The first game of the CIF Foothill League baseball spring season is 6 months, half a year, away. Despite this seemingly interminable time to prepare, the West Ranch High School varsity baseball team is already training vigorously like the season were next week.
Two to three hour practices are held every single week day, while preseason games will begin every single weekend starting in October. These practices and games will allow the team to enhance playing skills and adapt to playing a massive amount of baseball. In fact, the team’s hours per week invested into baseball violates the school’s policy of maximum hours during offseason. As a result, the West Ranch Wildcats play as an independent club team, the West Ridge Ranchers, until spring officially begins.
The preparation for spring, however, is not easy. First, with all seniors off to college and new underclassmen stepping up and joining the team, the players must learn how to play effectively with each other. After all, team chemistry is the “new holy grail of performance,” according to Harvard Business Review (HBR.org). Possessing and utilizing exceptional team chemistry can lead to a lot of success regardless of how much talent and skill each player has.
So what exactly affects and develops good team chemistry in baseball? First, each player needs to be able to communicate with other members on the field about who receives throws in certain situations and who needs to back up where. Additionally, the whole team needs to be in sync with the offensive signs, verbal signals, and defensive play types, which are all subject to change. Overall, team interaction and the ability to work together in unpredictable game situations is vital. In terms of “off the field,” players often bond and spend time together and become very comfortable around each other. By becoming true teammates, the players can encourage each other during bad outings or celebrate profoundly after victories.
To practice fielding, the West Ranch baseball team consistently works on catching ground balls and fly balls. To practice batting, the team hits baseballs in the batting cages and on the field multiple times a week. Finally, to improve strength and stamina, the team has weightlifting and conditioning drills every other day.
Since it seems like a successful season is imminent, many people, including parents, players, and coaches, anticipate a successful spring season.
Casey Burrill, varsity head coach, comments “The West Ranch Baseball program uses the fall and winter season to prepare for the Spring season. Cardiovascular [training], fast twitch movements, flexibility, and strength are points of emphasis from our physical fitness coach… Games are played in the off-season, but not for standings or to keep score. Keys to games are letting players get used to new positions and try new techniques… The mental side of the game is addressed as well. Guest speakers address the players throughout the winter [and share] their experiences and motivational thoughts… It is truly the time of year when a player has a chance to grow their skills and sharpen their mental approach to the greatest game on Earth.”
The players also anticipate what the spring season will produce.
One player, Will Chambers, a junior infielder, asserts, “Our team certainly possesses the talent to excel. I think the results will vary based on how we can work as a single unit, maintain energy, and win the mental part of the game.”
Another player, Evan Gellatly, a junior pitcher and outfielder, comments, “Our team focuses on ways to improve individual skills and learn to work together using group dynamics. We all know that this important year is going to be tough but all the work will pay off in the end. Overall, this [ideology] motivates us to constantly improve.”
More time practicing and playing together will certainly bring the players closer together as one functional group, and this will strengthen the team for the official season. As the first league game approaches in several months, good results are certainly attainable with the amount of work the West Ranch baseball team puts into the “grind.”