Florida baseball coach's tweet to rival is a how-to in sportsmanship

Photo: Hobie Hiler/Special to TCPalm

Florida baseball coach's tweet to rival is a how-to in sportsmanship

Baseball

Florida baseball coach's tweet to rival is a how-to in sportsmanship

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As a sports reporter, scrolling through my Twitter feed usually means looking at a predictable collection of highlights, scholarship offers and teenage athletes proclaiming their own greatness.

Occasionally though, a tweet makes me pause.

Typically, it’s because I question what (or if) they were thinking when they sent the tweet. But then there’s the other kind of special tweet. The good kind.

Like the one Treasure Coast (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) baseball coach — and athletic director in-waiting — Mike Sindone sent from the Titans baseball account to Vero Beach (Fla.)’s baseball account at 12:06 a.m. on Thursday morning.

“Heck of a run, heads high fellas. @baseball_vero,” the tweet read. It was a reference to the Fighting Indians heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Timber Creek in the Region 2-9A championship game hours earlier.

Sindone settled on a short message only because Twitter’s 280-character count wasn’t enough to pack in all he wanted to say.

Attached to the tweet were three pages of notes containing Sindone’s thoughts on Vero Beach’s team and seniors that far exceeded the typical, “Good job, guys.”

“What an impressive season and playoff run by one of our district rivals,” Sindone wrote. “So many great games against one another, as a coach and a fan of the game, I found it appropriate to congratulate the VBHS players and their coaching staff on a tremendous job. It’s very rare that I do this since my competitive nature tends to kick in, however if there is a team that deserves a tip of the cap from an opponent, it’s definitely this one. I am sure (Vero Beach) Coach (Bryan) Rahal and his staff are very proud. Great job representing our district and our region.”

Sindone went on to compliment Fighting Indians senior pitchers Nick Celidonio and Hunter Patteson and infielder Nick Dean by name.

It was an atypical tweet to say the least.

“I was sitting in bed watching the game on Game Changer and I’m pulling for our district rival and as I’m watching it, all these thoughts are going through my head,” Sindone told TCPalm. “I watched these guys as freshmen. They’re 20 wins a season for four years. That’s the definition of dynasty. I couldn’t sleep, and I was thinking of the season. Bryan and I have actual conversations, not just about baseball. I consider him a friend even though were rivals. Baseball’s baseball. Yes, you want to win the game and be competitive, but we’re out at home watching. Why not root for the guy? They deserve to be there.

“It wasn’t intended to cause people to react. Just to kind of acknowledge them and make it about them.”

More: Vero Beach baseball comes up short in quest for Final Four

More: Treasure Coast names Sindone new athletic director

High school athletics are, by nature, territorial and competitive. Seeing the same team from the next county over multiple times a year tends to build a wedge between teams rather than bring them together.

Coaches may backhandedly preach good sportsmanship, but that message gets harder to live out when a district title is up for grabs.

Treasure Coast’s baseball team had a winning season, finished as the District 7-9A runner-up and regional quarterfinalist in the state’s biggest and arguably most competitive classification. The Titans finished 16-9 — three of those losses coming at the hands of Vero Beach, including a 10-3 defeat in the district championship game.

If Sindone remained silent after Vero Beach’s loss on Wednesday, no one would have blinked. Had he left it to the seven words he posted on Twitter, that would have been nice.

Instead, he typed out three pages that may as well have been a how-to on what doing things with class and sportsmanship looks like in the era of social media.

It’s not completely uncommon for coaches to compliment players from other programs. Especially in football, where many scholarship offers have been the direct result of a rival coach’s suggestion and praise.

But Sindone’s tweet felt different. It was intentional, public praise for a rival program at a time when too many people are focused on themselves and not their community.

Vero Beach baseball coach Bryan Rahal hugs Nick Celidonio after their 3-1 victory over Alonso (Photo: Bryan Rahal and Nick Celidonio)

“I thought it was awesome,” Rahal said. “I’m appreciative of it and I think it shows that our community extends further than just in our county. Even though we’re competitors, that community is what sports is all about. Him wanting the best for my kids and the other players in the area.

“We do what was best for the players in the community. To read that makes me enjoy our profession and what we do. It’s good for people to see. In the end that’s what coaches want — the players from our area having an opportunity to flourish.”

There’s a misconception that complimenting another team or player is somehow a slight to your own. It’s not.

Sindone gets that.

Since he was announced as the school’s next athletic director, people I’ve spoken with at Treasure Coast — both on and off the record — give strong reviews. Almost all of them, in some form, say the phrase, “He gets it.”

It’s an interesting description because it basically says he’s best defined by that indefinable quality that you want a coach or athletic director to have.

Sindone’s tweet is more proof that he gets it.

We could use more of that — in sports and social media.

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