Every morning this semester I wake up at 3:30 a.m., look at the time on my phone, and cringe at the fact that I will be waking up in an hour for my beloved baseball practice (I say that with no sarcasm- it’s worth it. Ball is life).
I then put my feet on the floor, seemingly inadvertently, because it is so unfathomable that I have the ability to do that. I trudge around my room, picking up my baseball gear and throwing it on. Within 10 minutes I find myself alertly on an empty train, as I mentally prepare for the rigors ahead. Last year practice was in the afternoon and stress-free.
Newly hired assistant coach Scott Losche and our four new captains, Adrian Pena, Gabriel Pena, Jose Aquino and Yoribaldis Olivo, have instilled a higher level of discipline in the hearts of each and every player on this team. Our discipline is seen through determination, accountability and the ability to hone our skills.
DETERMINATION: Practice starts promptly at 5:45, and everybody has great energy, somehow. I think that energy comes about subconsciously. The culture on this team is one of un-questioned discipline. We are so determined to win; we will do anything, including Brooklyn guys waking up at 2:30, to win.
Yes, it is true.
Our talent is fantastic. However, that is not the reason we will win the CUNY championship this season. The reason is determination.
I have not seen one guy take more than two bad swings in a row during BP. I have not seen one pitcher throw more than two pitches in a row out of the zone during a bullpen session. Everybody sprints hard during conditioning.
We are a talented bunch that is determined. That is dangerous.
ACCOUNTABILITY: I came off of a knee sprain in the nick of time this January, as I was ready for practice. I have willed myself in my workouts to return to my high level of speed. While I have always been gritty that way, the support of coach Losche has been a huge help, even when making small comments such as “With your speed, man…you’ll be fine.” That is the culture.
We all pick each other up.
It is part of discipline. Each guy matters, and we don’t allow ourselves to think otherwise. We are accountable to each other. A team that sees each and every guy as important ensures that every guy will contribute to winning baseball. A team of 25 threats is one dangerous ball club.
HONING SKILLS: Our team is built on speed and power.
Watch Bobby McDowell run and watch Emmanuel Nwokelo hit. They are out of this world. Guess what? If they don’t refine those skills, nobody cares.
Emmanuel (Uche) stays in the cage after practices frequently. Bobby does his sprints after practice regularly. Not only are all our guys talented, but also they all work on their skills. We are ready to perform.
HONING SKILLS: Head coach Steve Macias knows his strengths and uses them. He is a master recruiter. Leadership starts at the top, and coach Macias pulled the right strings in hiring Losche and appointing the Penas, Aquino and Olivo captains. The leadership has trickled down well, even to Jeff Diaz, a walk-on freshman, who I have seen work so hard in the gym, he is now throwing about five miles per hour harder than he did in the fall. He has a good chance to see some considerable innings this season.
Even coaches need to work on their skills.
The mere example of such sets the tone for players to do the same. Macias, Losche and the captains spearhead the leadership we need.
I expect us to win a CUNY championship this year. We have all the ingredients. We are physically sound, mentally sound and the heartbeat of the team, discipline, which I believe starts with Coach Losche, is pumping healthily.
If we stay disciplined, we win.
I am excited. I hope the campus is as well, because if they are not, they will be in May.