Opening Day: 2010

On the eve of their first game since a historic 2009 season, I caught up with Blue Raider head coach Steve Peterson and center fielder Bryce Brentz.

"The first game is never that important to me, but it is to the players," says Peterson. "I start out by telling them that you're not going to go undefeated, so you better be able to handle losing some."

Middle Tennessee fans should not be concerned, however. Peterson's laissez-faire attitude doesn't apply to the rest of the season.

"The most important thing to me is to win the Sun Belt Championship. To be the best in the league," Peterson declares boldly. "The next thing to win is the tournament championship and a regional championship is next. That's never been attained here at MTSU so that's a big goal for me, but the league championship is still the most important because that means you're the best in your family."

Being labeled the best is nothing new to center fielder Bryce Brentz, who is coming off of a career year where he broke numerous school records, earned multiple awards and established himself as a serious prospect for this summer's Major League draft. While all that success is well deserved, Brentz makes it very clear that that was last year and he's done nothing yet this season.

"I didn't set out to do anything last year like I did," laughs Brentz. "I wanted to set goals for myself I knew I could reach, and once I did that I could relax and have fun."

Brentz makes it a point to maintain that while draft prospects and his career at the next level might be on everybody else's mind, it's not on his. "Right now, the draft isn't until June, so it can't be a concern. It's got to be far away from my mind because if I think about it my play will go down. I have to worry about today and what I can do for MTSU."

"I think having veteran players that have been there and gone through a championship season like last year is huge," says Coach Peterson. "The players know what happened last year was inherited. We've talked about that since August. They know that this is a totally new ball club."

Coach Pete points out that having those seasoned types like Brentz, All-Sun Belt pitcher Kenneth Roberts and senior catcher Drew Robertson is crucial to help maintain stability between this year and last and more importantly, play leadership roles to new players on the roster.

Coach Pete on newcomers
"I want to see the new guys stepping up," says Peterson. "Guys that weren't the leading actors last year, I want to see how they'll react and accept the responsibility that will be placed on them as players this season."

When asked what young players will impact the team this season, Peterson replied, "We're going to start a freshman at short, Ryan Ford. He has a lot to do with how everything will work out. Having him at short allows me to move (Tyler) Burnett over to third. Ryan has proven to me druing the fall and winter workouts that he can make all the defensive plays at short, and that's what I'm looking for him to do."

Peterson expects Ford to have his struggles at the plate this season, but he points out that he's in the starting lineup for a reason: he can move and he can play defense. Not only can Ford make the spectacular types of plays that earn Web Gem nods on a daily basis, but he can also do the basic stuff and do it well.

"Daniel Palo is another young guy who's earned his spot," adds Peterson. "Having him in the starting rotation this first weekend, obviously he's thrown well and has thrown better than some returning players. He's earned his spot and now he just has to keep it."

Brentz on Opening in Memphis
"I'm pretty excited to start with Memphis. Two high school teammates of mine are playing with memphis. If you can't play with your friends, it's good to beat them. Hopefully, I get to face Ryan Holland (Jr. LHP). That'd be pretty cool."

The first pitch of the opening season is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. today.

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