For the past seven years, the Seton Hall baseball team has competed in the “Pirate Pride Challenge.” It is a series of activities, both through the mind and body, that help the team members grow as players and as men prior to the spring season.
To encourage competition, the team is divided and pitted against one another in a series of challenges. The groups are as evenly distributed as possible, as the staff ensures that players with opposing strengths play opposite each other.
“We break the teams down and balance them out and guys can figure out how they can contribute the best,” head coach Rob Sheppard said. “It allows them to be better teammates because everyone has a strength and a weakness. My teammate’s strength may be my weakness and my strength may be their weakness and it helps each other out.”
The yearly initiative has much more meaning than just team building and competitiveness, however. The groups are named after program alumni, and it gives the current members of the team a way to look back and learn about Seton Hall’s history on the diamond.
“We try to cover almost every era,” Sheppard said. “We try to go early Pirates, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s and try and get someone relatively recent but not within the last 10 years. We try and spread it so it’s not always in one specific period. We try and give it so that we can show the history of the program.”
This season, the Pirates will be representing John V. Donovan, Jr., Thaddeus S. Lepcio, Patrick Pacillo and Isaac Pavlik. In terms of time periods, Lepcio represents one extreme as he played for Seton Hall from the end of the 1940s and into the ‘50s. Pavlik is the most recent, as he was a part of the program as a relief pitcher in the early-2000s. Donovan and Pacillo represent the 1970s and 1980s, respectively.
Each team is required to do a presentation on its player as part of the challenge. For Sheppard, it helps enrich the legacy of the program and provide a sense of background for the members of it.
“We want to remember our tradition and get a feel for what the program is about,” Sheppard said. “It gives them more of a history record. If I’ve been here for four years, I learn about 16 guys that I may not have ever heard of and I get a feel for what the program is about and that is what we try to do.”
The presentation encapsulates part of what the coaches try and pitch with the challenge. It is not strictly physically based, but it rather incorporates academics as a large part.
“What I like it to do is it helps them create some type of strategy,” Sheppard said. “Each event is something different. Some of them are as easy as ping-pong. We have one where it’s a three-point competition, or we have a mile run. We use GPA as a part of that, too.”
The ultimate goal for the challenge is to build a sense of leadership and comradery before the season begins. It also assists in getting the players back into the swing of baseball season after a long, trying offseason.
“Strength and conditioning can get dry,” Sheppard said. “We’ll do some different events to get guys’ competitive juices flowing and things like that. There’s different things we do to keep it as active as we can and as competitive as we can, and the guys enjoy.
Following a fantastic 2018 campaign, this is especially important as expectations are higher than ever. The Pirate Pride Challenge serves as a way to gear up for the battle.
“Everything we try to do is geared towards preparing ourselves for the upcoming season,” Sheppard said. “Competitiveness, team building, leadership, and all the different team aspects. Certain guys like that atmosphere and they rise to the occasion.”
Kevin Kopf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @KMKTNF.