Revived Baseball Program on the Rise
Fresh-cut grass, longer days and the sun making a more regular appearance can only mean one thing: Baseball season is here. For the Whitman baseball team and its new head coach, Sean Kinney, these signs of spring cannot come soon enough.
Coming off a disappointing season last year, the Missionaries have made the necessary steps
to ensure that it doesn’t happen again this year. Even after an off-season of intense training, the team certainly has not slowed down since coming back from winter break.
“We worked harder this off-season than we have in the last three years,” said senior pitcher Justin Weeks.
For the first two weeks of the spring semester,
the team engaged in a two-a-day practice regimen that included hour-and-a-half-long practices starting at 6 a.m., which were followed by an afternoon session that lasted two and a half hours. The mornings included plyometrix, technical drills, fielding drills and a meeting at the end that focused on the mental aspects of the game. The afternoons focused on hitting and working on skills specific to different position players.
Junior outfielder Kyle Moyes
found that although the early morning workouts were rough, they gave the team confidence going into the season that they have put in the time to be successful.
“It was pretty tough getting up at 5:15 every morning, but we got through it. We got a lot of good work in and I am glad we did it because it is going to help us later on in the season,” said Moyes.
Coach Kinney was pleased with not just the effort that his team showed during those two weeks, but also the sacrifices they made.
“We had a lot to cover in those early weeks. I know it’s not easy; everyone has got to give up something to get it done. But in the end it shows that we’re all in it together and that we’re committed to excellence,” said Kinney.
Coach Kinney has the advantage of once being a student athlete at Whitman. Because of his experience, he understands the rigors and challenges of balancing academics with baseball. Kinney believes that one of the key differences he sees in this year’s team compared to previous teams at Whitman is the depth on this year’s roster.
“I remember as a player we would have a good core who were really committed, but then there were another 10 or so players who you just didn’t know what you were going to get out of them. I think that’s the big change I see this year. It’s the mentality that it takes 28 guys to win and not just the nine out on the field,” said Kinney.
One of the strengths of this year’s team is their outfield. With juniors Kyle Moyes, Kyle Buckham and Aaron Cohen tracking down balls, the Missionaries will look to use their speed and arm strength to save runs throughout the year.
The left side of the infield should be strong with the addition of first-year Ozzy Braff at shortstop and junior Cam Young sliding over to third base. With regular second baseman Chris Konolige still recovering from ACL surgery and first baseman Peter Valentine recovering from injury as well, the right side of the infield will be defended by committee to start the year for the Missionaries.
The pitching staff will be led by senior righty Justin Weeks. Joining him in the rotation to start the season will be fellow senior Brett Lambert, sophomores Will Thompson and Spencer Hobson, and junior Dakota Matherly.
The game of baseball is a series of battles that can be as minute as striving to win each pitch and as large as the ultimate result of the game.
The overwhelming consensus on the theme of the season is a focus on winning each pitch at bat and inning in hopes that it will result in a win at the end of the game.
“If we give our best at all times and leave everything out on the field each time we step on it, everything else will take care of itself,” explained Weeks.
The Missionaries begin action on the diamond this week as they play at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in a double header on Feb. 6, followed by four games in three days against Whittier College, University of La Verne, Hardin-Simmons University and the University of Texas at Dallas stretching from Feb. 8-10 in Phoenix, Ariz.