Ava Seccuro staff writer
The boys baseball program has been cut down to only one varsity team for the second year in a row due to the lack of total members. As little as two years ago, the program used to have a varsity and JV team, but as the roster shrunk, so did the program.
With a total of 23 players on the team, coach Gregg Riesenberg will continue to run the program with its current members, although there may still be a cut within the next two weeks. In the future, he aims for the program to have three full teams as once it did five years ago. Without a JV team, he is changing the way that the team practices and the games that certain players attend in order to continue to maximize the number of potential reps in the season.
Baseball requires nine people on the field during a defensive inning, meaning that the program needs a minimum of 15 players on a team to fill that quota. With this year’s program of 23 players, it would not be enough to produce two teams as Riesenberg had done with 26 players three years ago. Moreover, last year’s single-team program of 22 kids, all of whom were required to attend each game, resulted in an overcrowded dugout, which Riesenberg wants to change this season
“The decision was made because of the numbers of kids that we have…the bottom line is you can’t expect to have nine guys on each field if you only have 23 kids…Not all kids are going to go to the varsity games this year. We changed from last year [when] everybody went [to each game], and it was too many kids in the dugout for a baseball field,” Riesenberg said.
Aside from relieving certain players from varsity games, Riesenberg plans on running the program differently than last season by adding more lower level games to give non-starters an opportunity to play.
“The teams are going to separate for practice so [that] everyone is getting work in to get prepared for the following year…We’re going to schedule somewhere between eight to 10 lower level games that they’ll play on different days than when varsity plays,” Riesenberg said.
Riesenberg wants to continue upholding a winning record this season. In order for the team to be successful on the varsity level, the vacant spots, such as catcher, left over from last season’s seniors need to be filled appropriately. Riesenberg has faith his players will seize the opportunity to start by taking risks toward playing new positions.
“What worked for last year is that we [had] a good group of kids, and I think we have a good group of kids this year,” Riesenberg said. “We had a winning record last year (12-10)…Our kids have worked really hard, they’ve put the time and the effort in and the results have been on the field…This year…there [are] a lot of vacant positions that need to be filled in order for us to be successful on the varsity level.”
As senior infielder Jack Schmidt reaped the benefits of being an underclassman on a JV team while there were still two teams, he continues to advocate for that specific organization of the program.
“I got the better end of this. Being a freshman or sophomore on a second team is great. I was able to get more attention by the coaches on what I needed to work on and I also got more playing time,” Schmidt said. “With that extra attention and playing, I was able to become a better player. Last year with everyone on the same team, not everyone got equal practice and the games were overcrowded.”
Claims of overcrowdedness were not brought to Riesenberg’s attention until after the season ended. Going forward with new input from the team, he plans to change practice and game arrangements once the baseball team is able to play at La Cienega Park.
“During the year I did not think so…I didn’t hear [that] from anyone during the season, and when I’m coaching my focus is on the field its not in the dugout,” Riesenberg said. “I was then told afterward that it was too crowded and there were a lot of distractions going on.”
Junior pitcher Ryan Fernandez would also prefer for the program to have two teams. Although having one team is simply due to the number of players on the roster, he claims that having one team will do more to impede the progress in future seasons since the effects will not manifest in the program immediately.
“[Having one team] harms the future more than it harms the present because we already have people that have a bunch of experience on the field. I myself have a bunch of experience because I’ve already played on varsity [since] my freshman year,” Fernandez said. “It’s going to affect the younger kids who are in the developmental stage who aren’t getting the crucial rep time to get used to high school baseball.”
Whether or not the current organization of the baseball program will cause future detriment cannot be determined at the moment. However, some of the players’ questions on the sustainability of the new arrangements have prompted Riesenberg to do the best that he can with the players he has and to change issues from last season that have recently been brought to his attention.
“I don’t disagree but I don’t agree. We can only have as many teams as we have players…This year I’m making some adjustments to having one team and practice wise and time-wise,” Riesenberg said. “The other part is, last year [we did not know if] we had everybody at [each] game. It was a full dugout and there were a lot of distractions going on so I was made aware of it this year…That’s an adjustment that I have to make from last year because we’ve always had more than one team so it’s a work in progress.”
Making it to playoffs is a general goal for many sports teams, including the baseball program. In 2016, the team lost their first playoff game and ended with an (11-11) record, which has caused players like Fernandez to feel “robbed” and eager to get back on the field to win. However, for Riesenberg, there is much more to his program than simply winning.
“The main goal is to have more than one team, but I don’t have enough kids [for that]. The goal is to be successful in teaching baseball, teaching young men on how to be respectful to the game and in life in general,” Riesenberg said. “Our goal is to win, but wins and losses don’t rate how we did for the season…My goal is to have not just two teams, but three.”