Nov. 8, 2013
The University of Michigan baseball team finished up fall practice this past week with the Maize and Blue World Series. Coach Erik Bakich sat down with MGoBlue.com to discuss the ongoing facility upgrades, his impression of the fall practice and what Team 148 can work on before practice begins again in January.
On the update of the Fisher Stadium project ... "The stadium upgrade project is nothing short of awesome. The construction crew responsible for doing the sub-base is just about done and Astroturf will get in here next week and start laying their turf down. The project is probably less than a month away from being completed. It's going to be a state of the art baseball and softball complex. The dugout expansion looks terrific. The video board is going to be a game changer from an atmosphere and recruiting standpoint. The nutrition lounge has also been a game changer from a player development standpoint. All in all, we have some incredible upgrades taking place that we are extremely excited about. And the impact it's going to have on not only our current team but also our future team."
On the overall impressions of the fall ... "Fall was definitely unique. It was a great opportunity to get on the road. We practiced about four days a week. On Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays we would go to local and regional high schools and colleges and get on their fields and get on the team bus. It was a unique team building experience as well as a development experience in our practice schedule. It was a bit of a grind but it was certainly a positive because the season is a grind as well so it was a good experience to get guys out of their comfort zone and teach them about being comfortable being uncomfortable. It gave us an opportunity to work with the guys on an individual and small-group basis on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as our leadership training on those days. In the six weeks that we had of our fall calendar, we couldn't have maximized our time any better. We still have a long way to go from a team and individual development standpoint but we're light years ahead of where we were at this time last year with the team. That's certainly a positive."
On if the travel in the fall will help the team in the spring ... "I don't see how getting acclimated to riding a team bus or playing on the road in the experiences that we had throughout September and October this fall can do anything but help us this spring. We open up the 2014 season with 25 consecutive road games. I don't think there's any doubt that Team 148 will be battle tested with their travels. Certainly with our trip to Florida that we took for fall break, going to Fort Myers, that was great preparation because we treated it very similarly to a road series in the season. We feel like we had great preparation for the travels that we're going to endure this spring."
On what position groups stood out in the fall ... "Overall, we're much deeper positionally. We have more athletes at more positions. On the mound, we're deeper as well. We return a lot of our innings from last year. Positionally, with the loss of (Patrick) Biondi and (Michael) O'Neil, it would be significant on any team but we've brought in a lot of really good athletes who are only going to improve with the more they play. We'll see a nice blend of new players and returning players out there come season time. But there's a lot of talent in this group that will improve as the season goes."
On the performance of the newcomers in the fall ... "They all did well. It's a process. There's an adjustment period. And there's a little bit of a transition getting acclimated to the speed and tempo at which we practice and the standard at which these guys are required to do everything that they do, whether it be baseball practice or weight lifting or their commitment to their classroom and involvement in the community. I think that was a little bit of an adjustment period but they all adjusted well. One of the most important things for the newcomers and the entire group of Team 148 was creating and identifying the core values for this team because this isn't last year's team. This team is totally different and has a new look. We've invested the time this fall to create that identity to what this team will be. I think everyone is excited about the potential of this group."
On the competitiveness of the Maize and Blue World Series ... "The Maize and Blue World Series was a great way to finish our fall schedule. We were able to have three close scoring, competitive, emotional games on the road. I thought all three games could have gone in any direction. The guys learned the importance of how one swing or one pitch or one play can determine the outcome of a game."
On what the team works on between now and the start of practice in January..."We have about one month remaining. Our goal is to make every day count for the remainder of our time with the team. The goal is to get better every single day. Right now, we're in a period where our time is very precious and valuable. We don't have much of it with the team, so we're really focused on individual player development. We're not doing as many team-specific drills. It's more working with the players one-on-one and in small groups. This is a period of the year where there's a huge commitment to strength and conditioning and getting the players' bodies as strong and physical as possible. We'll conclude fall with the Omaha Challenge the week after Thanksgiving. That will be our last week of training. We will finish up on Friday, Dec. 6. All of their workouts from that point forward until we start school again in January will be on their own, and the guys will have a winter program that they follow on their own."