Matador Baseball in the Midst of Fall Practice
Northridge, Calif. - The thermometer reading has dipped below 100 in San Fernando Valley, which can mean only one thing: September has begun and students have returned to Cal State Northridge.
With the start of the semester comes the start of fall practices for Matador baseball coaches and players. And while the main focus of preseason workouts is conditioning, there are still things to be learned about players, says head coach Steve Rousey.
"We're starting to see who's willing to put the work in physically," commented Rousey. "We put our guys through a very physically demanding training regimen that we call 'Toughness Training', and most people never experience something has demanding as that regimen is."
Despite key losses in nearly every facet from the 2007 squad, including current minor leaguers Jorge Andrade, Jr. (Chicago White Sox organization), Joe Rocchio (Philadelphia Phillies), Chuckie Fick (St. Louis Cardinals), and Bobby Paschal (Colorado Rockies), Rousey claims that the youth movement is for the team's benefit.
"We feel we have to start at ground zero and really emphasize fundamentals. We've had 15 practices and the most we've done is bunt. Defense, fundamentals... we want to be able to make the routine play routinely."
There is also considerable buzz surrounding the Matador freshman class, which has been touted as the best under Rousey's tenure, and several first-year players will be counted on for contributions in the spring. For now, however, first-year players and veterans alike toil in the afternoon sun, executing drills meant to improve fundamentals.
Richard Cates, one of the Matadors' top returners, was pulling double duty, splitting time between first base and the middle infield positions, and Senior Phil Hann and juniors P.J. Rousey and Jon Parham have taken it upon themselves to set a tone for the fall of hard work and determination. Coaches count on players like these to act as extensions of the coaching staff on the field, and Steve Rousey has observed the progress of his newcomers.
"We have 15 freshmen this fall, and it's hard to tell after just 15 practices how good these young players are. I can tell you this- these players have excellent character, they work hard, and they are driven to be contributors for this team. They've been asked to keep pace with guys that have been around this program for three and four years, and they've handled it fine."
But at the start of November, the coaching staff will begin skill training, and as Rousey says, "then, it's all about baseball." By mid-November, the team will have participated in more than a dozen intra-squad contests, and by then Rousey says he will have a better grasp on how this team will compete in a Big West Conference that has been a focal point of the college baseball community all summer with its coaching makeover.
What can you learn from fall practice?
"Check back with me in a month."