Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Always a Pirate

This entry is a bit different.  Any of you who know our club from last year or the year before should know who Shaun Harrison, or as we call him "The Snow Leopard", or just "Snowy".  Snowy is a centerfielder who came to us out of Grayson High School in Gwinnett County.  One of the best athletes to ever step on the field at The Lake, Snowy came in a little raw as a true freshman, but anyone paying attention could see that there was no limit to his potential.  Besides just being a freakish athlete, we was also one of the hardest working players I've ever known, and I'm speaking as a player, as a coach, and as a fan.  We couldn't get the guy off the field, out of the cage, or out of the gym.  At the close of his first fall we made the decision to red-shirt the "Lep" because wasting a year of eligibility on a guy so talented didn't make any sense, and we could see that 2 years down the road he'd have a chance to emerge as something truly special. 

This was supposed to be his year, but as it happens now and then, the powers that be threw a wrench into our plans.  While playing summer baseball in Atlanta (and tearing it up by all accounts), Snowy suffered a torn achilles tendon while running the bases, and he will not be able to compete this season.  We always try to figure out why things like this happen to such good people, and I promise you that you won't find an answer in this blog.  I can only say that Shaun's absense at The Lake has already been felt.  All of the praise of his athletecism and work ethic pale in comparison to the praise he deserves as a human being.  EVERYONE loves Shaun...  I mean it, EVERYONE... Teammates, teachers, staff members, his coaches.  A day hasn't gone by when his name hasn't been mentioned and a story hasn't been told with the Lep involved.

I suppose the point I'm making is that, although he won't be patrolling center field in the pinstripes this season, this is still his year at Chatt Valley, and The Snow Leopard is still a Pirate.  We all miss you, Snowy, and we pray that thing heals up quick so we can have you down to visit.  I'll make sure there's an extra jersey around for you this spring.     

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rites of Passage

Before you all report me to the authorities for hazing, I'd like to point out that no catchers were harmed in the making of this post.  Dustin Averett and Drew Bowers officially became members of the catching corps at Chatt Valley today by recieving a ceremonial ice bath administered by your truly and the returning catchers.  Basically, it works like this:  I lure the new fellas over to the front side of the dugout and get them into their squats.  Instead of learning some golden nugget of baseball wisdom, however, they instead get showered with a cooler full of ice water dropped from the roof of the dugout.  Everyone gets a good laugh about it, and a couple of guys go home wet. 

I know, it's childish, but this is a game, right?  I figure if it's an acceptable Superbowl celebration, it can't really  be hazing...

 So far, the first week has been great.  Guys are gettign after it, and some things are already showing promise.  I think Crossfit is proving to be tougher than some of the guys anticipated, but all in all, I am pleased with where we're at.  Our infield sessions the last two days have been very sharp.  I feel like we could probably put a solid defense out there tomorrow.  Maybe not a mid-season defense, but certainly a solid one.  By the end of the year, I think this group has a chance to be as good as any Pirate infield we've ever put out there.  Dacen Cash is one of several Pirate infielders that has flashed some serious leather in the first few practices, and thus far, we haven't had anyone get "exposed" as a pretender.

Our outfield has looked very strong early on as well.  This may be one of the better throwing groups we've had.  It's going to be fun to see how the outfield shapes up though, because we will certainly be formidable in the corners, but with the loss of Shaun Harrison to injury, center field is going to be a battle.  We've got several good candidates for the job, and over the next two months, it will be exciting to see who takes it upon themself to really grab ahold of that position and wrestle it away from the competition.

Behind the dish, we've got four guys that are pretty good, and each one of them is doing a great job right now.  Keith Tidwell is a great example of how to work back there, and even this early, I can see it rubbing off on the other guys.  In terms of depth, I doubt anyone will be our equal at backstop this spring.  The guys tossing them the ball are looking sharp as well.  The hype appears to have some validity right now, as our pitchers have come in ready to go.  Vollenwieder and Alder are gonna cause some problems with their angles, and there are a whole bunch of guys who are gonna compete on "stuff" alone.  "Stuff", for any baseball novices out there, is a term for the action, movement, or effectiveness of a pitcher's repertoire.  If a guy has good "stuff", he's hard to hit when he's in the strike zone.  I can tell you this, too:  When we smooth over the rough edges with Irving Monte Reese we are going to have a serious weapon on our hands.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Crossfit or Unfit

As some of you may know, we use a training regimen at Chatt Valley called CrossfitCrossfit is a difficult thing to describe because it incorporates such a large number of movements, exercises, and skills.  Essentially, it is a combination of powerlifting, conditioning, and gymnastics that continually challenges the body in new ways.  In one word: Tough. 

I'm proud to say that while Crossfit is gaining popularity around the country, we are likely the very first JUCO team to have incorporated it into our everyday routine.  3 years ago, as I was reading Muscle and Fitness, I came across an article called "Sweat Storm".  I'd been looking for a new workout routine for myself, and I have never really enjoyed traditional weightlifting, so this article really grabbed my attention.  The workouts it described reminded me of the kinds of things we did on my high school wrestling team, and let me tell you, there aren't too many things that compare to wrestling in terms of intensity and conditioning.  With my interest piqued, I asked Coach thomas if he'd give it a try with me, and of course, he did.  After a week, which was called "Hell Week", we immediately decided this was something our guys needed.

 This is our 3rd season Crossfitting now, and with Crossfit Inception opening up in Columbus recently, we've really been able to ramp up the level of intensity and instruction our guys are getting.  The guys over at Inception have done a great job teaching our boys the essential lifts of Crossfit, and today, they ran us through a workout called "Baseline", which is a measuring stick for CF performance.  So far, with the help of a few extra pairs of eyes, and some quality leadership from our returning players, the team has done well.  "Well" in this case, means different things for different people.  For Bryce Dial it was dominating the workout today (Baseline is not a full workout, it is like a time trial, so it can be completed very quickly by an athlete in great shape) in 4:16.  For Zach Helewski, it was continuing to fight even as time expired and not giving in to the pain.  For most of the others it was cranking out as many reps as they could as quickly as they could as the clock kept ticking. 

We've barely scratched the surface, and it is only week one, but our guys have gotten a taste of what we expect from them now, and it is already starting to give us a glimpse at what some of these guys are made of. 

Monday, August 16, 2010

Now, what did YOU do this summer??

For two weeks at the start of each fall, we build a base of conditioning for our position players.  In "dad speak", we do some running to get in shape.  Today was the first day several of our newcommers have taken a step faster than a hurried walk in a couple of months.  You can always tell who has spent their summer preparing and who decided they'd just wait till we opened up to get in shape.  It's not really rocket science, either.  That guy puking over there:  He didn't do a whole lot of prep the last couple of months.  The guy making awful faces so it looks like he's going hard even though he's hit cruise control:  Yeah, he didn't do much either.  The ones walking up to the ones that are struggling and trying to stand them up?  Yeah, they probably at least spent a couple of weeks getting ready.

Does all that really matter?  At the end of the day, I guess not.  We're not gonna put a lineup together based on what they do over the summer.  We ARE going to put a lineup together based on who plays the best this fall, and sometimes, those guys who are getting in shape now take a little longer to get going than the ones who are ready to roll on day 1.  It is very difficult to play well when you're to sore or tired to move, heh.

The good news is that 95% of this group came into camp in great shape and ready to get after it.  What excites me about that fact is that guys that get after rarely have to be motivated to compete or to play hard.  My first impression of this team's character is a very good one.  I don't know what the coming weeks will reveal about our talent, attitude, or integrity, but I do know that right now...  It looks like its gonna be a damned good year.

Another year at The Lake

It's August and another year of Pirate baseball is beginning.  We held our entrance meeting for the fall last night and got all the tedious but necessary tasks such as practice gear issue, paperwork, and team policy taken care of.  It sounds like it should only take a few minutes, but against all odds, we always seem to squeeze close to 4 hours out of our intro.  I suppose what it boils down to is making sure we take the time to really outline what these guys need to know before they ever suit up and step on the field for us.

Most of this week is pretty basic, we'll do some field prep, cover all of our basic systems, and get prepared to hit practice with a full head of steam.  For me, especially in years like this where we have so many freshman, this is the best part of coaching.  We're essentially a blank slate as a ballclub, and teaching these guys the game, the Pirate system, and how we expect the game to be played is the most exciting aspect of my job.  I think anyone who has ever had the privilege of teaching would agree with me when I say that watching someone learn and grow under your care is one of the most fulfilling undertakings you can hope to embark upon.

I can already we're gonna have some characters this year.  I couldn't be more excited.