From the first regular season games through the state finals, high school baseball season in Indiana lasts about 12 weeks.
But when Alexandria's Tigers take the field Tuesday night (weather permitting) for the Class 2A state championship game at Victory Field in Indianapolis, it will be the culmination of not just weeks or months, but years of hard work.
It starts in T-ball with tiny tykes learning how to focus on the ball instead of the pretty dandelions around them or those puffy clouds in the sky. Then comes coach's pitch, where the fundamental hand-eye coordination necessary for the difficult task of timing a swing with the arrival of a moving ball begins to develop.
For the kids who love the game, next comes regional travel ball and summer leagues of all sorts. And for those who develop a real devotion to the sport, there are batting, pitching and fielding lessons during the winter and strength training and conditioning programs year round.
By the time varsity-ready players get to high school, they've taken thousands of swings, gloved thousands of ground balls and played in hundreds of games.
The best of the players are ready to adjust to playing against older kids on the high school level, where they face blazing fastballs, knee-buckling curves and tricky sliders and change-ups.
You can bet that Alexandria's players have been through all of these stages and more, that they've worked hard to develop their skills and their athletic abilities. Most have overcome disappointing losses and painful, limiting injuries. And all have learned to take instructions from their coaches, sacrifice for their teammates and deal with the pressure that comes from competing in front of a crowd.
But you can tell from watching these Alexandria Tigers that they still have the little-boy love for the game that the very best Major Leaguers manage to maintain.
The Alexandria players and coaches know they have the chance to do something special today — win the school's first state championship in any sport since 1998.
They should feel confident and well prepared, knowing they've put in the mandatory years of work to position themselves for a state title.
Win or lose, they can take pride in knowing they've earned this opportunity.
Now, go get 'em, Tigers!
What: Class 2A IHSAA state baseball final
Who: Alexandria vs. Southridge
Were: Victory Field, Indianapolis
Time: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday
Tickets: $10, available at Victory Field. All seats general admission.
TV/online: The game will air live on Fox Sports Indiana. ... For those outside the FSI coverage area, live stream coverage will be available at IHSAAtv.org. For those in the FSI area, the stream will be available only on delay after the conclusion of the telecast.
Other baseball state finals games: The Class A and Class 4A finals were to be played Monday evening. The Class 3A final is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.