Central Florida Suns 9U coaches Ryan and Kyle Bono are getting set for the 9U Grand Nationals, returning to AAU Baseball Grand Nationals as coaches instead of players.
Returning back to the AAU Nationals scene almost twenty years after their debut as players, the twins have had a chance to reflect on their own experience and how that will impact their experience as coaches.
“Coming back to an AAU national tournament brings back lots of memories. We played in the 17U AAU National Championship in 2000 in Phoenix. We finished third in the tournament and the opportunity to play along with and against some of the best players in the country was an amazing experience. Now I'm looking forward to coaching in an AAU national championship this time,” Kyle said.
His brother Ryan added, “It's going to be great to see lots of really good 9U teams in the tournament. Like Kyle said, playing in an AAU national championship event is an awesome experience for the players and families. Luckily this one is in our backyard at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. It's a great complex there and our team is going to have fun playing and creating lots of good memories.”
It doesn’t stop there. There’s more AAU tradition when it comes to the Bono brothers. Former UCF and minor leagues pitcher and catcher, Kyle and Ryan started out as part of one of the original eight Florida AAU Baseball teams.
Their father, Mike Bono, started the Central Florida Suns when they were 12 and the twins would play against really competitive teams around the Central Florida area such as Chet Lemon’s Juice and Central Florida Bombers. They also traveled to the east and west coasts of Florida to play other superstar teams such as Rough Riders from Clearwater, the Tampa Smokers, and the Brevard White Caps.
Ryan said, “With so few teams back then, there weren’t tournaments every weekend like there are now.”
Kyle added, “To see how much AAU and travel baseball has grown is amazing.”
Because of this, AAU Baseball played an important role in their lives and impacted their performance over the course of their baseball careers.
Kyle mentioned, “Having to face tough competition in AAU instead of just playing ‘league ball’ advanced our development as players. When we got to high school and college, we were able to contribute right away to those teams because of the level of baseball we had played in AAU.”
Later on, their decision to become baseball coaches was an easy one. Kyle specifically reflected back on his own experience playing when deciding to turn his attention toward coaching.
“When my dad started the Suns in 1995, he and our older brother Mickey coached the team. They both gave a lot of their time to make us and our teammates’ better ballplayers. I've always enjoyed coaching. Now I'm enjoying working with this next generation of Suns players. It's amazing to see how advanced these kids are at 9 years old already. They are definitely ahead of where we were skill wise because of the growth of AAU and travel ball these days. I'm teaching our pitchers the mechanics and drills that I didn't ever learn until college or pro ball.”
Their decision to coach the Suns 9U team is a family affair. Aside from their father and brother being a part of the coaching and administrative staff, they have another family member on the team that helps to drive their participation.
Ryan commented, “We started the Suns back up this past fall to coach the team for our nephew Brayden Kintner. It's been great to see the development of this team and qualifying for the AAU Grand Nationals is definitely one of the high points.”
AAU allows participants to contribute to the program as athletes and coaches, and twins Ryan and Kyle are no stranger to either side of the organization. To the 9U Central Florida Suns and all of the teams competing in the 2014 AAU Grand Nationals, the AAU wishes you the best of luck and PLAY BALL!
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