In those special seasons, the ones you talk about 20 years later at the local tavern, there often are occurrences that let you know you're in the middle of one of those special seasons.
No Gulf Coast High baseball player had ever hit a home run on his home field. The Sharks have seen a few opponents do that, but no one wearing a teal and black uniform had accomplished that feat.
Then junior Frankie Mambuca sent a baseball into the cosmos.
Against Golden Gate on Feb. 23, Mambuca hit a rocket shot that soared out of sight, over the left-field scoreboard and onto a golf course fairway behind the field. That emphatic end to their home dingerless streak let the Sharks know this season might be different.
At 9-0 in a tough eight-team district, and as the winner of three come-from-behind games so far, Gulf Coast is on a mission to make this season one of those special ones.
It's not like the Sharks have exploded out of nowhere. Former coach Jon Ayres laid the foundation with several strong teams in the past. Ayres left the Gulf Coast job in the offseason to move to Community School, so the future of the Sharks program was put in the hands of Jeff Rosa, the team's pitching coach.
The first thing Rosa realized was that he couldn't do it alone. So he fashioned an eight-man coaching staff to give his players some hands-on specialized coaching.
"This is something I learned from (FGCU baseball) Coach (Dave) Tollett," Rosa, a former FGCU assistant, said. "I asked him one day, 'Don't you feel squeezed in with all those coaches out there?' He said, 'Jeff, the more hard-working people you have around you, the better you're going to be.' "
Along with long-time varsity assistant and JV head coach Steve Brown and assistant Bob Cofield, Rosa brought in former Gulf Coast player Jim DePalo, former University of South Carolina pitcher Jason Fletcher, former Estero baseball coach Thad Rhodes along with Chuck Indelicato and Phillip Botsios.
And those coaches are working with a seasoned and close-knit varsity roster, a roster with nine seniors — five on the pitching staff. Those experienced arms have allowed just six earned runs in their first nine games. It's a roster quite familiar with each other, as several of the players have been together since Little League.
"That's key," senior pitcher Brandon Neff said. "We knew everybody in our age group and it was good knowing the players and the strengths of everyone around you."
That's come in handy in the Sharks' three comeback wins. Gulf Coast was down to its last out against Barron Collier before pulling out two runs for a 2-1 win.
"I turned around to the team and said, 'We love two outs, fellas,' " Rosa said. "They didn't give up and they turned around and put themselves in a position where they had a chance to win the game. That's one thing I love about this team. They don't give up."
They didn't give up in their next win over North Fort Myers, down early 4-3 before recovering for a 6-5 win. The Sharks were down 3-0 in the fifth inning of their game against Mariner before winning 4-3.
Still, Rosa said there are places to improve. The offense, batting .280 to start the season, should find its form soon. Comeback wins are exciting, but the Sharks would rather get ahead and stay ahead.
But the Sharks, with the way they've battled through the first nine games of the season, know the potential is there. A comeback win here and a Mambuca homer there are there to remind them.
"Once you settle down and all the adrenaline has gone through, you really think, wow, this year we've had something that's never happened and we have that potential."