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Sports High School Sports

From umpiring to art, high school athletes find ways to stay busy in the summer

The summer may present a break from action for area high school and college teams. But their athletes and coaches haven't struggled to find ways to spend their time.

We've asked local high school and college players and coaches about their plans, and over the next four days we'll run their answers.

Today, a look at what nine high school athletes are up to this summer.

Eric, Eli and Ellis Winston, Digital Harbor, baseball

When Severn Athletic Club officials need a three-man umpiring crew this summer, they only need to make one phone call — to the Winston brothers.

Eric, Eli and Ellis grew up playing baseball and will spend their summer break from Digital Harbor calling games at the club where they learned the game.

Umpiring has become a family affair for the Winstons. In addition to Eric, 17; Eli, 16; and Ellis, 15; their father Emmett Winston also umpires, and their oldest brother, Emmett Jr., 24, started umping this spring.

“It’s about the love of the game,” said Eric, who will be a senior this fall. “It’s totally different from playing, and it makes you appreciate it more. You understand why [umpires] take so much stuff off the players and the crowds.”

Eli and Ellis have additional reasons for joining Eric on the diamond.

“Interacting with the younger kids,” Eli said. “I like giving back to the kids who looked up to you when you were there.”

Ellis is bit more practical. “Basically, money in my pocket,” he said with a grin.

The brothers started playing baseball when they were 5 or 6. They all took umpiring classes — Eric and Eli in the spring of 2010 and Ellis this spring — and now call as many as three games during the week and up to six in a weekend tournament.

They don’t often end up on the same crew, but they like working together.

“It’s fun out there when you know the other umpires,” said Eli, a junior. “It’s better when you have someone you get along with. You know their signals.”

Eli said the toughest part of umpiring is taking criticism from coaches and parents. Ellis has only umpired for a few months, but his family said he’s the one most likely to throw someone out of a game.

Still, Ellis, a sophomore, said the behavior of players and coaches who “like to run their mouth a lot” has made him think about his own actions as a player.

“When I had to call a strike three on a kid and he got mad because he thought it was a ball, he turned around and wanted to say something,” Ellis said. “That reminded me of when I was younger. I was always thinking, ‘That wasn’t a strike’ and I wanted to say something.”

Their biggest challenge may have been umpiring a 9-10 age-group game with a team coached by their dad.

“It was different,” Eric said, “because you don’t want to see your dad’s team lose. Everyone thought we would be prejudiced against them. Most of the time, he didn’t want us to umpire his games because of that. Most of the time, he wouldn’t say nothing like he normally would to an umpire.”

Their father, a longtime coach who has Eric and Eli on his Baltimore Panthers 18-and-under club team this summer, sees the benefits of having the boys face the adversity that comes with umpiring.

“What I really like is they’re learning about decision making,” Emmett Winston said. “The umpire behind the plate, he’s making 200 decisions. Some of the decisions are routine decisions. Others are much more complicated, and most of the decisions that they make, one team’s going to be happy and the other team’s coach is going to be upset. But they learn how to make their decisions and stick by their decisions and not let coaches or fans or players affect their decisions.”

Eric said that fans have to remember that everyone on the field is trying to do his job.

“Everybody’s trying to be fair,” he said, “and when somebody’s yelling at you the whole game and you have parents yelling at you, it makes it hard to do your job. That’s when umpires start making bad calls. That’s when they start going the other way for a different team and you start playing against the team and the umpire. It’s a different perspective from both ends of the stick.”

Parker Jones, Bel Air, lacrosse

Come summertime, Parker Jones just may be the hardest working lacrosse player in Bel Air.

Jones, a two-year starting midfielder who will be a junior in the fall, works at the Merryland Horse Farm five days a week and sometimes on the weekends.

Taking care of race horses, his day starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. He feeds them, saddles them for afternoon rides with jockeys and then cleans them up — also making sure the stables are clean.

“When potential owners come by, you have to make sure the farm looks good, and they talk to you, so you have to know about the farm and horses,” he said. “Some of my friends are just hanging out this summer, and I’m out here working on the horse farm. They’ll call and ask if I want to play some basketball or something and I’ll say, ‘I can’t, I’m working.’ But it’s been a good experience and I’m learning a lot about myself. I’m a disciplined person and a hard worker.”

Colin Shackelford, Annapolis, lacrosse and soccer

Colin Shackelford plans to keep cool this summer.

Living in Annapolis, the senior spends much of his time on the water, so renting a variety of paddle and pedal boats to weekend sailors at Quiet Waters Park is the perfect fit.

“It’s always nice working on the water in the summer,” he said. “I’m usually on the water four or five days of the week boating, kayaking or just hanging around with my friends.”

Shackelford hangs out on the South River, the Severn River or at the beach at Bay Ridge. He also likes taking out his family’s jet ski. When he’s not working, boating or swimming, he plays lacrosse as a midfielder for the Snappers club team.

Both of his older siblings, Kyle and Erin, have worked at Quiet Waters, and for a few weeks they all worked there together. Kyle moved on to another job and Erin is headed off to a study-abroad program in Australia.

The job usually consists of helping people in and out of the boats — kayaks, canoes, pedal boats and row boats — and sometimes providing a little guidance.

Things mostly run smoothly, he said. The biggest incident he had to deal with was chasing a float-away kayak after a boater let it go when she dropped her cell phone in the water.

Shackelford, who is considering a career in environmental engineering, said he couldn’t imagine a summer job that keeps him cooped up indoors.

“I like having a different kind of job,” he said. “I like being outdoors.”

Sam Domoracki, Annapolis Area Christian, soccer and basketball

Sam Domoracki will spend almost as much time abroad this summer as she does on American soil.

She has already been to the Netherlands as an exchange student visiting a group of Dutch students who came to Annapolis in April. Next week, she will travel to Nepal to work in physical therapy with underprivileged children through the volunteer program Projects Abroad.

After a friend spent a month in Africa last year, Domoracki knew she wanted to travel abroad this summer, but she didn’t want to go only on touristy vacations.

“Instead of just saying, ‘Give us your money and we’ll make sure you have a fun time over there,’ Projects Abroad is a program where you can actually put your time into a country and make it a better place,” she said. “You’re actually doing community service while you’re over there.”

Domoracki said Nepal, one of the poorest nations in Asia, has only about 25 physical therapists in the country, so she figured it would be a good opportunity to test one of the career paths she’s considering while seeing an exotic part of the world.

“I love helping people and helping kids especially,” said Domoracki, who has had physical therapy for an ankle injury. “I know what they go through when they go to physical therapy, just the physical and emotional pain, thinking, ‘What’s wrong? Why can’t I do this?’ I can help them get over that.

“When I come back to America, I think I’ll appreciate it a lot more and not take anything for granted after being in a third world country for two weeks.”

Domoracki, who will be a senior this fall, will also find time to play a few AAU basketball tournaments with the Maryland Grizzlies, and she’ll fit in a family vacation to New England.

Maria Laureno, Marriotts Ridge, soccer and indoor and outdoor track

Art has always had a special place in Maria Laureno’s heart.

This summer, it will be front and center.

Laureno, who mostly enjoys painting portraits with oils, has been accepted to the Ringling College of Art and Design’s PreCollege Perspective program, which takes place from June 26 through July 23 in Sarasota, Fla. The program presents an opportunity for high school students to build their visual art and design skills and broaden their artistic potential while gaining focus on college and career goals.

Laureno, whose father is an artist, will take up to five classes in various concentrated areas to further build her portfolio.

“Art really helps me get my creativity up,” said Laureno, a rising senior who plays midfield in soccer and runs the 400- and 800-meter events in track. “With school, you have projects and stuff, but it’s mainly focused on curriculum. With art, I definitely get a chance to express myself and show a different side.”

Alexis Prior-Brown, Mercy, soccer

The Chesapeake Charge’s roster is dominated by past and present college soccer standouts, many who first starred at the high school level in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland’s A Conference.

The Charge, which competes in the 62-team Women’s Premier Soccer League, also has a few rare high school players who can keep up. And Alexis Prior-Brown is one of them.

For the second straight summer, Prior-Brown is gaining invaluable experience as she prepares for her senior season at Mercy.

She says she has to work that harder against the more experienced competition in both games and practice. She values using her older teammates as mentors and makes sure to observe how they do things when they’re on the field.

“The toughest part is they’re a lot more skilled than me right now — stronger physically and mentally,” said Prior-Brown, a forward who has found a niche coming on as a second-half substitute for the Charge (4-1-4). “It makes me work harder, and I’ve learned a lot about what I need to work on. You have to work hard every practice to earn time. I like that.”

Prior-Brown added that playing at the higher level in the summer pays off during the high school season, because she’s more composed on the ball and confident. It showed last year when she earned first-team All-Metro honors after finishing with 21 goals and 10 assists.

Ross Vechery, Glenelg, soccer

When Ross Vechery became a member of the Glenelg Jazz Ensemble during his freshman year last fall, he had the French Riviera on his mind.

The school’s ensemble — which has collected more than 60 awards in the past 10 years and has received the highest rating at the Maryland State Jazz Festival — has regularly taken a three-country European Jazz Festival Tour about every other summer. From Thursday through July 18, the ensemble will perform at festivals in Germany, France and Switzerland.

Vechery, who plays the trombone, is looking forward to performing, staying with a host family during his time in Germany, trying each culture’s different foods, and the view he has heard about on the French Riviera.

“Some of the kids that have gone before said the view was amazing,” said Vechery, who plays midfield in soccer. “I just can’t wait to go. I’ve been looking forward to this trip ever since I joined, and I can’t believe it’s almost here. It’s an amazing opportunity to see a different side of the world and view entirely different cultures.”

Katherine Dunn reported on the Winston brothers, Shackelford and Domoracki. Glenn Graham reported on Jones, Laureno, Prior-Brown and Vechery.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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