I’m writing this as we fly at 36,000 feet on our way to Southern California to play Cal State Fullerton this weekend. We are obviously hoping to have a successful weekend, but, first, I’m looking forward to finding some great SoCal weather after fighting the cold, snow and wind of North Texas for the past few weeks.
It’s always exciting to take the team on the first road trip of the season. It’s something that we really try to do as early as possible in the year, preferably to open the season. Not that we don’t enjoy playing at home! Last weekend, in the home opening series vs. Sam Houston State, we learned a lot about our team and set a three-game homestand attendance record, which was great.
However, when you go on the road, you really get the opportunity to block out some of the distractions of home, get your team together in the plane, bus and hotel, and really learn a lot about the personalities that you have on your club. Ask any former athlete, most of the best experiences (and really good stories) occur on the road, both on and off the field.
For us this weekend, we are facing a great challenge in playing THE GAME (I’ll come back to that later) at Cal State Fullerton. Fullerton is one of the great, historic programs in college baseball, and you can only make your team better by matching up against them for a few days. In my career, I’ve had some teams suffer some serious beatings at the hand of the Titans, but if you handle it the right way, you really learn a lot about the make-up and resiliency of your team. Of course, if you have success (in terms of wins), it’s something you can really take confidence from throughout the season.
The challenge though, is to avoid conversation about your opponent. We talk, in our program, about playing “THE GAME.” Kind of like a golfer playing the course versus the opponent. Baseball is a very simple game that is very hard to play because there is so much built in failure. You have all heard how even the very best hitters fail at about a 70 percent rate. What other profession would celebrate that rate of failure?!?!
As the coach, I try to continually talk about the PROCESS of playing baseball versus the RESULTS. In other words, when you play the GAME, you try to take the opponent, the umpires, and all other elements you can’t control out of the mind of the player. For example, a ground ball hit by the Rangers’ Michael Young in The Ballpark in Arlington, a groundball hit by Christian Colon (CSF’s All-America shortstop) and a groundball hit in practice at TCU are all the exact same ... just a groundball in a baseball game. The difference is the external factors: the surroundings, the stadium, the crowd, the noise, the self-imposed pressure, etc. If we can, as a team, just field the ground ball like we do every day in practice, we will be fine and over the course of the season, we will have success.
Of course, that’s a lot easier said than done, especially for a young team (at least our position players) like the one we have. That’s why I’m so looking forward to this weekend ... you grow up quickly playing the game on the same field with the Cal State Fullerton Titans!
Say a prayer for the Horned Frogs this weekend, and I hope to see many of you at the ballpark Tuesday night for our next home game vs. UT-San Antonio at 6:30pm.
Coach Jim Schlossnagle