PHILIPSBURG — If you are ever looking for Nick Coudriet, chances are he — and his family — can be found at the ballfield.
Coudriet, a sophomore pitcher for Philipsburg-Osceola, has had the chance to play with the Curve Juniors for the last three years.
The Curve Juniors organization is possible through a cooperative effort with the Altoona Curve, the AA affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and is a player development program for players age 13 to 18 with a travel ball team.
Coudriet found out about the team through former P-O teammates Isaiah Dixon and Quinton Moslak.
The P-O hurler attended the tryout and was picked by Coach Dave Brisbin, a Tyrone native.
“We hit and did fielding drills in the batting cages at the Altoona Curve field during the winter and spring,” Coudriet said.
“Coach Brisbin then evaluated the kids and determined whom he wanted to have on his team for the summer.”
Coudriet made the cut and played on both the summer and fall leagues until this past fall when it conflicted with high school football practices.
But those summers are something Coudriet and his family won’t forget.
“At one point Nick was on three different ball teams, but in the summer travel ball took precedence,” said Nick’s mom Karla.
“Between (my husband) Tim, me and my parents we shared duties taking him to practice in Bellwood.
“Some weekends were difficult and were divide and conquer, like Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July weekend, etc. Most weekends in the summer were spent at the ball field.”
The Curve Juniors had two rosters, but if the team was short kids, then other kids were asked to fill in. Most of the team’s tournaments were in Lancaster, Palmyra and Bradford.
Coudriet got lots of experience playing for the team too. He played every position but catcher during his three years with the team. His main positions were second base, shortstop and, of course, pitcher.
The team is a lot of commitment and not for the faint of heart. Coudriet attended fielding workouts on Tuesday, then intersquad scrimmages and bullpen sessions on Thursdays. The team would leave Friday night for a tournament. Saturdays were two games for seeding and then the team would play their actual tournament games on Sunday.
“We made it work because we knew Nick loved playing for this team,” Karla said.
The extra work paid off as Coudriet was called up to varsity last season as a freshman. He finished the season 1-0 with a 2.17 ERA.
“It has helped me become a leader and do everything to the best of my ability,” Coudriet said. “One of the main things my coach always said was “slow the game down”. That’s helped me a lot. When I’m pitching and get into a jam, I step off the mound take a deep breath and ‘slow the game down.’
“It has also helped with me hitting because you don’t just go up there and swing a bat. He helped us create a mental approach to hitting that I use in every single at bat.
Coudriet said his favorite memory of playing for the team was when they traveled to Georgia to play in the Perfect Game Tournament. He has made a lot friends through the experience as well.
“I’ve met many amazing teammates that I will always talk to,” he said. “They are some of my best friends that I will talk to for many years. My mom and dad have also made a ton of friends outside our school district.”
Coudriet isn’t all about baseball either. The sophomore recently finished up with wrestling season. He also loves being outdoors.
Still baseball is the one sport that’s in his heart.
He continues to try and get better at the sport, working with former Mountie baseball standout Luke Curtis, who played at Pitt.
“Luke Curtis has helped me in many amazing ways,” said Coudriet. “He not only helped me with my pitching, but he also taught me how to become a role model and a leader. He is one of my biggest role models and I look up to him in everything that he does.
“He showed me what it meant to give back to the community. He went through the Mountie program. And his way to give back, was by helping the youth get better so they could travel through the program.
“Coach Brisbin, with the Curve Jr. Program has also taught me many other things about baseball. He helped me with my fielding and hitting. He also helped me with the way baseball should be played.
“You should run on and off the field no matter what and never throw a fit if things don’t go your way. He taught us to not only be good ball players but also class acts. We shook the umpires hands after the game and we never ate food in a restaurant with our hats on. And I’ll always remember these “hidden rules” even when my baseball career is over.
“Coach (Doug) Sankey, Coach (Jimmy) Soltis, and Coach Brisbin taught me that small ball is a major part in baseball games. You don’t always have to hit a home run. Sometimes you have to lay down a bunt so you can squeeze the guy in from third to win the game.”
Coudriet said he would also encourage kids to get outside of their comfort zone and join a program like the Curve Juniors.
“It pushes you hard but you’ll see a major difference in your ability from your first year to your second,” he said. “And then you will keep on improving.
“The coaches are all great and they will teach you not only to be a great baseball player but also a role model, leader and a class act.”
Karla said the other players and their families became their family and that they still talk on a weekly basis.
“I would give parents the advice that if their kid loves baseball, then let them join a travel team,” she said. “It was a great experience and will never be forgotten.”
For more information on the Curve Juniors program, you can visit www.curvejuniors.com.