By Tommy Keeler Jr.
Chase Smallwood capped off a busy summer with a well-earned trip to Florida -- a trip that not many get to make.
The Sherando senior catcher took part in the Baseball Factory National World Series at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
"It was fun," Smallwood said in a phone interview Sunday evening. "I learned a lot."
Smallwood said there were roughly 150 players at the camp, which is by invite only. Smallwood said he got a letter in the mail inviting him to the camp during his sophomore year, but elected not to go. After getting another letter this season, he decided to give it a shot.
The camp was held from Aug. 5-9, and is held at McKechnie Stadium in Bradenton, Fla., which is the spring training facility of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The camp consisted of 12 hours of instruction each day, and Smallwood said they played a game each day except the day they arrived.
"I was a little tired, a little worn out," Smallwood said. "You would get up at 7 a.m. and eat breakfast from 7-8. You'd have blisters on your feet and hands from swinging the bat so much, and standing around on the field so much. After dinner, we would go and hit 150 balls, and then it would pretty much be bedtime. There wasn't a lot of downtime."
Smallwood said the players were divided up into different teams, and he played for the Brewers.
He said one of the fields that they played on had Bermuda Grass, which was an inch tall, and Major League dirt.
Smallwood said he was coached by former University of Florida standout Mike Murray.
"I learned a lot from him," Smallwood said of Murray. "He gave me some tips on how to block the plate better."
Smallwood, who helped the Warriors win the Group AA state title last season, said it was also fun meeting and playing with and against other players from around the country. He said that he has kept in touch with players from Indiana, Texas and Nebraska.
While there were no scouts allowed at the camp, Smallwood said that the instructors said they would help out the players with scouts and colleges based on what they saw at the camp.
Smallwood said he has received some interest from Division 1 schools, including Valparaiso University and Virginia Military Institute. Smallwood said Francis Marion University and Shepherd University, coached by former Sherando standout Matt McCarty, have also shown interest.
"It's kind of an eye-opener," Smallwood said of the interest from colleges. "I'm not sure what I want to do in college -- career-wise, so this kind of helps me to see different colleges and what they have to offer."
Smallwood said he's very happy that he made the decision to attend the Baseball Factory camp and help improve his game.
"It was just a great time," Smallwood said. "I got to play a lot of games, and I learned a lot from the coaches that will help me out. It was a fun time."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or email@example.com Follow on Twitter @tkeelernvd