– By Vin deLalla
It goes without saying that a team that wins fifteen state championships in nine years is a state powerhouse. Likewise, a team that wins five state championships, sends six teams to the national championship tournaments and has two teams play for the national title all in the same year gets noticed. In 1998, the Tidewater Drillers put themselves “on the map” by doing exactly that!
But the story of the Drillers goes beyond being Virginia’s AAU flagship team. It goes beyond having Driller baseball pins go like hotcakes year after year at national tournament sites. And it goes beyond sending a cadre of student-athletes to play at the college level and beyond. The Driller Organization, which typically fields eight AAU teams from 9U-16U, is known as much for its accomplishments off the field as on the field.
Since its inception in 1994, the Driller organization, overseen by a Board of Directors made up of parents and coaches, has raised money to support college scholarships. To date, over $12,000 has been awarded in grants to college freshmen.
But even beyond this, the Tidewater Driller logo stands for more than baseball titles and college opportunities. It stands for the highest standards of sportsmanship, scholarship, and decorum. To compete as a Tidewater Driller, players must maintain a minimum of 2.5-grade point average.
The vast majority of the players maintain a 3.5-40 GPA. Driller coaches are more than competent baseball people. They are role models and father figures who often approach hero-like status. They know their influence and can have on the youth in their charge. They hold their players to the highest expectations of effort and sportsmanship.
“Driller Ball,” the organization’s mantra coined by one of its co-founders, Gary “Mr. Driller” Wright, not only means knowing how to advance a runner, it also means knowing how to face a challenge and how to win and lose with grace.
Perhaps, the best way to convey the heart and soul of this AAU organization is not the listing of their wins and titles, as impressive as those statistics are, but rather to point to their annual fall Awards Banquet. On this occasion, each team and each PLAYER is recognized (over 1,000 players have worn the Driller Blue).
The high point of the evening comes with the presentation of the Dwaine L. Sinnen Award, the highest tribute the organization can give to one of its players. For you see, the Award does not go to the best baseball player, the winningest pitcher, or the highest professional draftee. It goes, instead, the player on each team who best exemplifies the values taught by Dwaine L. Sinnen, the legendary coach and mentor and one of the founding spirits of the Drillers.
They are the values that make the Driller dynasty worth all the hours and days, and years that good people so wonderfully contribute. Long after the records of these Driller teams come and go, the values of hard work, honest effort, hustle and determination so inherent in “Driller ball” will long endure in those young hearts who have worn the Driller blue.