Spring Training in the Winter: Hillsdale College Chargers

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Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Shane Armstrong and I am a junior RHP for the Hillsdale College Chargers. Hillsdale is a NCAA Division II school in southern Michigan that competes in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Over the next several weeks I will be giving readers an inside look into how things operate as we are preparing to begin our season in March.

After a long fall of workouts, practices, and scrimmages we went home for a month-long winter break. Practice resumed Jan. 20 in the school’s indoor track facility – the Margot V. Biermann Athletic Center. With about ten inches of snow covering the ground and temperatures struggling to stay above 0 degrees, outdoor practices are not an option during this part of the year. We are very fortunate to have a facility like the Biermann. It is big enough to do infield work, outfield drills, and even allows us to do long-toss at a good distance.

The first game of the season is March 1 in Louisville, Kentucky. In order to prepare for the start of the season we dedicate our time to school, practice, and lifting. To begin the spring semester we lift four times a weeks in groups, all of the lifting groups are done before practice. The hitters have offensive work in groups before practice which takes place in our hitting facility, “The Barn”, which is located behind our right field wall.

After lifting and hitting groups, the whole team comes together at five o’clock for practice. Practice begins with a team stretch and warm-up. From there, the team is split up by position. Pitchers go to the center of the facility and start our throwing routine while the position players do some speed and base-running work on the West runway of the track.

During the first week the pitchers did a catch routine and some long toss with no work from the mound. As the weeks build up to the beginning of March, we will increase the amount of mound work. Next week we will start throwing bullpens, then throwing live, and increasing our pitch count to be in good throwing shape for the season. Every practice the pitchers have some type of conditioning which usually involves sprints, squats, and/or jumps followed by a jog at the end.

Position players use practice time to get good work in on defense and base-running since they already covered their offensive work with their hitting groups. Base-running work is done at the beginning of practice because their legs are fresh and it allows them to work on speed at the same time. After base-running the position players split up into their positions. Outfielders go to the West runway while the infielders take grounders and work on double plays in the center.

At seven o’clock we all meet as a team in the center of the Biermann Center and are addressed by the coaches. They talk about the good and bad from practice, what the rest of the week is going to be like and inform us of any announcements. The first week of the semester involved a lot of drill work and getting back into the swing of things. As the weeks go on the practices will adapt to prepare us for live competition.

Editor’s note: Some time ago, I had inquired of Shane of the potential to write this series. Upon checking with the kind individuals at Hillsdale, he was given the go, and I am sure you will enjoy Shane writing about the baseball season from a college pitcher’s perspective. In doing so, I believe all of us will learn a little ore about what teams, regardless of the level, endure as a season evolves.

A heartfelt “thank you” to all of those individuals at Hillsdale for allowing Shane to open the window into the team.

- Steve

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