John Sanchez couldn't help but feel a bit out of place at practice Friday.
"Instead of packing, we were hitting," the seventh-year Widefield coach said. "This is the first birthday I've spent in Colorado Springs in nine years."
That's because Sanchez pulled the plug on his team's annual spring break trip to Arizona, where balmy weather, top-notch facilities and four guaranteed games got the upper hand over thoughts of dressing in layers in the always fickle Colorado early spring days.
But since the Ratings Percentage Index took the place of wild-card points, team are limited on points they can earn for playing out-of-state opponents - a standard .500 is factored in for opponents' opponents' winning percentage, as stated by the Colorado High School Activities Association baseball bulletin.
The thought of not getting full credit turned Sanchez's stomach enough, along with financial burdens and traveling in potentially hazardous weather conditions.
He wasn't alone, with Cheyenne Mountain, Lewis-Palmer and Palmer Ridge among those who also decided to play in-state opponents this week.
"With the RPI system the way it is, we figured we'd stay in state and play good competition and get more RPI points for it," second-year Lewis-Palmer coach Brett Lester said. "With that out-of-state number capped at .500, we thought we could do a little better this year. We'll re-evaluate things at the end of the season."
Another factor that can yield fewer points is the failure of out-of-state teams to enter statistics into MaxPreps, the Cameron Park, Calif.-based website that gathers and publishes information from varsity sports nationwide. In Colorado, it's a CHSAA mandate but not so in other states, such as Arizona.
"It's the responsibility of a coach to make sure his opponents are putting game scores into MaxPreps," said Bert Borgmann, CHSAA assistant commissioner. "You can't tell those schools what to do, so that's why I put it right back on coaches since they're the ones who made the schedules and made contacts."
This week, Air Academy, Palmer and Pine Creek will take part again in the Coach Bob National Invitational in suburban Phoenix, while Discovery Canyon and Woodland Park will represent the Pikes Peak region at the Greenway Festival in Phoenix.
While Pine Creek went undefeated in four games last year in Arizona en route to a No. 1 RPI ranking in 5A by the end of the regular season, Air Academy struggled, going 1-3. The Kadets then went 12-2 in Pikes Peak Athletic Conference play to win the league title for the first time in four seasons. However, Air Academy didn't come close to hosting the district playoffs, traveling to Canon City as the No. 24 seed but winning twice to reach the 4A state tournament.
"It hurt us last year from an RPI standpoint," Kadets coach Doug Goldberg said. "If we wouldn't have won our league, it was touch and go if we would have even made the playoffs. The RPI has work to do, and I know fewer teams are going to Arizona because of RPI. I still like what a trip like this can do for team chemistry."
For Cheyenne Mountain coach Mark Swope, he fondly remembers the end of last year's annual trip from Las Vegas. Team bonding took on a whole new meaning after a snowstorm affected travel throughout the West.
"A blizzard hit, and we couldn't fly back to Denver because DIA was closed," said Swope, who had been a part of Cheyenne Mountain baseball teams traveling for spring break every year since 2001. "We were stuck out there, and everyone had to fly to different states and some families rented cars to get back. It was suggested that we stick around this year and play teams that will give us more of a weight than 50 percent."