Baseball season begins amidst roster trouble

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Alex Jeffers

Last year’s season was not one to remember for Whitman baseball. With an overall record of 4-36, it seems that in 2009 there is nowhere to go but up.

For their first tournament in California, the team traveled with only 16 players, a number two or even three times as small as many of their opposing teams. After losing many of last year’s players for various reasons: including graduation, school transfer, injury and outright discouragement: the Missionaries are carrying an undeniably thin roster. Some might say the outlook for this season is bleak, perhaps even more so than the previous one.

Luckily, the Whitman baseball team doesn’t think that way. They are determined to stay positive in light of these setbacks.
Sophomore shortstop Jay Richards characterized the general outlook among players as excited and hopeful.

“We have all the excuses in the world to quit… but being at a disadvantage can sort of give us motivation to rise above it. There’s something exciting about being the underdog,” Richards said. “It’s pretty hopeful; we’ve got a solid group of guys and a really positive attitude.”

Head Coach Casey Powell is also optimistic.

“Hopefully we stay healthy. We’ve got a good one-two, pitching wise. We’ve got to play the game between our ears just as much as we do on the field,” Powell said. “We finished off on a strong note last year, so hopefully some of the younger guys coming back this year can kind of continue to feed off that. If we can continue to get better every week, that’s kind of our main thing.”

Last season’s struggles, however, have not been forgotten.

“Last year we had a lot of chances to break through, some pretty close games…I felt like if we could’ve busted through, it would’ve been a different season,” Powell said.

Under the determined leadership of senior pitcher Pete Stadmeyer, the Missionaries are looking to turn a less-than-ideal situation into something positive and constructive.

“We’re going to need a strong performance out of everybody and just constantly be on top of things,” Stadmeyer said. “We’re going to be going against teams with bigger rosters, more pitching depth, and more depth all around. I think just going against those schools is intimidating, and I think everyone’s going to have to step up and contribute at this point.”

Many of the younger players have adopted Stadmeyer’s attitude of humility and hard work.

“Everyone on the team has complete confidence in Pete, he’s a great ballplayer,” Richards said. “He’s not a guy that tells you how to do things; he’s a guy that shows you how to do things.”

Asked whether this determined mindset will prevail in the coming years, junior outfielder Brian Kitamura spoke about the attitudes of all players present and future and how these ultimately affect the program’s success.

“The program is definitely in a re-building mode. But this is a new year, and there’s a whole bunch of us that are trying to change the core culture of the program, so we’re building a foundation for the young guys coming in. We’re trying to do away with the losing ways, and we’re trying to instill traits of character and hard work,” Kitamura said.

So it is with hope and determination that Whitman baseball begins the 2009 season. Despite its forward-looking mindset, the team still appreciates support from fans during these testing times.

“We’ve been working hard and we’re having a lot of fun. It’s always great to have fan support out there. It’s guaranteed that you’ll see 100 percent effort out there on the field,” said Kitamura.