College Baseball: The 16-Hour Day

College Baseball: The 16-Hour Day

A day in the life of a college baseball player.
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25 Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. 26 Give careful thought to the paths of your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Proverbs 4:25-26

5:30 a.m., 35 degrees.

As the rest of the campus is entering into their final 2 hours of sleep, the Oral Roberts pitching staff readies itself for their second morning lift of the week. Today is rear-foot-elevated front squat day, great way to start off a Thursday. A large "425" is painted on the front wall of the clubhouse acting as a constant reminder why the staff's awake before the sun. JL Johnson Stadium is 425 miles from Omaha, Nebraska, where the best teams in the nation will face off in the College World Series. Every lift, every pitch, every swing has to be accounted for if they want to make it all 425 miles.

5:52 a.m.

A few tap the 425 sign as the 16 pitchers jog over to the weight room. The lift is scheduled for 6 a.m., but if you’re a minute late to five minutes early you’ll be pushing plates for half the lift. As the team stretches out the six pitchers that are scheduled for bullpens that day break apart and head upstairs to do flexibility training; they’ll lift at 5 p.m. with the position players.

7:30 a.m.

As the rest of the campus is beginning to wake up, half the team gets breakfast in the empty cafeteria. While students are hitting snooze and dreading class, the pitchers are beginning to feel the toll from a heavy leg day that included squats, side lunges, box jumps, medicine ball slams and whole horde of other fun morning activities.

7:50 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

In order to be done in time for practice, all 12-18.5 credit hours must be crammed into a long 7-hour span. Leaving athletes with few-to-no gaps between classes. Being a student athlete doesn’t come with any privileges, the university makes sure that "student" comes first. Random class checks are performed in order to make certain that the athletes are in every class, every day, the entire semester. The only time they are allowed to miss is on game day and even then, all the work they miss is due next class.

2:15 p.m. to completion

Pitchers have to be stretched out and ready to go at 2:30. The practice schedule is posted up inside the clubhouse specific to each pitcher. Long toss, easy catch, bullpen, flat ground with a focus on put-away breaking balls, 1-1 counts, the list goes on. Each pitcher must know what is expected of him on that given day.

After warming up, the team breaks apart. The position players head down the left-field line to get stretched out, the pitchers down the right field line to go through their throwing program.

The two pitchers scheduled for the first bullpen get their arms loose. Their bullpen today will be a 45 pitch session that focusses on locating fastballs in various counts. 0-0, fastball on either half of the plate. 0-1, fastball on the outer third of the plate, 0-2, fastball a baseball's length off the plate. This bullpen is vital: if you can't locate your fastball, you can't get outs. The difference of hitting your spot and missing it by mere inches is the difference between getting a weak dribbler to second, or a giving up a base knock.

As the first bullpens begin, the rest of the staff jogs to the indoor for PFP (pitcher fielding practice). In a nine inning game all the pitchers combined may have a mere 3-4 balls hit to them. These outs can take or give an inning to the opposing team. A booted ball or throwing error can add anywhere from 5-12 extra pitches on the inning putting the pitcher way over his goal of 15 pitches or less per inning. For a starter, that can be the difference between going six innings, or getting pulled after four. The longer you’re on the mound each inning, the quicker your arm fatigues. Every out matters. Fielding bunts for a half hour can become tedious but is necessary in order to ensure the team gets those four outs. Without complaint the 12 pitchers split into two lines, and begin the drill. The two pitchers left over begin getting loose for their bullpen.

After PFP the staff jogs back out to the field and rejoin the position players. Some pitchers work on their pick-offs, some start their daily conditioning (today is 8 circuits of pole to pole jog the gap, sprint to center, jog the gap, sprint to the pole), and the leftovers head to the outfield to shag batting practice. Every 15 minutes or so, the pitchers switch it up.

As the sun starts to set, the stadium lights come on. The field is brightly lit for the last bit of practice. The team jogs in, coaches share their closing comments, and then the players split to do their post practice duties. Some fix the mound, some sweep the dugouts; everyone has a job.

Once the work is done, the position players head to the weight room along with the 6 pitchers that threw bullpens. The remaining 12 pitchers head back to the clubhouse. Despite being done with their lift, classes, and practice, their day isn’t over just yet.

Approximately 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Pitchers head out for dinner. The pitchers that live on campus head to the cafeteria, the ones that live off head out to get a quick dinner.

7 p.m.-10 p.m.

Half hour break for dinner is over and now it’s time to get back to work. On the second floor of the GC, several athletes from all sports gather in the Eli Center (academic center for athletes) for study hall.

All first-semester athletes, with few exceptions, are required 8 hours of study hall a week. If you have a minimum 3.0 GPA by the end of the semester you no longer have study hall. If you don’t, back to study hall.

A team’s GPA is seen as a direct representation of both the team and the school. The baseball team's GPA in the 2014-2015 season was one of the highest in the nation. The GPA of the entire ORU athletics during the 2014-2015 year was the schools’ highest in its entire 50 years of being open.

Whether in study hall, or in the dorm room, these late hours are spent studying. During the season these nights will be even tougher. Baseball averages 4 games a week, 2 of those landing on weekdays. Often times when there's an away weekend series the team has to travel on Thursday. This leaves the athletes having to make up 3 days worth of school work, learning most of the material either on their own, or with the help of a tudor. It's not easy.

Books are cracked, computer's are open, after a long day and exhausting practice, the last hours are spent studying.

10 p.m., the Eli center closes and now finally, the day is done.

10 p.m. till bed

The first real free time begins. Some go back to their houses and dorm rooms, others head up to the school’s gym to work mechanics. Some back to the indoor to get some extra reps. The indoor facility now closes at 12:00 am each night because neighbors living across from the complex complained that they could hear the crack of bats hitting balls sometimes as late/early as 2:00 and 3:00 am. Late night hacks, produce late game hits.

6 a.m. to 10 p.m.

16 straight hours of work with few very breaks and not paid a dime for it.

Why work so hard?

425

425 miles from Omaha.

Each hour, each rep, each pitch, is inching closer to one goal: getting to Omaha.

Up before the sun. Still working when the sun goes down. Balancing studies and performance. Working harder than anyone and getting little to no recognition for it. Playing through sickness, playing through soreness, learning from failures. This is what it is to be a college baseball player. 16 straight hours of grinding work and still having motivation to put in extra work. It's exhausting. Yet if you ask any player on the team if it's worth it they'll answer, "every single second."

Cover Image Credit: Oral Roberts University

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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Andy Ruiz Jr. May Not Look Like The Typical Boxer, But It Doesn't Make His Victory Any Less Deserved

Andy Ruiz Jr. just proved that dreams can come true.

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On June 1, boxing fans witnessed something special as Andy 'Destroyer' Ruiz Jr. defeated Anthony Joshua via TKO after going seven rounds in the ring at Madison Square Garden in New York City to become the first ever Mexican-American heavyweight champion of the world. Ruiz Jr. (33-1) was a heavy underdog (+1100) heading into the match-up with Joshua (22-1) but ultimately flipped the script to hand the British fighter his first professional loss ever. Surely the fight will go down as one of the greatest moments in sports history.

Some members of the media and fans have been quick to label the fight as a 'fluke' and 'rigged' which in the end is no surprise to me. That always happens in the sports world. Many did not believe we would get this result yet failed to remember the one rule of sports -- expect the unexpected. Over the past week, I've been coming to the defense of Ruiz Jr. in the wake of others choosing to call him a joke.

I was shocked and surprised to hear two of my favorite sports analysts, Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe, make fun of Ruiz Jr. and frame him as just a guy that looked like 'Butterbean.' When I viewed their tweets on social media it honestly made me upset. Sure, Ruiz Jr. may not have fit the mold of what a professional boxer should look like, but they simply should not have just judged a book by its cover.

Personally, I thought it was disrespectful for Smith and Sharpe to throw shade at Ruiz Jr. in the way they did. I felt like they should have done a better job of acknowledging the winner considering the result of the match. Yet choosing to bash someone because of their physical composition appeared like a low blow. The very foundation of sports allows people of all shapes, sizes, genders, races, and backgrounds to compete -- that's why most people follow them in the first place.

Smith was open behind his reasoning for his tweets in which I'd like to shed some light on. Smith was upset about how boxing time after time contains elements of corruption with fans having to wait years until promoters schedule big fights. He along with other followers of the sport were looking forward to the highly anticipated yet potential future match-up between Joshua and fellow heavyweight Deontay Wilder. Smith believes that by Ruiz Jr. beating Joshua it essentially diminished the chances of that fight ever happening with the same amount of buildup, but that still doesn't provide any excuse for mocking the new heavyweight champ.

Ruiz Jr. was there for a reason and ultimately seized the opportunity that was right in front of him -- that's not his fault for getting the job done. Just because someone doesn't look like the part doesn't mean they don't possess the same qualities and characteristics as their counterparts. The following pair of videos display the amount of talent Ruiz Jr. does have in the ring. Even fellow boxer Canelo Alvarez and former UFC lightweight/featherweight champion Conor McGregor acknowledge that and have come out to say something on their behalf.

Unfortunately, I don't expect much to change because most will stand their ground and continue to behave the same way. All I'm saying is I did not enjoy some of the top figures within sports media stereotyping Ruiz Jr. based on his looks. I would think that we would be better than that and recognize that anyone can accomplish something great in this world. It all just starts with a simple dream.

I understand and respect other people's takes on this subject, maybe I'm looking into things deeper than what they are, but it struck a chord with me and I felt the need to say something about it.

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