It is 10 a.m. on Jan. 26, a frigid 30 degrees day in South Orange, but the Seton Hall baseball team has begun to gather in the Richard and Sheila Regan Fieldhouse. Practice will not start for another half-hour, but players have already begun to hit each other ground balls and lightly throw. The first full-practice of the season is getting ready to begin.
Despite the restrictions presented by the cold weather outside, the Pirates are able to make the best of their indoor practices. Under the watchful guidance of 14-year head coach Rob Sheppard, the team is all business when it comes time to put work in at practice, whether it is taking place indoors or out.
Seniors, such as outfielder Ryan Ramiz, know how important it is to take advantage of any practice time the team can get.
“It’s a grind, especially the next two weeks,” Ramiz said. “As a Northeast school, we can’t really control the weather, so you just grind, whether it’s inside or outside for a couple hours per day.”
A few minutes before practice is set to begin, Sheppard enters the fieldhouse and posts a piece of paper outlining what he hopes to get done during the day’s session. In order to accomplish everything he has planned, Sheppard splits the team up by position starting with fielding drills.
Infielders and pitchers field ground balls on the makeshift diamond that is the hardwood floors of the basketball courts in the fieldhouse. Helping to lead the pitcher’s fielding practice – or PFP’s as they are called – is Shane McCarthy. The senior starter is on the Preseason All-Big East Team for the third consecutive year and is prepared for the formidable schedule that lies ahead.
“We’re really excited to get together and to work hard while preparing for North Carolina State,” McCarthy said. “It’s going to be a tough first weekend with strong competition but we’re going to be ready.”
In a little over two weeks’ time, the team will head down to Raleigh, N.C., where they will open the season with a series against the No. 23-ranked N.C. State Wolfpack on Feb. 16. The Pirates have assembled a demanding non-conference schedule, with many road and neutral-site games in southern states early on.
“We’ve got two weeks to get ready and we’ve got a tough schedule so we can’t take any day off,” Ramiz said.
Despite the team’s best efforts to seamlessly transition from the hardwood to the turf, one aspect of an outdoor practice that cannot be duplicated in the fieldhouse is flyballs. So, when it comes time for outfielders to get some fielding practice in, they still must endure the elements in some capacity to get their work in.
However, when it comes time to hit, both infielders and outfielders can enjoy the newly renovated indoor batting cages that were completed this past fall. The dual cages that are shared by both the baseball and softball teams allow for a more spacious area to take swings, a much-needed improvement for a cold-weather team.
“It’s a lot brighter and from my standpoint, it’s a lot more usable,” Sheppard said. “We had some space in the old cages that was considered ‘dead space,’ but now we have the whole thing.”
With an improved practice facility and a team that knows how to manage the northeast winter, the Pirates are yet again preparing in their unique conditions to lead-up another season.
“We have to come committed and prepared every day, and I think we’re ready for it,” said Ramiz.
Nick Santoriello can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NickSantoriello.