Fall training for the baseball team was not just a time for players to goof off or approach practices with half-hearted attitude, instead, it was a time for them to develop both physically and mentally.
For almost two months, the new and old members of the baseball team met together for daily workouts and practices.
The workouts took place every weekday with the exception of Wednesday. Meeting at a time most college students would abhor, the team began their workouts at exactly 6 a.m.
“We would all meet in front of the bleachers in the gym,” freshman pitcher Tyler Doornink recalled. “Most of us would just lie there waiting for the last guy to show before we would have to begin. I think I even fell asleep once. It was pretty early.”
After beginning with a light jog and stretches, the team would split off into two separate groups. One group consisted of the pitchers and catchers, while the other was composed of position players. Each group took turns doing agilities or weights.
Weightlifting focused on players gaining endurance and strength by using less weight and doing more reps. Other workout exercises involved sprinting, jump-roping, shuttles, box jumps and other drills to improve the players’ balance, lateral, reactionary movement and speed. The exercises the team did were from a new training system the coaches incorporated this year.
The workout system the team utilized was the same as the one used by the professional baseball team, the Texas Rangers. Head coach Nate Mayben received the training manual from a former Corban player and decided to use it for the team’s training this fall.
“We had to tailor it a little bit to fit our team’s needs, but I feel that it has helped the players,” Mayben said. “It’s given the team an idea of more specific drills to cover for improved play in all areas of the game.”
“I feel like the workouts have helped quite a bit,” third baseman Nate Hiebert said. “I definitely feel a difference in my ability to do more reps and weight.”
Outside of the early morning workouts, the team also practiced every weekday on the baseball field during the afternoons.
In practices, the players worked on all phases of the game: batting, pitching and fielding. For batting, they were encouraged to not be so finicky and hesitant about swinging, but to instead simply make hard contact with the ball.
The pitchers worked on their throwing mechanics and were told to develop trust in their fielders, because, in turn, that trust would allow them to feel confidence in every pitch they threw.
Working on individual fielding and situational defenses, the fielders learned how to be much more intuitive and instinctive in their fielding habits during games.
“During our exhibition games and practices this fall, I felt at times like the pitchers really threw with great confidence and that our defense played strong,” Mayben said. “But I believe as a team we improved the most in our base running. We are 10 times better in that area. This will be a huge plus for us, especially since we are a small ball team who likes to hit and run.”
While the team improved in its play and physical attributes, the one thing coaches stressed the most was the mental approach to the game. No longer acceptable was players hanging their heads after a mistake such as a fielding error or bad strikeout. The coaches understood that mistakes would happen, but it was the reaction afterwards that the coaches felt had to be changed.
“I wanted the players to gain an understanding of two things during this fall training, which were baseball savvy and pride,” Mayben said. “Baseball savvy because they need to know that failure is going to happen. But in response they need to make a second effort and give their 100 percent with a positive mindset. In relation, pride is also necessary. Having pride in your team and ability as a player will help you realize that you’re capable of anything and that includes winning.”
The promotion of change in mindset was not lost on the players.
“I noticed during this fall that everything was very business-like,” pitcher Jason Braun said. “Not loosey-goosey like before. It kind of reminded me of an assembly line in that it was very efficient and productive.”
Although the team has long finished its fall training, the players still continue their own individual workouts and batting sessions. They understand the task that lies ahead when their regular season begins next February, with what is predicted to be the nation’s sixth toughest schedule in their division.
It has been six years since the baseball program last had a winning record. Developing the mindset of confidence with pride and passion for the game may just be the needed remedy for the team.