My alarm clock began singing to me entirely too early on Thursday morning (Sept. 16). We were scheduled for practice in the IHF from 6:30 a.m. to 9. Faint tinges of orange and pink spreading across the sky signaled that the sunrise was soon on its way. I admired the still-shining stars as I stumbled up the hill to Hinkle from the apartments. Hinkle was busy...we weren't the only team up and moving at this hour. Women's soccer was starting practice at the Butler Bowl, basketballs were bouncing in the main gym, a team (I couldn't tell which) was making use of the weight room and, as I carried my bag down the hill to the facility, the cross country team was running around the track. I admire how they can run in the dark; I would somehow manage to trip myself. Even on a flat surface.
It's nice to have entire practices focused on hitting. The IHF is the perfect place to do so. During our morning workouts, we set up different stations that specialize on and fine-tune different elements of our swings. We do drills off tees, bunting practice off of the (often erratic) machine, front toss and live hitting. Sometimes we'll take violent swings at a football dummy to work on keeping our hands inside the ball. It's also a good stress releaser. We then make use of an evil blue contraption, which is designed to teach a hitter to control her bat barrel. If the barrel drops, the bat will hit a tennis ball attached to the back of the tee, make a rather loud noise, and knock it over. Embarrassing.
Morning hitting is intense but relaxed, which sounds like an oxymoron. We work hard and have fun in the process. Coach usually puts a country playlist on the bulky stereo in the corner. I had a Josh Turner song stuck in my head all day, but I didn't mind that much.
On Friday we were able to find time to practice on the Bowl. We finally had the opportunity to work on full-team defense, communication, first-and-thirds and bunt/slap coverage. We started practice by splitting up into infield and outfield. The turf gave us, the outfielders, a chance to work on slide catches and diving. We were covered in little rubber pieces. I dumped a huge pile out of my shoes after practice. I'm also pretty sure I swallowed a few. Gross.
We ended practice with one of the strangest conditioning drills I've ever encountered. We were to run the base paths and, as we approached each base, one of the coaches would tell us to do a specific thing. We would run through the base, keep going to the next one, dive back and get up, stop halfway and run back, slide into the base; the situation varied. It was ridiculously funny to watch and totally exhausting to complete. Girls were diving, sliding, stopping, starting, and screaming…it was chaos. My abs hurt from laughing so hard. We were sharing the Bowl with men's soccer. I'm sure they enjoyed watching this drill unfold.
MAGIC: Making a Group into Champions.
The above happens to be our new team mantra.