Division I NCAA baseball programs play and practice year-round. They scrimmage in the fall, they have team workouts in the winter and they start playing games in places like Florida before the snow melts in the Northeast. They even have team doctors to replace their elbow ligaments when the velocity on their fastball dips.
The Boston University club baseball team, however, has none of those things. This year, it had three practices before it played a game –‘-‘- it normally has twice that many at least. It doesn’t have a field on campus, and the players are stuck with the ligaments God gave them.
‘The way class started this year, it was a little harder [to practice] because the league’ started right away,’ senior co-captain Charlie King said.
‘Basically it’s just because the playable weather is so short in the fall that we start games right away when school gets back [in session],’ fellow senior co-captain Josh Cabana said. ‘So it’s kind of a balance between trying to play as many games as we can and getting a little bit of practice in before we start and try to get our team together.’
None of that matters to them.
The team is optimistic about its 2009-10 season and its chances of winning the New England Club Baseball Association title this fall.
King and Cabana headline a talented crop of upperclassmen who expect nothing less than a playoff birth and a shot at the league championship.
The Terriers play in the Central Division of the NECBA, which includes Emmanuel College, the College of the Holy Cross, Tufts University and two-time defending league champion Northeastern University.
The Huskies beat out BU last season by just a game and a half in the standings. And after beating BU 11-6 last Friday, the Huskies look poised for another run at the league title.
‘[The Huskies are] returning the best hitter in the conference and the best pitcher in the conference,’ King said. ‘They are returning most of their baseball team ‘- pretty much every starter. [They’re a] very veteran squad.’
Despite losing by five runs, King likes what he has seen from the team so far this year and thinks the score of the Northeastern loss is deceiving.
‘[The NU game] was a good game ‘-‘- the score makes it look a lot worse than it was,’ King said. ‘But we played with them every inning except we just had one bad inning. You can hit all you want but if you can’t get people out or make plays you’re going to lose.’
Despite having only spent one season competing for a league title with the Huskies, the battle between BU and the Huskies for the Central crown has created one of the league’s most bitter rivalries.
‘Every time we go out and play [Northeastern] it’s a big game,’ Cabana said. ‘They’re the team to beat. We play them three times during the season and we’ve played them once and lost once, but those next two games we’ll definitely have them circled.’
After the season-opening loss to the Huskies, BU split a double-header against another division foe, Holy Cross ‘- losing the first game 6-3 and winning the second 13-3.
BU lost a key part of its lineup in senior second baseman/outfielder Kevin Kravitz to study abroad and is adjusting to a different style of play.
‘This year, our team is going to be built more around pitching and defense,’ King said.
Isn’t that a good thing?
‘It’s not a bad thing,’ King said. ‘It’s just a new style that we’re going to get used to and we’ve got to get down. We’ve got to play more small-ball style. We try to produce and create our own runs instead of relying on all the typical big innings when everyone comes in and gets hits. We’re going to have to bunt people over, steal some bases, hit and run and just play more of a small-ball style.’
The Terriers next three games feature Emmanuel College, Merrimack College and Yale University. Those teams have a combined record of 1-7 so far this year. King called all three games ‘very winnable.’
Overall, both captains like the team’s blend of veteran players and talented rookies.
‘We have a good core of upper classmen,’ Cabana said. ‘Where the rookie class is really helping us out is with pitching. There’s some strong pitching in the rookie class.’
‘We added a lot of good new pitching and we added some depth to our outfield and behind the plate,’ King said. ‘It’s probably the deepest pitching staff we’ve had since I’ve been here in my four years.’
Fourteen teams in the NECBA are battling for six playoff spots and the Terriers like their chances of being one of those six teams and beating out their rival, Northeastern University.
‘We were close last year [to winning the division,]’ Cabana said, ‘I think we have the pieces that we need to round out the team now.’
‘Overall we have a chance to be a very good team and compete with Northeastern,’ King said. ‘We have to take care of everyone else in our division, win every game and then worry about Northeastern when we play Northeastern.’