By Harlan Nemerofsky
Despite not having its opening roster confirmed, the Ryerson Rams varsity baseball team will play its first set of exhibition games as an expansion OUA team in a double-header against Brock this Saturday.
Although he declined to comment on which players have impressed him “to give fairness to every player competing for a roster spot,” head coach Ben Rich said that he can see a team from the current roster.
“I see a starting nine, not necessarily the firm starting nine,” said Rich. “But when I look at the roster today, I can see that any given day we can put out a starting nine that is going to compete; that is going to hit and is going play solid defence and is going to give our team a chance to win.”
The team is in the process of narrowing down its group of 15 pitchers to five for the starting rotation, and looking to cut down 29 tryouts players to 25 on the final roster, though August tryouts will also factor into the equation.
Last month, Rich started running an optional weekly strength and conditioning regimen for his players at the Mattamy Athletic Centre, where players focus on their cardio and muscle strength while working directly with the coach.
“We’re seeing guys who are throwing harder and swinging with more authority, and we’re really seeing it when it comes to endurance as well,” said Rich. “Our pitchers are up throwing 35 to 45 pitches per bullpen session but now that these guys are stronger in their legs, they’ll be able to last a few innings longer than they would have.”
Although the Rams have yet to play on grass surface this year, Rich is optimistic about making the shift from indoor turf, calling it “nothing that the players can’t overcome.”
“The ball rolls a lot faster on the turf [at Toronto Sports Centre] than it would on the grass when we play Brock outdoors,” said first-year business management student and training invitee Brittany Chan.
“I think we can use that as an advantage since we’re already used to the fast surface – the game will [seem] slower and easier to us.” Instead of looking for victories, Rich plans to use the exhibitions against Brock to analyze his hitters’ decisionmaking at the plate.
“Are they looking for a certain pitch in a certain location? Are they identifying the situation and seeing what they can do to help the team?”