Each year, the Raven’s baseball team has a four week period available to them for team activities per NCAA regulations. It is full of long days for the players, trying to improve as much as they can in the tight window. It is all worth it in the end when the men get to go out and play the Black and Orange World Series.
Following a tradition that dates back many years, at the end of each fall season, the Ravens put together two groups of seniors to be captains in the intersquad draft. The players dress up in their finest clothes and await their name to be called. At the beginning of the day, everything is light and friendly. By the time the last name is taken off the board, you’d be hard pressed to believe the guys are on the same team.
“There’s nothing friendly about the World Series,” says Junior outfielder Leo Marrero. “Once the draft is over, the competitiveness comes out almost immediately. We basically become two separate teams, and it stays that way until there’s a winner.”
The World Series is a best of three weekend event where the players get a chance to compete and see how the team is taking shape for the upcoming season. This year, due to rain, all three games took place on Saturday at Grand Park in Westfield. Despite dropping the first game, the orange team rallied and won the second and third games to win the series and bragging rights against their teammates.
While the series may not count in the record books, Coach Mathew Bair sees the entire fall season as a way to preview what the team will look like in the spring.
“For us, the fall is a great opportunity to not only implement culture, expectations and fundamentals, but it’s also a great opportunity for us to evaluate our freshmen,” said Bair. “It’s nice to see how they fit in the bunch. We can see where there are holes and can plug in those new guys where we see fit.”
Because of NCAA restrictions, Bair and his coaching staff are very limited in the amount of contact they can have with the team this semester.
“Once the fall season ends, our contact is essentially minimized to one on one meetings with players that are not even baseball related,” added Bair. “We try to put together individual plans for these guys to improve, but as far as coaching opportunities, we are very limited until January.”
Due to the limited time frame presented to the team, they try to get as much work in as they can in their four week window. This results in the players being subject to long days of practice. However, sophomore catcher MJ Furnish doesn’t believe the short fall season hurts the amount of work the team is able to do.
“Honestly, the fall season is shorter than I would like,” said Furnish. “That’s only because of restrictions for D-III baseball. We are able to get a lot done, and it’s awesome to see progress in such a short period of time. Even though the fall season ends after four weeks, you can still find us hitting, throwing and working out in the KWC the entire year all the way up to and through the spring.”
The Ravens are coming off of a great season where they finished one win away from a conference championship. This year, the goal for the team is to get back to that point and finish the job.
“Coming off of a good run last year, I think we have the talent and the culture to get back there,” said Bair. “Last year we had some injuries plague us, and this year our number one priority is to stay healthy. We have some great young pitchers that should get a good number of innings. We have a lot of talented baseball players in this program, and I’m excited for what these guys can do.”
The team uses their long days of practice and the competition of the Black and Orange World Series as valuable time to establish a culture. They look to not only win a lot of games, but to do it together.
“The culture we have here is unmatched,” said Marrero. “We have a passion and desire not only to win, but to win together as a family. One thing I’m excited about is these new guys coming in. The freshmen have really stepped up and bought into what we are trying to accomplish.”
The Ravens will resume team activities the third week of January. Until then, expect to see a lot of them in the KWC getting ready for the upcoming season.