Baseball Preview: Home is where the snow is…
The 2004 Truckee High School baseball team would consider it a victory if it gets to play a single game on its home field this season.
Last season, a heavy early spring snowfall squashed any chance of Truckee competing on its own turf.
“We thought we were (going to play),” said Truckee head coach Jason Estabrook. “We had the field mowed. We were prepping it out, and the snow came in and wiped us out. One big storm came in and dropped on us. I’ve never had a full home schedule (since I’ve been here).”
Hopefully, the spring weather will allow locals to watch a Truckee team that Estabrook labels “the team with the most potential” of the four he has coached since he took over as head coach in 2001.
“Whether that constitutes wins or not, that’s up to them,” he said. “I think we’ve improved our defense a little and we’re gonna be a lot better on the mound. But the key is our offense – if we get our offensive attack going, we’re gonna be successful.”
Leading that potential are three seniors who have made commitments to junior college baseball programs after their high school careers.
J.R. Murphy, Truckee’s No. 1 pitcher, who will see action at first base when he’s not on the mound, has signed a letter of intent with Yavapai College, a junior college in Prescott, Ariz.
“It’s taking baseball to the next level,” Murphy said.
Much of the Wolverines’ success will ride on Murphy’s right arm this season.
“By far,” said Murphy, when asked if the 2004 team is the best varsity team he’s been on since his first varsity season as a sophomore.
Nik Smith and Dan Galvin have made verbal commitments (under California law, high school athletes do not sign contracts) to play for Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, Calif.
“I can’t wait,” said Smith, who will begin the season in the outfield and see some action on the mound. “Usually, we can only play baseball for four months, but we’ll be playing year-round (in college).”
“It’s the first time that we’ve had three commitments on the Truckee baseball team,” Estabrook said. “Usually baseball’s not a sport that we send athletes off to college. This is pretty big.”
Success in baseball, just like most sports, is dependent on year-long dedication to the sport. In Estabrook’s judgment, these three seniors have done a commendable job of that.
“During football,” he said, “they’d go to football practice, but they’d continue to work on the sport of baseball. It’s tough to play baseball here year-round.”
And how do you get around the wintry weather?
“Blacktop,” said Galvin, who plays the infield and pitches. After all, the most important off-season training method is just playing catch once in a while and keeping your arm in shape.
Still, there are a few ways to escape the cold Truckee weather. The team travels twice a week to Reno for practice, or it practices in the Truckee gym using tennis balls or whiffle balls.
If Truckee’s home games can’t be played due to bad weather, Estabrook and assistant coach Mike Ellis must find a high school in Reno that will comply and let Truckee use its field.
“These guys are road warriors,” Estabrook said. “They know how to win on the road. It’s tough, but these guys are committed, and I’m excited to see how we’re gonna do.”
Although he thinks he can fill their positions with equal talent, Estabrook said the team will especially miss Jacob Bohart, Kevin Finn and Kevin Schlesinger, players who graduated in 2003.
“We have great team speed this year, but the key is gonna be some juniors picking up the reins,” he said. “They gotta grow up in a hurry.”
Estabrook plans to keep the pressure on opposing defenses by stealing and manufacturing runs, ideally trying to score one run per inning. He said the team will implement a hit-and-run and bunting offense more than it did last season. With an offense that can’t necessarily rely on a lot of three-run homers or big innings, the rest of the work will fall on the defense.
Besides praying for some nicer weather, Estabrook and players simply want to make the playoffs, something they have not done since 2001. They’re also looking for a little respect.
“No one ever really takes Truckee seriously in baseball; in football they do, but I think we’re going to surprise some people this year,” Estabrook said.
Truckee competes in a Carson City tournament on March 11-13. It will play five games total against Elko, Bishop (Calif.), Fallon, Spring Creek and Dayton. The league schedule begins on Tuesday, March 16, at Manogue.