Feb. 13, 2016 Photo Gallery
PORT CHARLOTTE, FLA. – Redshirt junior pitcher Shea Murray blogs during the team’s practice trip to beautiful Port Charlotte, Fla. The Buckeyes have three practice sessions schedule at North Charlotte Regional Park – home for the 2016 Snowbird Classic March 4-6.
Day 3: We began our Valentine’s Day in the sunshine state earlier than the previous two with breakfast in the hotel cafe at 10:30. A couple of the guys that threw Saturday and were in need of a flush run (a conditioning session the day after pitching) woke up a bit earlier to head to the basketball courts near the hotel. Coach Delucia took them out around 8:30, well before the sun rises for most of us, and got them up and down the court to sprint out some of the wear on their arms from day two of throwing. We then all met up for our team breakfast which featured eggs benedict, biscuits and sausage gravy, and a variety of wonderful breakfast meats.
We headed back to the rooms to pack our things and check out of the hotel before the 11:30 am bus departure. Stoll managed to misplace the thing that most of us hold most closely in modern day America, his phone. Now, if you will recall Stoll also had an issue with the TSA and a water bottle at the beginning of the trip making him a two-time offender of minor mental mix ups. However, luckily this did not affect his ability to perform on the mound throughout the weekend.
We arrived to the complex around 12:30 pm with all of our belongings packed into the bottom of the bus (other than a cell phone) and ready to perform on day three in the warm Florida sunshine. Stretch and daily throwing programs went well and Coach Holick even found the courage to perform the daily ritual of singing the Fight Song in front of the team, a task that in the past has proved too daunting for him. BP was entertained once again by Morando’s POV cameras and a missile show put on by our power hitters and Ratty.
So began the day three scrimmage. Just before the start Stoll got the call he had been waiting for from the hotel, his phone was found. No longer was he running around aimlessly with nothing on his mind but texting his girlfriend happy Valentine’s Day, hoping his phone hadn’t ended up lodged in the crevice between the headboard and mattress, or worse, harmlessly sitting on the nightstand next to his bed so he looked like he was losing his mind (actually what happened). Now he could really focus.
Ryan Feltner took the mound to start for one team while John Havird started for the opposing team. Each had strong performances through several innings while Jake Vander Wal, Troy Montgomery and Ryan Leffel all had excellent days at the plate. To finish up the scrimmage, Jacob Bosiokovic took the mound in the top of the inning, hit a home run in the bottom of the inning, then went back out and struck out the side. Impressive as a description for this feat would be an understatement.
There were several strong performances out of the bullpen on day three including Daulton Mosbarger, Kyle Michalik, Connor Curlis, Mike Horejsei, Curtiss Irving and Joe Stoll, who somehow managed to recover from the phone incident.
After another day at the park and a substantial amount of UV Rays caught over the course of the weekend, we reluctantly left the complex with our bats, gloves, and farmer’s tans for the final field departure of week one.
We took the bus from the field to a local high school to shower up before the short 40-minute trip to the airport. The bus ride was notably interesting. Over half of the guys were combing through the pictures on their phones, desperately seeking out the perfect picture to post on social media of them and their girlfriend for Valentine’s Day. This is quite a task because the picture has to be perfect. Not a picture you would post on any normal day, but a picture that somehow describes the cuteness of your relationship. Now, you would think it stops once the picture is found, but that is only the beginning. The real battle is finding the perfect set of words to use as a caption for the picture that pleases not only your girlfriend, but the other 34 hecklers surrounding you. The average reader of this blog would not believe the amount of thought that goes into this process as a team. But I suppose, if anything, this can describe the closeness of this group of guys. This combined with a road meal of chicken alfredo and endless video game strategy discussion took up all 40 minutes of the commute, and I can say with perfect confidence that it would have taken up all the minutes of any length trip.
Before we knew it we were back in Fort Meyers at the airport ready to board the plane at 7:40 pm. It was a full flight so many of us were forced to sit next to people we did not know. Anyone that knows Curtiss Irving well, knows that he is the “country boy” of the team. He loves being in the woods. This made his seatmates on the flight the perfect fit. Sitting across the aisle and just three rows back from me, Curtiss sat between two men with camouflage jackets, cowboy hats and boots. The conversation about hunting, fishing, and baseball never ceased. By chance, Curtiss found himself with two new best friends who also reside in Ohio.
We got off the flight from Fort Meyers in Nashville for the connecter flight to Columbus. There was a short layover in Nashville where Coach Stafford and Coach Holick found themselves comfortably sitting in the airport massage chairs and many of us ate up a variety of airport foods. We got back on the plane for the final leg home around 10:30 pm. The flight went smoothly, no one made any new best friends, and we soon got home to the snowy and cold Columbus.
The short trip from the Columbus airport back to Bill Davis Stadium was spent tallying up the amount of social media likes and reposts in competitive fashion. We were all sad to be out of the sun and back to the real world, but knowing we will be right back down next weekend eased the pain. One final interesting thing to note; when we got back to the field after a weekend of snow, we found that all of our car windows had been cleared of snow. The people who performed this random act of Valentine’s Day love remain anonymous. But if you happen to read this, let us know because we want to thank you for saving us 15 minutes of cold snow and ice scraping at 1 am!
To wrap up the first weekend it is safe to say it was a successful set of three days. The first-year guys got their feet wet in their first taste of the travel life, and loved it. Horejsei had a good time chasing down home run balls (or whatever he was doing behind the fence). Stoll is still working the feeling of his phone in his pocket and TSA security requirements. The social media war and video game discussion is forever reaching new heights. Finally everyone was excited to be in the sun, we received numerous good meals, and the team performed very well for the first weekend down south. It is now safe to say, it’s baseball season.
Day 2: Our second day down south was much like the first but with more time spent in the sun. Most of us woke up before the mandatory team meal at 11:30 am to check out the breakfast options at the hotel café. It was great to be able to enjoy some scrambled eggs, hot coffee and cinnamon rolls on the patio overlooking the harbor.
Team meal before heading to practice was good, including a spread of chicken breasts and pasta. But now it was time to head to the field where the gators (and armadillos), sun, and field awaited us. Upon arriving we went through our daily stretch and throwing program before starting batting practice. BP proved slightly less interesting than the previous day, as it was hard to match the circumstances from the first night in the good weather. However, this trip down south our SID (sports information director) Alex Morando joined us to shoot a lot of POV footage using head cameras that the guys were wearing at their positions. He thought it would be cool for people to see and hear what it is like from various positions on the field. Other than that, the hitters were focused and impressive as they prepared for their day at the plate.
We finished up batting practice and it was out of our shorts and into our pants to start the game. Starting pitchers for each team were Tanner [Tully] and Adam [Niemeyer]. Both threw well and Tanner even struck out five of his first six batters. Meanwhile the chatter in the dugout was good but often interrupted by a faint alarm that seemed to be going off constantly throughout the game. As we would come to find out around the fourth inning, it was McDonough’s phone alarm. McDonough is one of the stronger guys on our team and eating often is important to him. If anyone knows the term “hangry” it certainly applies to him if he doesn’t get at least a protein bar in him every 45 minutes. So that faint alarm we were hearing was the alarm that he had set on his phone reminding him to eat! The alarms were titled Meal 4, Meal 5, and so on. The interesting thing is that the first one went off at around 12:30 and was titled Meal 4! So, needless to say, we all got a good laugh out of that. Even after missing a meal or six, McDonough was still feeling well enough to hit a bomb over the left field wall! The two good starts and other good appearances by several bullpen guys including Seth [Kinker] and Yianni [Pavlopoulos] wrapped up the pitching side.
We finished up the interquad practice around 6 p.m. and were greeted by burgers and hot dogs from an Ohio State alumni group residing in Port Charlotte. This was great, as we were all hungry after a long day at the park. Also as we loaded the bus, which was parked right along the water, we noticed a gator swimming around less than 30 feet from us! Ratcliff offered to wrestle with it but Sergakis was quick to point out he didn’t stand a chance.
We headed back to the hotel on the bus after making a short pit stop for snacks and drinks. It was a pretty fun night. Most of us enjoyed watching the events of the NBA all-star weekend and playing cards to wrap up our day before bed, as we prepared for our third and final day in the sun.
Day 1: The opening trip down south to the “Sunshine State” could not have started any better. Matt Carpenter [Carp] would arrive slightly late to the airport bound bus from Bill Davis Stadium, but it didn’t matter. Everyone was too excited to get out of the snow and ice surrounding our field to make a difference in our moods. So the trip began. We arrived to the airport and got through bag checks and security fairly smoothly. I use the word fairly because there was a minor mix up by Joey Stoll. Apparently there is a new rule about water bottles going through airport security (somehow no one else had any difficulties!).
After boarding, the plane had a warm little bath to melt off the snow and ice surrounding the wheels and engines prior to takeoff, but before we knew it we were up 37,000 feet in the clouds. A smooth flight, an entertaining crew and a variety of passengers (including a little baby girl sitting next to Yianni [Pavlopoulos] that was anything but quiet kept the two and a half hour trip light. Soon enough we were stepping onto the bus that would take us from the airport in Fort Meyers to our hotel in Punta Gorda.
We stepped off the bus into the comfortable 70 degree sunshine in route to a small meal and room check in. Needless to say everyone was excited to explore the area surrounding the hotel which is filled with palm trees and a beautiful view of the Charlotte Harbor. After receiving our rooming assignments and getting settled into our rooms, it was right back onto the bus to head to the field to fire up the first practice of the weekend. To say “fire up” would be to understate the mood of the team. After only a couple outdoor practices in the cold Columbus weather and many indoor practices in the Woody Hayes Athletic Facility, it goes without saying that 30 college baseball players and their coaching staff were very excited to be outside on Florida grass and clay! We got off the bus, hustled to get our cleats on, and were on the field under the lights (around 6:30 pm) stretching in no time.
During stretch Coach Beals, who was sitting near Yianni on the plane, was quick to announce a sort of “humanitarian of the day” award to Yianni for sitting next to a kicking and screaming baby girl for two and a half hours on the plane. That being said, I was ten rows in front of the pair and was forced to put my headphones on full volume, so there is certainly merit in what Beals was saying! We went through our daily throwing program and hit a couple outfield cutoff drills where the outfielders did not hesitate to show off their arms in the warm Florida weather and then started batting practice. Live look from the cabin
Now, batting practice on a regular basis is a pretty good time. Coach Holick’s infield is taking ground balls, while the hitters are getting their work in and the pitchers are chasing down balls in the outfield. However, in this particular situation it took on a whole new energy. It was warm, the lights were bright, country music was playing in the background and the pitchers were having a heyday shagging fly balls in the outfield. As usual Zach Ratcliff (Ratty), Jacob Bosiokovic (Bosi), and Ronnie Dawson were entertaining the area 50 feet beyond the outfield wall (sorry Monty), but this BP everyone was spraying balls and the crack of the bat was louder than I have heard it since the last time we were in Florida. I could go on about the impressive BP being put on by the hitters for paragraphs, but I believe everyone will have an opportunity to see the show they put on throughout the season. So instead I will talk about the equally as entertaining “pitchers trying to be outfielders.” Kyle Michalik robbed a homerun to dead center that rivaled the Beltran robbing of David Ortiz in the 2013 World Series. Meanwhile an unspoken (not a word commonly associated with Niemeyer) battle for fly balls between Adam and Yianni took up all of left field in the midst of Ridge trying to get reads. While all of THIS was going on Mike Horejsei was battling gators in the woods for homerun balls. He claims that at one point he had to pry a ball from the jaws of an armadillo. I know we aren’t in Paraguay and I know that generally armadillos don’t have the jaw capacity to hold a baseball so initially I was skeptical. But, as any good teammate would, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he encountered one of the few giant armadillos that migrated to the Northern Hemisphere in the last century or so.
We finished up the four rounds of entertaining BP and exotic animal interaction period around 8:45 p.m. and boarded the bus to head back to the hotel. We got back and everyone went their separate ways to shower up before going to grab something to eat. Nennig managed to shower, change, and get his hair cut in the 30-minute period before most of us met back up. We departed the hotel on foot and eventually would all end up in a small pizza joint 15 minutes later. Now, most places are small when you are packing in over 20 large baseball players and Nick Sergakis into the same place. But this place was small for any group of three or more. At one point I heard one of the workers there remark, “You all just fulfilled our sales for the week!” For some reason this didn’t surprise me.
We headed back to the hotel after a short wait and a good meal with the boys to wrap up the long day of travel and practice. Many of us rushed back to our rooms to get on our phones and play a strategy game we are all enthralled in, as we are currently at war with another clan! This, a little bit of television, and chit chat with our new road roommates would wrap up our day as we headed to bed in preparation for a long day of practice in the sun.