The Prairie Fire baseball team’s push for the regular season started this year on Feb. 1, but members of the team have been working since the end of the last season.
Daily practices have been held inside the T. Fleming Fieldhouse. Until spring arrives and all the snow melts off Blodgett Field and the Knosher Bowl turf, the team has to share the Fieldhouse with the other sports teams on campus as well as regular students. Once the snow melts, the team will first move to the football field until the baseball field dries completely, likely after spring break. Until last week, practices had regularly been held at 6 a.m. inside the Fieldhouse.
Coaches and players try to keep practices light-hearted in hopes of building team camaraderie and it shows. Practices are filled with jokes and smiles from all the members on the team. There are mini-teams and groups of friends that form throughout practice, but these groups do not hinder the full group camaraderie.
“This team is the tightest knit group in four years and the team is able to listen and care about what each other have to say,” said senior pitcher Tyler Hopfauf.
Every practice starts the same way, with warm-ups that include stretching and warming up throwing arms with a few minutes of catch. A focus on bunting, both offensively and fielding them, as well as conditioning and mental training have dominated the practices in the Fieldhouse. Once practices move outside, the focus will move to timing and finalizing the team for the season. Academics get priority over practice and players will come late or leave early if class conflicts arise with the practice schedule.
The pitchers have been working on their stamina this preseason. They have also been working on getting their legs and arms in shape in addition to focusing on throwing quality bullpen workouts.
The team looks forward to starting the season during spring break with a trip to Winter Haven, Fla. This trip will be the first test for the team and will be the starting point for eight freshmen players’ college career.
“Everyone has something to prove,” sophomore outfielder Dexter Brown said about the spring break trip. Eleven games versus teams from around the country will be played over eight days. Sophomore second baseman Kyle Grimes thinks that the trip will be “a lot of fun to see the team come together.”
Hopfauf said the freshman class is “very athletic, hardworking, willing to learn and listen, and are very knowledgeable about the sport.”
The team has high expectations for this season.
“We are looking forward to winning conference,” Grimes said. Hopfauf also believes that winning conference is possible and hopes to cap off his college career on a high note.
Expectations run high, but junior outfielder Carl Hammer keeps his expectations down to earth when it comes to winning the South Division.
“We have some question marks on offense and we need guys to step up,” he said.