Friday, February 29, 2008

Why Time Begins on Opening Day

A new blogger joins our ranks today as Gettysburg College junior Chris Liegel takes his turn. A right-handed pitcher from Oak Ridge, N.J., Chris was the 2007 Centennial Conference Pitcher of the Year after recording a 9-0 record with a 1.92 ERA and holding opponents to a .201 batting average. As the Centennial baseball season begins on Saturday, Liegel talks about the preseason preparation that goes on in the classroom and on the field (or, as the case may be, the gym).

by Chris Liegel, Gettysburg College

Rows of palm trees, 80-degree temperatures, the smell of fresh cut Bermuda grass…not exactly. Preseason baseball preparations in Gettysburg, Pa., are more like rubber indoor pitcher’s mounds, groundballs off of an unforgiving field house floor, and late sessions that last until 12 a.m. Still, no matter where you are, baseball is baseball and nothing can get you down with the thought of the start of another season. That is not to say, however, that it isn’t hard.

From a personal level, one of the biggest preparations is getting your academic life in order. As Division III athletes in liberal arts schools, we all know (with or without our parents constantly reminding us) that academics come first. As a result, a good four-hour chunk of your day that may have otherwise been devoted to class work is now taken up by practices. That does not even take into account increased fatigue. That leads me to my next point; you need to keep yourself healthy. Sure we are technically in spring season preparation, but if you go outside it certainly doesn’t feel that way. Dressing for the weather, eating well, and getting the right amount of sleep during this time are crucial for your success six weeks into the heart of the season.

Another important aspect is bonding with your team. With a new season come new faces, personnel changes, and new roles to be fulfilled. Team chemistry is just as important as talent when it comes to winning games and so a lot of the preseason here at Gettysburg is devoted to, well, essentially ‘hanging out’ as a team. We try to make time before and after practice to meet up, and almost always eat meals together as a team. Having a strong core makes preseason fun, not to mention helpful when your buddy gives you a wake up call for 8 a.m. practice on Saturday mornings.

So my best advice is this. Get your life together and get on the ball, because you don’t want your athletics to interfere with academics, or vice versa. Stay healthy and sleep. Enjoy the time with your team. Work hard in practice, but remember to mellow out with their company after. Being able to play a sport you love for another four years is a gift, and all of us are lucky to have it. Tom Hanks in "A League of Their Own" said, “Of course baseball is hard, if it wasn’t everyone would do it. The ‘hard’ makes it great.” So even though the grind of the preseason in the Mid-Atlantic can get you down, cherish it because I am pretty sure that one day you will miss it.

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