By Ty Schadt, Staff Writer
The baseball team will begin their 2016-17 season early this year, playing regular season games throughout October.
Like every baseball team across the state, Asbury has looked for ways to improve over the offseason. The team went 22-29 last year, highlighted by an impressive 13-4 midseason stretch. For most schools, the primary method of offseason improvement comes in the form of rigorous conditioning and practicing. However, in recent years, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), has granted teams the opportunity to play up to 12 regular season games in October, starting their official season five months before the spring. In years past, the Eagles have never participated, opting for the more traditional fall schedules filled with workouts and scrimmages.
However, this fall, change is coming. Asbury is set to partake in seven regular season games throughout October.
When any significant change occurs, questions are asked. In this case, one might wonder why the team would prefer to shift from a typical offseason to a split season schedule. According to Head Coach Manny Cervantes, the transition is beneficial for several keys reasons.
Cervantes explained that with the amount of freshman (13) on the team, the in-game experience they will receive from the fall games will more valuable than practice time. “For a college baseball player, the wait from September to February can feel like five years,” Cervantes said. “By scheduling games in October, our players have had more to be energetic and excited about this offseason. Plus the younger guys will get some great learning opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Freshman Joe Williams agreed. “It’s really exciting to jump right into the action,” he said. “Since it’s a new thing for everyone, it’s really ramped up our workouts.”
Cervantes can attest to Williams’ statement, claiming he has noticed a “sense of urgency” in his team and a “very high work level” during their practices.
Secondly, Cervantes expressed that fall weather is more pleasant than spring weather in the Bluegrass. By playing several regular season games in the fall, the team won’t be as shortchanged when games inevitably get canceled in the spring. “When the season really gets going in February, there’s no telling how many games we’ll miss due to snow or rain situations,” Cervantes said. “We felt that by playing some fall games we could really get excited about and take advantage of the nice temperature and weather.”
“It’s really exciting to jump right into the action. Since it’s a new thing for everyone, it’s really ramped up our workouts.”
Lastly, the fall season helps in the realm of recruitment. “These games serve as a differentiator to recruits between us and other schools,” said Cervantes. “They can see that after a month of practices we get right into it, and I feel that will give us an advantage over schools that don’t have games until spring.”
The team is set to square off against the Eastern Kentucky University Club Team in an exhibition doubleheader on Oct. 1. The first game starts at 3 p.m. and both will be played on Zweifel Field. Be sure to come and catch an early glimpse of the 2016-17 Eagles’ baseball team.