What Happens Outside the Lines
March 15, 2011
When all nine innings have been played and the final out is marked down in the scorebook, most athletes shut down the competitive engines in an attempt to get back to neutral. Win or lose, we are human beings who like to relax and have a good time. While we journeyed to Florida to take care of business on the field, we couldn’t help but to be excited to spend some time off it, especially in great locations like St. Augustine and Clearwater Beach.
Our first day off came on Monday, March 7th, the day after we dropped our first two games of the year at Flagler College. We hit the field for a light workout in the morning to correct the mistakes from the previous evening and then it was time to chow down. We were treated to a nice spread right on the beach and a few of us had the guts to jump in the ocean despite the icy cold early spring temperature of the water. From there, we were free to roam the beautiful streets of St. Augustine. Some chose to check out the Castillo de San Marcos, a famous military fort. St. George Street, and its’ hundreds of interesting shops, provided many of us with experiences we won’t soon forget. For a few of my teammates, exploring the city on foot wasn’t enough; a group of Storm players coughed up the cash necessary for some rental scooters, and hilarity ensued.
I had a great time in St. Augustine, but I wanted to see what the Gulf side of the Sunshine State had to offer. Much to my dismay- as especially to that of junior Matt Vanni (otherwise known as ‘Tanni’)- our day away from baseball in Clearwater was hardly suitable for beach activity. Instead, most of us perused the countless surf shops along the shore until it was time to head back to the hotel.
As student-athletes, our number one priority on the trip was to win baseball games. However, we enjoyed our time away from the diamond and viewed it as an opportunity to grow closer as a team.
The Time Has Come
Mar. 5, 2011
Finally, the wait is over. There is no more time for preparation; the months of practice and weight training and study tables and game planning are behind us and all that remains is one more night to lay our heads down and let thoughts of double plays and sacrifice bunts consume us. The trip here was long but well worth it and tomorrow we will finally take the field as the 2011 Storm.
After a 19 hour bus ride that brought new meaning to the phrase ‘packed in like sardines’, we checked into our St. Augustine hotel at around noon Saturday (March 5). We settled in, unpacked, and established who would be sharing what with whom during the duration of the road trip. Calling our relatives and catching up on the SportsCenter we missed were the next items on the agenda before we boarded the bus again and headed for Flagler.
The first opportunity for the team to be on the field together since October was incredible. In my short time as a member of this program, I can undoubtedly say that I have never seen the kind of positive energy and spirited attitude that I saw at practice today. Flagler’s facility is phenomenal and from a weather standpoint, we couldn’t have asked for a better day. We were able to put a solid amount of work into the three hour time slot we had and by the end of the day, we knew we were ready for whatever tomorrow will hold.
For dinner, we hit the Cici’s Pizza buffet quite hard. Coach McGee led a team meeting upon our return to the hotel and here I sit typing, less than 15 hours away from the first pitch of the 2011 season. Many questions loom about what kind of team we have, but after tomorrow, we’ll have a much better idea. The time has finally come to set the plan in motion, and I couldn’t be more excited. First pitch is at three o’clock for a twinight doubleheader, and hopefully return to the hotel with a 2-0 mark. So, after months of waiting, it is time to finally say the two most important words in the baseball vernacular- Play Ball!
(And two more, words… Rage On!)
The Waiting is the Hardest Part
Mar. 2, 2011
I realize that in my first post I said the next time readers would hear from me would be on the road en route to St. Augustine, but I just couldn’t resist. Four days remain until we load up the bus to head out of Painesville and you can feel the anticipation among the team and coaching staff. The uniforms and new apparel have been issued and - aside from the continued hard work that will take place during this week’s remaining practices and weight training sessions - the only thing left to do is wait.
Dealing with the harsh winters of Northeast Ohio is no easy task. As a baseball player, I’ve noticed that practicing indoors this close to the season can seem tedious. The thought of freshly mowed grass, warm weather, and palm trees can, in some ways, be a distraction. I believe that this is where mental toughness becomes vitally important. Our team has done an excellent job of keeping focused and staying the course in regards to preparing for the season, even though Mother Nature keeps us sheltered inside The “O” during a time when most of our competition has had the luxury of playing outside for weeks. Luckily, Lake Erie has a great facility for us to accomplish our preseason goals, regardless of what the temperature reads.
Ironically, adding to the agony of what some of my teammates have referred to as the “longest week ever” is actually watching other people play baseball. From the TV coverage of Major League spring training to the (fairly new) pastime of keeping track of former high school or summer ball teammates via a nifty 21st century Internet development called “live stats”, some of us have immersed ourselves in baseball recently and can’t help but feel envious. Don’t get me wrong- we are happy for friends that play for other schools and wish them nothing but the best, but seeing their success fuels the competitive fire within us all and has us itching to finally step foot on Flagler’s field this weekend. A few more practices, new hairstyles (details to come), and packing our belongings are all that remain before the 5:30 afternoon departure time from Lake Erie on Friday.
See you on the bus, and Rage On!
Despite the Snow, Baseball Heats
Feb. 10, 2011
For many, the current time of year is a festive season. We all just watched the Super Bowl (along with a highly anticipated commercial set that never ceases to amaze); American Idol and The Bachelor are in full swing; and most importantly, America’s pastime waits just around the corner to greet us after a long and harsh winter. While big league pitchers and catchers don’t report to their balmy spring training destinations until next week, those of us at the college level have been at it for several weeks.
The thought of the 2011 Lake Erie Storm baseball season brings with it many questions: how will the Storm fare against GLIAC competition for the first time? With every starter returning from 2010, talented depth at virtually every position and arguably the most complete pitching staff in program history, is the team ready to make noise in a prestigious Division II baseball conference?
As a returning player for Lake Erie, I see the answers to these questions as affirmative. Our team experienced a grueling and competitive fall practice schedule. By dividing players into three smaller teams (Black, Gray, and Green) for intrasquad play, the coaching staff has an opportunity to evaluate both veterans and newcomers in game situations, and players are given a chance to perform and prove that they belong. The fall culminated in the second Storm Fall League championship in three years for the Gray Team (I’ll let you guess as to which team I played for).
Post-fall activities included individual workouts, which are position-specific small group practices focused on improving each player’s offensive and defensive skills. When we broke for winter break, it was not without obligation. Each of us were expected to complete an eight week weight and speed training program created by assistant coach Eric Bunnell, a jack of all trades who also handles most of the Storm baseball strength and conditioning duties. Coach Bunnell also serves as the team’s unofficial music guru, providing our batting practice sessions with carefully calculated playlists to establish a genuine ballpark atmosphere.
Shortly after we arrived back at LEC for the new semester, spring training began and what had once seemed distant was finally under way. Now, three weeks into official team workouts, the hunger to step onto the field grows more and more each day. We are eager to show that our 18-29 record from a year ago is far from indicative of how good we can be.
From a personal standpoint, I also have redemption on my mind. Entrusted with a starting role as a freshman last season, I was dissatisfied with my production, especially with my offensive contributions to the squad. I’ve made many improvements to my game (as did most of my teammates) and I know I speak for the entire Storm baseball program when I say that our opener against Flagler on March 6th in the Sunshine State can’t come soon enough.
Hopefully, through this blog, Storm fans can follow along with the 2011 baseball season and discover the answers to the important questions that come with it. From preseason practice to the spring break trip and beyond, I hope I can give readers a glimpse into the life of a student-athlete and an all-access pass to the world of Lake Erie Storm baseball. The next time you hear from me, I’ll most likely be somewhere between Northeast Ohio and St. Augustine preparing to take on Flagler.
Until then, Rage On!