With classes now in session, it is just about time for the Texas A&M – Corpus Christi baseball team to get practice underway as fall ball kicks into gear. The Islanders, including 24 newcomers and 18 returnees, will come together as a group for the first time at 2:30 p.m. on Friday for the first day of practice.
Head Coach Scott Malone is just as ready for this time of year as his players are, coming off of the most successful season in school history and bringing in several talented newcomers to go along with the returners.
"As a staff we're excited to get out there, the players are excited to get out there," said Malone. "The first week is arguably the best, the most productive, because everybody is chomping at the bit to get out there. You don't have to beg guys to stretch or play catch; there is so much attention to detail that first week."
In addition to wanting to get out there and get going, it will give Malone, his assistant coaches Chris Ramirez and Marty Smith, volunteer assistant Adam Skonieczki a chance to get back into the game day coaching mindset.
"It's huge for us as a staff to get out there and set the tone a little bit about what is important in our program and what are going to be the keys for us to be successful," said Malone. "You want to have a great fall, you want to teach a lot as a coach, but you also want to step back a little and let these guys play. The level of talent in our program, from the top seniors like Jeramie Marek all the way down to a freshman who is walking on and fighting for a spot should make it a really fun week."
The main concern for the coaching staff early on will be two of the most important parts of the game, conditioning and fundamentals.
"It is going to be a spring training-type setting, wanting to get these guys in peak baseball shape," said Malone. "There is a lot of coaching that goes into that: Coach Ramirez will go over everything with our catchers and how we want it done, I'll have the outfielders, Coach Skonieczki will have the outfielders, and obviously Coach Smith, along with our student guys helping him out, will have the pitchers.
"Being able to break each position down piece-by-piece; this is how we want to field a ground ball, this is how we want to make our throws in the infield, it's really going to be, not only a fun first week, but a fun spring to take these talented players and try to show them this is the attention we want to detail."
Helping out along the way will be someone many Islanders fans know well from his time with the program. Former pitcher Brett Gips will join the team as a student manager.
After being away from the program for a couple of years, Gips wanted to get back to being an Islander while also working on a graduate degree.
"It's huge having a guy from our program that knows how this coaching staff works, he is an unbelievable worker," said Malone. "One of the great things about Brett is he knows some of the hardships that this program faced as it was growing and trying to become the program it is today, now have a locker room, now that we have the adidas contract, now that Chapman Field will undergo renovations.
"He knows what it was like before and it will be great having him as kind of a reminder to some of our players that it hasn't always been this nice. He is going to be huge helping Coach Smith with our pitching staff."
The team will practice through the weekend and the fall season will last until the culmination at the Islanders Fall World Series on Oct. 7-9 at Chapman Field.