When the Phillies take on the University of Tampa today at Spectrum Field in Clearwater, FL there will be a familiar face for local high school baseball fans peering out from the Spartans dugout.

Freshman catcher Jack Loefflad, a Somers Point resident and Mainland Regional graduate, is a member of the University of Tampa Spartans baseball team and will get a chance to play against the team he grew up rooting for.

"Playing against the Phillies will be an experience of a lifetime for me," Loefflad admitted.

"It definitely is a little different for me than the rest of the guys on this team since I grew up being a fan of the Phillies. Everybody else just looks at this as us playing a pro team, that it's just another game, but this is my home team so it is very surreal. I do, however, think that my dad might be more excited for this than I am believe it or not."

Loefflad has played baseball most of his life, some of his favorite baseball memories growing up include being a member of the first ever Atlantic Shore Babe Ruth team to make it to a World Series as a 13-year old, and later making it back to the World Series as a 15-year old. Loefflad also achieved tremendous individual and team success as a three-year starter and two-year captain for the back-to-back South Jersey State Champions at Mainland.

"These moments when people other than my parents saw my hard work and my potential are without a doubt the best memories that I have growing up with this sport," Loefflad explained.

Baseball is a passion for Loefflad and it has helped build many strong friendships. He still keeps in touch with many of the teammates he had going back to that 13-year old Atlantic Shore team.

"I try to stay in touch with a couple of the old teammates," Loefflad said. "It's a lot easier with guys I played all through high school with, but I try to keep up with some of the other guys who I played against and who are also playing at school just to see how they're doing."

Loefflad looks back at his high school days and remembers a ton of great times, including a State championship in 2014, a league title in 2015, and of course the bus rides home with his teammates and friends.

"The one thing that I miss the most from high school baseball are the bus rides. Weird, I know, it's just a bus, but the laughs that we shared on bus rides home from a road win are unlike any feeling," Loefflad recalled.

"I remember Dean (Deveney) used to interview whoever had good games and he would videotape the interviews and send them to everyone. We would chant and sing, and those are the memories that come to mind when i think of high school baseball. Those are the moments when we were really a family."

Making the transition from high school baseball, where you're playing with kids you grew up with and close friends, to top level college competition has been a significant change for Loefflad.

As a high school baseball player, many teams have time for just one practice for an hour-and-a-half to two-hours a day, with one or two days off mixed in there. In college, it's a whole new ball-game, an hour lift starts your morning, followed by three-hour practices daily. Even on your off days lifting, throwing and hitting are almost a requirement.

"The biggest difference is definitely the amount of time and energy you need to put in to be great," Loefflad admitted.

"I honestly can't remember the last time that I had a true off day where I didn't at least lift. Another big transition is the attention to detail. In high school you can be great by being a good athlete or being a smart baseball player, but in college you work immensely on the little things along with everything else."

It seems that all the hard work has paid off and led to this unique opportunity.

"It seems like every couple years something happens to me with this sport that just makes me take a step back and realize how unique this really is," Loefflad said.

From Babe Ruth baseball, through his high school days, success has followed Loefflad, and it has prepared him for moments like this in college, getting a front row seat for a game against his favorite team.

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