Venice High baseball: champs on and off the field

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VENICE, Fla. - The Venice High School baseball team won its second straight state championship over the weekend, beating Haines City 14-4.  It's the third title for coach Craig Faulkner's program.  Monday we talked to the man in charge, who says the success starts off the field from players and the community.

Venice's back-to-back baseball state championship is the first in our area since Sarasota did it 20 years ago.

"It's pretty rare. It's hard to do. State of Florida baseball is very good." Faulkner also took home a title in 2007. He says it all comes together with much more than the fundamentals. "I don't know that there is a secret but we work hard at building the whole player. We try to get involved in the community. We are community minded."

Players have spent time with physically challenged athletes though Challenger Baseball. They also volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, read to kids and run for charities.

It is something Athletic Director Pete Dombroski says coach Faulkner emphasizes off the field. "It's a special quality the Craig has. He gives to the school. He gives back to the community that the many different efforts that the baseball team does in our community. He is a very special person. You can see that. The players see that and they give that extra effort."

Along with the team's nine other coaches; six of which are strictly volunteers. Faulkner says it's just a unique cycle. "Several people in the community have stepped up big for us here. We just want to pay that back any way we can."

Let's not forget the classroom. Faulkner says his players were testing Monday and unavailable for interviews. Education first. Last year's championship team also took home a combined grade point average title. "We were the top 7A public school. This year has not come out yet but we are right there as well."

Serious about wins and serious about turning out winners. At Venice High they seem to be producing a lot of both. "It is a lot of work to go out into the community and do the things we do but it is valuable for these young men. Weather or not you win a state championship or not we want those memories and those experiences to come into play in the rest of their lives."

Some national polls are set to come out. Coach Faulkner says he is hopeful that not only will the Indians be the number one team in the state but the nation as well.

The community will have a chance to celebrate the big win. This Wednesday everyone is invited to Centennial Park in downtown Venice at the gazebo. The festivities will begin at 6:30 with the players arriving on fire trucks.