Baseball Embraces Newness, Begins 2015 Season

The Bat Cats are holding their first team practice of the 2015 season, and the players and coaches couldn't be happier to get back at it.
"Practices couldn't have gotten here quick enough as far as I'm concerned," said head coach Brad Hill as his smile grew from wide to wider. "I've been anxiously awaiting the start of this season."
With a roster filled with new faces - nine freshmen and 13 transfers, to be exact - the Wildcat baseball team is eager to get on the field for its new beginning. 
Hill said he liked what he saw over the fall and winter months from both his returners and newcomers, and he has especially enjoyed the environment this year's squad creates every time they get together. 
"With the influx of new kids, new faces, the exciting thing about that is that there's a lot of excitement and a lot of enthusiasm," said Hill. "There's a lot of teaching going on, so we're so actively involved in everything it seems like this year. There's some anxiousness with the newness, and we're not sure how kids are going to respond and all, but I sure like the energy that they're bringing. They're very attentive to what we're trying to teach because it's all new to them."
This year's team provides a different environment than any team in recent memory. However, it's an environment that has brought the Wildcats closer than ever before. 
"We have a lot of young guys, but I think their maturity level is very high," said one of 14 returners this year, junior pitcher Levi MaVorhis. "Even our junior college transfers, they've come in and everybody has bonded. It's forced us, in a way, to all hang out because nobody knows everybody on the team, but we've come together like one big happy family."
Helping bring the "big happy family" together is this year's group of seniors. The Wildcats' first baseman, senior Shane Conlon, said he has enjoyed taking the freshmen under his wing. 
"With all the new guys coming in, I've kind of made the point of emphasis for myself to take a step back and kind of remember what it was like to be a freshman," explained Conlon. "I'm building relationships with those guys because there are so many new ones. To be a successful team, you have to have good camaraderie around the clubhouse. That was huge during the fall, and it's crazy how good it's turned out. We've built strong relationships already and that's going to be critical for when we're in the trenches fighting with these guys."
Three weeks until the Wildcats will be firing away together in those trenches, K-State opens its 2015 season with a trip to Port Charlotte, Florida, where it will take on Iowa, Pittsburgh, George Mason and Saint Louis in the Snowbird Classic, Feb. 13-15. 
"I want to make sure that we understand the style of play we want to establish," explained Hill when asked what he hopes to get out of the next few weeks of practice. "We have to get guys ready in such a short amount of time. So you're very injury conscious with guys trying to get prepared in three weeks, preparing a pitching staff and their arms - you have to be very conscious of that. But at the same time, games are very important and you want to put your best foot forward and get off to a good start. So what we want to do is establish a style of play, who we want to be and try to get an identity for this team."
Building that identity, an identity Hill said will take a while to really learn, begins today.
The Wildcats will open the day with batting practice before breaking down into positions to work on individual defense. Then the team will come together, work on more defense and in-game situations such as bunting and the running game before closing the day with its first simulated game of 2015.
"It's going to start out like every first day of practice we have," explained Conlon, "but it'll be nice because the weather is actually warm for us. We've already been outside more than I've ever been outside before a season has started, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage."
While teams in the south and on the West Coast have the opportunity to practice outdoors year-round giving them an edge when the season begins, it's not often K-State has long stretches of time during the winter months where the weather is cooperative enough to play outdoors. 
"Hitters need to see pitchers, pitchers need to see hitters," said Hill. "We need to react to game situations, so we need to do as much as we can. Particularly, we want to do as much as we can with situations outside because I know at some point in time in these next two weeks we'll be back indoors."
Taking advantage of the weather, this team's willingness to learn and its unique character, today the Wildcats will begin their journey into the 2015 season.
"Everybody respects one another," concluded MaVorhis. "Young guys have no problem talking and asking questions. If someone isn't doing something right, an older guy will help out, and I think everybody kind of respects one another and has a say on the team. That really helps a lot."

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