Garrett Aleckson —
Nothing—not even the snow—can stop the excitement about baseball season returning. Not even the snowstorm I had to walk through just a couple minutes after interviewing University of Wisconsin–Stout baseball head coach, Toby Gardenhire, could dampen his excitement for baseball.
Gardenhire’s reasons behind his baseball season excitement are simple, yet true for many baseball fans.
“I just love baseball. I’m excited to get rolling. It will be nice if we get good weather, and it’s just nice that it is baseball season again,” said Gardenhire.
With the new season starting, he takes a look back at the past season to see what the team needs to improve on.
“We need to get better in a couple areas…We need to get more hits and play better defense,” said Gardenhire. “We did not do well in conference play last year—so, hopefully, we can do better when our conference schedule starts.”
The team has already played 11 games down in Florida. They went 6-5 in that stretch—something that is a good sign for the rest of the season.
“It was nice because we went down to Florida already. We hit the ball well and we did a good job of pitching. We still have some work to do on the defense, but we have some aspects we think we can build on,” said Gardenhire.
The schedule for their 11 games down in Florida was a tough one for the Blue Devils, but the stretch showed Gardenhire a lot about the team.
“I know we have a good group of guys. Playing a tough schedule is something we want to do, because it prepares us for tough conference opponents,” said Gardenhire. “We played pretty well and did some good and bad things; I think we proved that we can compete with and beat just about anybody.”
The team’s goals are what every team should be competing for. In order for the team to accomplish their goals, they will look to compete well on a consistent basis.
“Our goal is always to win the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC). I think we have shown in the past that we can compete with just about anybody in the league,” said Gardenhire. “We just need to be more consistent. We can do it, it’s just a matter of putting it all together, and doing that for more than just one or two games at a time.”
The Blue Devils have a team that is full of returning players. While they figured their strength would be pitching before the season started, the 11 games in Florida made Gardenhire confident in other aspects of the team’s play.
“We have a lot of pitchers returning and have a couple guys that have pitched very well in the league. Offensively, we swung the bats really well in Florida. So, we think the offense will be big too,” said Gardenhire. “But pitching should be our main strength. If the defense plays well behind the pitchers and we get timely hits, we can beat just about anybody.”
There are 10 juniors and 10 seniors on the team. The veteran presence looks to be huge for the team, and should add a sense of urgency.
“When you have a lot of older guys, it makes the expectations high. It means they do not have much longer to do it. If you’re a senior, it’s your last shot,” said Gardenhire.