Posted: 01/31/2013 | Last updated: January 31, 2013 at 09:14 AM
BETHLEHEM, Pa. – Preseason practices have begun as the sounds of aluminum bats and the ‘pop’ of a ball hitting a mitt fill the air inside Rauch Fieldhouse, indicating the start of another season of Lehigh baseball. The Mountain Hawks have made Rauch Fieldhouse a second home, preparing for the 2013 campaign inside the friendly confines of the Goodman Campus facility.
"Everything we do is to tailor ourselves to be ready for our first game, the unique aspect is that we do everything indoors," said Lehigh head coach Sean Leary. "A lot of what we do is repetition: ground balls, double play feeds and bullpens. In the coming weeks, our guys will get live reps in the cages off of full speed pitching. We do everything we can to simulate a live game, but our guys value that first game more than most in the country because we’ll be able to put cleats on dirt and see some green grass for the first time."
The Mountain Hawks will pursue their second Patriot League Tournament title in 2013, hoping to build off of the experience gained from last season. This young, yet seasoned team may begin playing in the cold, but will hope to continue the season through the sunshine and warmth of May.
"The number on goal of the team is to play in May this year," said Leary. "That has been the simplified goal for us which equates to making the playoffs. We have had quite a few conversations about how every game is valuable and how razor thin playing and May and ending in April is."
Right now, Lehigh is concentrating on the repetition aspect of baseball, developing muscle memory and getting back in the ‘swing’ of things. The Mountain Hawks realize that they cannot completely replicate game experience, but training indoors has become second nature to the players that hail from the northern states and an adjustment to those that are used to year-round warmth.
Also inside Rauch Fieldhouse, Colorado Rockies first baseman and Lehigh alumnus Matt McBride can be found working out with the team. The former Mountain Hawk and Bethlehem native has come back to the Goodman Campus often in the offseason to use the facilities in order to prepare himself for the professional season ahead.
"More than anything, the fact that he still wants to be around the program and chooses to work out here means a lot to our kids that the Lehigh experience is as valuable as we teach them it is. To see someone in his position that connected to the school is an asset that I can’t put a value on and we share that with Matt."
McBride’s presence allows the Lehigh athletes to visualize what hard work and dedication can do for a career, whether it be on the diamond or in the workplace. Not too long ago, McBride himself was preparing for a Patriot League season inside Rauch Fieldhouse, bringing affirmation as to what the 2013 squad is preparing to do starting on February 22.
"What’s unique is that he was in their situation six years ago," said Leary. "I believe that it makes their dreams more tangible to them to be able to see someone who has done it. He might add a little of advice here or there, and when they hear it come from him they get excited about what he has to say."
The Mountain Hawks will officially open their season on February 22 with a trip to Wilmington, N.C. to take on the defending Colonial Athletic Association champions and CAA preseason favorite UNC-Wilmington Seahawks.
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