By: Ricky Babcock
The first two weeks of practice have gone very well. The players came back ready for practice and in great shape from off season workouts. The first few days went slowly trying to get everyone into the rhythm again, working with class schedules and making sure players were on time was half the battle. The other half was working with our facility schedule. Here at Milwaukee we are an urban campus that is land locked. We have a 93 acre campus on the upper east side of the city. We have two on campus athletic facilities, the soccer field which is natural grass and the women’s basketball arena. The basketball arena is used by eight different teams on a daily basis. This creates for interesting scheduling of the arena and difficulty with practice planning.
With practice starting at 11:30 AM we have the entire gym for our use until Women’s Basketball practice starts at 1:00 PM…in reality this is more like 12:30 because they are always early and their managers come in to set up for practice. The first hour is usually spent on team defense working on our pregame infield routine, pitchers fielding practice, and various other defensive specialty plays like bunt defenses and the run game. During this time frame we usually have 40% of our team available, with the remaining players coming in after their morning classes let out.
The last part of practice is spent with offensive work or pitchers bullpens. The position guys will rotate through various stations in the three batting cages set up in the arena. The pitchers will work out on the volleyball court after basketball practice has started. Around 1:30 pm the volleyball team will come in to practice along with the track and field programs. We are constantly trying to get the entire practice plan completed in a timely fashion while still accommodating to the other sports teams in our department.
Early last week we were able to get outside for practice for the first time in my three years here with the program. We all piled into vans and headed over to a local high school which recently put in Field Turf. Although the conditions weren’t the best, we made do and took advantage of what was available. It was interesting because with 55 degree weather, 15-25 mph winds and a clear but high sky, the fly balls were a challenge. We have really been stressing to the guys that we need to make every practice perfect. We keep statistics on the number of errors made in different situations and let the players know how the practice went. The groundball portion of practice was nearly flawless, one of the best so far this spring. The fly balls were a bit different. The ball would move probably 20-30 feet over the players head, and would be directly in the sun light. It was an interesting afternoon, definitely created some web gem catches in the outfield and in the infield. The highlight of the day was probably when head coach Scott Doffek hit a fly ball from the goal line at one end of the field through the field goal posts at the other end. The ball carried another 20 yards beyond that for a ground rule double onto the highway.
Overall the past two weeks have seen great strides in effort, skill, and intensity by the players. We have been working on a lot of visualization and getting ourselves in the mindset for Arizona State. The players are excited about facing one of the best teams in the country and finally escaping the frozen weather of Wisconsin. We are expecting 4-8 inches of snow here over the next two days and hopefully we’ll be able to fly out on Thursday for Arizona.