggest thing for us is to get ready for the second half of conference games after the break."
For Chase, this week provides a chance for to find some answers for a struggling team.
"The biggest thing now is for us offensively to figure out a number of positions. As a coach I want someone to grab these spots but it just seems like right now no one wants it," Chase head coach Matt Tipton said. "I've told them all year that there isn't a set starting nine. Right now, looking at the stats, there are some guys always penciled in and others that are a flip of the coin."
Even with all the glaring questions, this week provides a chance for local teams to see some non-conference competition and have fun.
Its a way to improve on some things but also a time to play relaxed. Even though they are non-conference games it's a way to let some other guys get some looks," said Tipton who also appreciates the chance to keep his team busy. "It's especially a good way to keep us from having a whole week off going into the second half of conference games. If you take a week off not doing anything, regardless of if you're having a successful season or not, you need these games to stay in tune with the rest of the season."
R-S Central started the season on an 8-1 run but recently dropped their last two games to Shelby and Burns while being outscored a combined 17-1.
"Lately we haven't been swinging the bats well and hopefully this week we can figure out some things and play well," Fowler said of his struggling team.
Despite the laid back atmosphere of vacation baseball and a week to work out some kinks, every program still wants to earn the right to be called tournament champions.
"Every time we go out we want to win," Fowler said. "We want to win the whole thing by the second half of conference is more important to us right now, but of course we want to win like every other team in it."
"We play every game like a playoff game, all 24 of them," Reynolds added. "We practice and prepare 360 days a year for 24 games so they're all precious to us."
2013 East Rutherford Easter Tournament
Monday, April 1
Game 1: 5:00 East Rutherford JV vs. Watauga
Game 2: 7:30 Gaston Christian vs. East Rutherford
Tuesday, April 2
Game 3: 5:00 South Caldwell vs. Chase
Game 4: 7:30 Alexander Central vs. R-S Central
Wednesday, April 3
Game 5: 1:00 Loser Game 1 vs. Loser Game 2
Game 6: 3:15 Loser Game 3 vs. Loser Game 4
Game 7: 5:30 Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4
Game 8: 7:30 Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2
Thursday, April 4
Game 9: 1:00 Loser Game 5 vs. Loser Game 6
Game 10: 3:15 Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6
Game 11: 5:30 Loser Game 7 vs. Loser Game 8
Game 12: 7:30 Winner Game 7 vs. Winner Game 8