CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Players hit the field Thursday night to try out for the Carolina Royals. It’s a unique opportunity for students in home schools, virtual schools, or others without athletic programs to make the team. 

The baseball tryouts took place under the lights at the Tuckaseegee Dream Fields in west Charlotte. 

If there were nerves, they went unnoticed. 

The Carolina Royals are an alternative baseball program for middle schoolers and high schoolers who, for the most part, don’t have access to athletic programs. Their coaches? Former Major League players. 

“There’s three of us standing out here right now, former Major League guys,” said one of those former big-leaguers, Jeff Schaefer, “and there’s a Major League scout standing out here right now, so they’re getting the exposure that they need.” 

He said because of that, the players expect a higher level of instruction. 

“The pressure is a little bit different when you come from that type of level for the kids, but they also know that they’re going to get the best of the best as far as training,” Schaefer said. 

Carolina Royals coaches watch the players hit in the batting cage.

The Royals have three teams: one each for middle school, JV, and varsity. 

“I think it’s a wonderful program for kids like me who are homeschooled, don’t have anywhere to go,” said 18-year-old Jake Gibson. “It’s a good program to get exposed, good program to face good competition and it’s just really excellent. I love it.” 

The teens brought their focus and soaked in every bit of advice on their game. 

“It’s fun to find those kids that are engaged, and they really want to learn,” said former Major League player John Ennis, “and you can really get in-depth and pick apart things.” 

The alternative baseball program has been going on for six years now. As the man who helped start it all, Schaefer seems to be coaching respect, confidence, and integrity as much as the game itself. 

“I love interacting with people out here,” said Gibson. “They’re very kind, they’re very cool and it’s just a great experience for me. I’ve found great joy in it, and I love it!” 

Depending on the team, these players play 16-30 games during their season. If you think your child might be interested, they are holding tryouts through early February.