With a week of practice now under its belt, Florida State finds itself fast approaching opening day versus Hofstra (Feb. 17). The expectations for this season haven't gone unnoticed.
"I think everybody's attitude is geared toward the season," shortstop Justin Gonzalez said before Friday's workout. "Everybody has a lot of high expectations for us, so we're looking forward to it."
While Gonzalez is motivated by the hopes surrounding the team, senior outfielder James Ramsey has a different take.
"We're not really concerned about the expectations that are placed on us," he said. "They're probably as low as they've ever been since I've been here. But that's fine because in college baseball it's all about getting hot in June, and that's what were realizing."
A fast start to the season wouldn't be a bad fallback plan, and that's precisely what the Seminoles are working for coming out of the gate. The key to accomplishing this is mastering fundamentals, which takes up much of the team's time. Whether it's ground balls, double cuts or batting practice, players are receiving as many repetitions as possible.
"Baseball is a sport where you are trying to hone your craft every day," said Ramsey. "So we've got a lot of guys that are spending some extra time and realizing right now we're not worried about necessarily how many hits we get each scrimmage. We're worried about how we're seeing the ball, what kind of angles were taking at the ball, if our guys are backing up. We're really just grinding out the whole practices."
On the other hand, the mental side of the game is probably more important than anything a player can practice while out on the field.
"I know last year, offensively I could have done a better job," Gonzalez said. "That's been my primary focus now. ... Hitting is mostly all mental, all the time. I've been training the same way since I was little, so it's really nothing I can change physically, just mentally."
Sometimes a player will feel fully prepared mentally and physically, but the rapid transition to facing live pitching presents new problems. The 'Noles must be able to adapt quickly to the speed of the game.
Ramsey has his own mental approach to this situation.
"Just trying to really not be result-oriented," he said. "I'm itching to play, and just realizing that I've gotta hit the pitches I'm supposed to hit, take the pitches I'm supposed to take and not being as result-oriented right now, because it's going to click when game time comes and the lights are on. You're amped up. The balls are going to travel farther, and that's the big thing."
Speaking of quick adjustments, this year's freshmen have their work cut out.
"We'll start two freshman," said coach Mike Martin, who is beginning his 33rd season in garnet and gold. "No two ways about it."
Coming from high school baseball, most hitters aren't used to facing strong pitching consistently. Regular scrimmages are held to help these players feel accustomed to college hurlers.
"We like our young pitchers, and certainly the veterans know how to pitch," Martin said. "But the key is the new hitters adjusting to them, and so every scrimmage they are facing a pretty doggone good pitcher, which they have to learn to make adjustments."
Ramsey offers a few words of motivation to the freshmen.
"I tell those guys, 'Be a freshman All-American,'" he said. "'Be an All-American. Don't worry about those awards, but you can always get better.'"
The whole team seems to be taking Ramsey's words of wisdom to heart, practicing with hunger and determination to prepare for the season opener, which is right around the corner.
Gonzalez says it best.
"As a team, we're not satisfied. We're always trying to get better every day."
Jonathan Bockman is the baseball reporter for NoleDigest.com and a student in Sport Management at Florida State.