Dustdevils baseball rolls with changes
By Nadia Herrera
Bridge contributing writer
Published Monday, Oct. 26, 2020
It’s been a long and winding road for coach Kevin Griffin and the TAMIU baseball team. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Dustdevils veered in a different direction as they return and prepare for the upcoming season.
Last season was cut short after playing only 22 of their 50 scheduled games.
“It was frustrating,” Griffin recalls of the spring events. “It happened to everyone, not just us. Everybody got shut down.”
He said many sophomores were big contributors to the team and needed the experience to “breakout” and develop but, “It slowed down for those guys.”
In terms of eligibility, the NCAA granted players an extra year due to the pandemic and some will return to play. Four out of seven seniors were able to return, Griffin said. For others, it was not possible because of their academic status and upcoming graduation.
“So there’s like a log jam there,” Griffin said of the eligibility situation.
High school seniors moving on to the collegiate level struggled to get team positions because of the lack of openings.
Outside of COVID-19, the Dustdevils would be practicing this time of year. Only a limited number of people are allowed in the campus weight room and gyms. According to the “Guidelines Set for Student-Athletes,” found on the Athletics Department website, practices are limited to the number of players on the field. Ten to 14 athletes are allowed in the weight room at a time.
This interferes with other sports teams and shortens the workout for each athlete. Fall sports found themselves canceled and rescheduled. Teams are overcrowding workout rooms and competing for time, “which is kind of a mess,” Griffin said.
Groups of four players are allowed one-hour practices even though they are spread out. The coach is spread thin, having to get the team in for just a day’s work out; bullpen, fielding, batting and throwing.
“I’ll be there all day just to get the whole team through,” Griffin assessed. “So I’m gonna have to sit down and figure something out and try to find a way to make it work.”
Two strength and conditioning coaches, along with Griffin, set goals and put together workouts designed specifically for the team. The three-day-a-week workout templates focus on lower body for position players and upper body for pitchers. Exercises early in the season are geared toward maintaining strength, flexibility, gaining speed and staying in shape. This year brings a longer winter break, therefore athletes are expected to stay in shape, adhere to the workout plan and follow the throwing program to be ready to start on Jan 10.
Junior systems engineering major and pitcher Joseph Garza De la Puente is “taking it one thing at a time, one day at a time.”
Athletes said they find it challenging with all the changes, adjustments, inconvenience of weight room accessibility and coping with setbacks due to the pandemic.
“I’m just going with the flow, making it the best and trying to do the best I can to stay healthy and stay fit,” De la Puente said. “It’s a time to grow and not make excuses.”
De la Puente anticipates a good season, staying positive with the help of his two roommates who encourage each other to work out and stay fit.
The Lone Star Conference scheduled 36 of the 40 games allowed for the upcoming season. With 14 teams in the conference, scheduling games is problem-free. The LSC shortened the series from four games to a three-game series; there will be 10 to 12 games less than usual. Crowd attendance is yet to be determined by the Athletics Department. Griffin is uncertain, as of early October, regarding the capacity of fans attending home games. Masks and social distancing will continue to be enforced on campus.