COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State baseball team held its first practice of the 2009 fall season Monday at Bill Davis Stadium under lovely blue skies with superb September temperatures reaching near 80 degrees. The practice opened with a two-lap jog around the stadium, including passing the freshly painted outfield walls, before stretching exercises under the direction of strength and conditioning coach Luke Tipple.
Then coach Bob Todd addressed the team in the dugout before sending the players onto the field to continue the morning activities. Speaking with a lingering writer, Todd said the mission of the fall practices was to work on fundamentals and technique and to start to get the team ready to win a Big Ten championship and play in an NCAA tournament.
“Every year, winning a Big Ten title and playing as best as we can in the NCAA tournament is our goal,” Todd said. “And that goal does start in the fall in the form of team building and team bonding.
“Fall is also a time to stress fundamentals and to truly teach proper technique. There are certain techniques in baseball. Players that learn proper technique, and have talent, are the guys that are going to be the most successful.”
A handful of coaches will be working with the team this fall. Here is a snapshot look, starting with the head coach, of the guys behind the scenes preparing the Buckeyes for a defense of their 2009 Big Ten championship:
* Todd is beginning his 23rd year with the program and will enter the spring season needing just three victories to reach 1,000 for his career. He carries a 997-536-2 overall mark into this, his 27th season, as a Division I head coach. An 18-6 Big Ten record last year lifted his conference mark to 402-223 and earned Todd his seventh Big Ten regular season championship and his fifth Big Ten coach of the year honor.
* Greg Cypret is in his 27th season as Todd’s assistant coach and his 23rd year at Ohio State. He works with the team’s hitters and infielders and also oversees the program’s recruiting efforts.
* Eric Parker begins his sixth season on the Ohio State staff and his third in a fulltime assistant coaching capacity. He works with the team’s pitchers.
* Pete Jenkins is in his third year as the team’s volunteer assistant coach as he nears completion of his bachelor’s degree at nearby Franklin University. Jenkins works with the team’s catchers and outfielders and also coaches third base during games.
* And new to the staff this year is student assistant coach Justin Miller. The former two-time team captain and career .337 hitter, who ranks second all-time at Ohio State with 273 hits and T3rd with 178 RBI, will also work with the team’s outfielder’s and catchers. Miller will coach first base this season during games.
Up for the Taking
Just three every day players are gone from last year’s team, leaving three open spots up for grabs (along with great competition at the other positions): Justin Miller’s third base position; Michael Arp’s right field spot; and the team closer, filled so masterfully and in All-American fashion last season by Jake Hale (school record 17 saves with a 1.31 ERA and 39 consecutive games finished).
Some Buckeyes will be working out at more than one position or at new positions this fall.
* Ryan Dew, an outfielder his first three seasons but who was a first-team all-Big Ten Conference designated hitter last season after an injury hindered his upper body movement in the outfield, will work out at first base this fall.
* Junior Brian DeLucia, back from a broken finger that sidelined him virtually the entire 2009 season, will switch positions and work out primarily in the outfield but could also continue to get some looks at third base.
* Third-year sophomore outfielder David Corna will work at first base as a secondary position.
* First baseman Matt Streng, a fourth-year junior, may also see some time at third base in the fall.
Ranges of Motion
Several Buckeyes will use the fall to recover from injuries and or surgeries that will allow for limited or no range of competitive motion this fall.
* LHP Andrew Armstrong had shoulder surgery in July and he won’t even begin running until after fall ball.
* 3B Brad Hallberg, still recovering from shoulder surgery during the 2009 spring season, will spend time in the batter’s box but will not do any throwing across the infield.
* Like Hallberg, CF Michael Stephens will work on his hitting this fall while recovering from elbow surgery this July.
* LHP Eric Best is coming off late July shoulder surgery and will not throw this fall.
* It is still to be determined in what capacity freshman Cole Brown, who had shoulder surgery two starts into his senior season this spring at Lawton Chiles High School, will be able to pitch.
* A couple other pitchers may be limited in terms of throwing, but more will be known as the team gets some practices behind it.
The four new freshmen on the team will wear numbers 8 (OF Hunter Mayfield), 9 (C Steel Russell), 25 (RHP Cole Brown) and 39 (RHP Brett McKiney), respectively. And there is one number change: 2B Ryan Cypret will wear No. 2 this year after wearing No. 8 as a true freshman when now graduated Michael Arp was in No. 2.
Eligibility-wise, the team is comprised of eight seniors, 11 juniors, three sophomores and nine freshmen (a total that includes five who red-shirted a year ago).