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Catching Up With UConn Baseball

Feb. 27, 2014

Feb. 13, 2014

The Invisible Ingredient

Somewhere above ominous clouds on the eastern seaboard:  At 30,000 feet, trust is something an airplane passenger must have.  I trust our captain got enough sleep last night, has enough flight hours of experience, and will get us safely to the Fort Myers airport later this morning for our afternoon workout in Port Charlotte.  If I didn't, I probably wouldn't be on the plane.  One might call it a blind trust.  I haven't met the man manhandling this hunk of metal through a nasty storm.  I don't know the first thing about aeronautics, or de-icing.   Yaw is what I heard much too often right before the umpire said, "out", when I hit .194 as a sophomore. 

So, I suppose there is a lot of blind trust to our trip, and certainly in our program.  Don't get me wrong, trust is in short supply nowadays, and I value it as the lifeblood of all successful endeavors.  Try coaching without earning a young man's trust.  Good luck at convincing a family to trust you with their most precious possession - their son, without earning it.  Of course, it is difficult to earn, easy to lose, and thus never to be taken for granted. 

We have six players staying behind in Storrs this weekend.  One is there for disciplinary reasons, and the other five just aren't quite ready for our 27-man travel squad.  Their trust in their work and our plan must stay strong, as we'll need it and them if we're to win championships this spring.  When we ended practice in Shenkman last night, Husky alums:   Kevin Vance, John Andreoli, and David Fischer addressed the guys in the huddle with some great advice.  Then, I asked those who missed being a part of the travel squad at some point in their careers with us to raise their hands.  Up went Anthony Marzi's left arm.  Carson Cross and Dave Mahoney pointed to the ceiling.   So did those of about a half dozen other highly accomplished veterans.  Fischer even missed a trip or two.  If last year's captain, Billy Ferriter was in attendance, he too would have had to admit to not being one of our 27 most-ready players at one point long ago.



Those six hunkered down in their dorms right now prepared just like the guys in the national flag blue polo shirts sitting in the back of this Southwest flight.  They sweated, lifted, swung, long tossed, hit off tees for hours, and contributed to our highest team GPA in my tenure as head coach last semester.  They paid the price, but didn't get the ticket this time.  So, their trust in the process is essential.  The trust our coaches have in them to get their workouts done in our absence this weekend is a necessity.  Teams don't develop without trust.  Programs decay quickly when players doubt themselves  and/or one another.

Before we scattered into the freezing night for a few winks in advance of our 5:30 am departure, we did one last thing as s 33-man unit.  We always practice standing for the national anthem together.  We went over the absolutes:  eyes on the flag or head down in deference with no movement until the last note is complete, no shifting of your weight, shoulders back, feet pointed straight ahead under hips, no bubble blowing or demonstrative chewing, no limp leg, hat over heart, and left hand behind back.  We spend time on that because, just like rundowns, and first and thirds, it is important.  Everything we do together becomes who others think we are, but what's even more important is what we do when no eyes or ears are on us.  That is who we really are. 

Who we really are will soon be revealed in the form of our big test - our season.  I am excited about the prospects.  We overcame several guys trying to take a shortcut on their fitness over a much-too-long winter break with some diligent and enthusiastic attention to detail in our preseason practices and scrimmages over the past three weeks.  We've indoctrinated a lot of fresh talent and refined skillsets over the past several months to lay a strong foundation.  Two of our captains, Carson Cross, and Tom Verdi won't be playing this weekend due to injuries, and that means we'll need others to step up and pick up the slack.  We are all looking forward to tough exams against Ohio State, Indiana State, and Auburn over the next three days, and it will be fun to see who does indeed grab hold of roles in the lineup and on the mound.

Of course, in the short term, we'll make some mistakes with lineups and on the bump with our decisions, but eventually, the players will decide who plays when and where.  That's one of the best things about competition.  It has a way of sorting out all that stuff.

We're going through a few more nastyyy turbulencccce, and I should probably close the laptop and raise my trayyy tabbblle, and trust in thrust.  We'll undoubtedly have similar bumps over the next four-month journey on the field, in the dugout, classroom, and clubhouse, but as long as we all stick together with that glue all good teams have, we'll maximize our might.  Trust will get us through the storms and ultimately allow us to land shortly and begin the real trial to discover our potential.

Right now, I trust we've prepared to the best of our ability, and even though there is snow and ice from Maine to Georgia, we're about to vault over a big mess on our nonstop hop to the Gulf Coast and get those spikes broken in on real dirt, smell the grass, and feel a few rays of sun on our backs.  The hay is in the barn.  Now, it is up to the Huskies to blaze a new trail with a brand new season in a brand new conference with a brand new team.   In ourselves, in each other, and ultimately in competition, we trust.

-        JFP