Justin Henry and Zack Cozart were ready for fall baseball to start. Now that it's here, they're excited about being back together with the team.
Until Tuesday, the players had been through individual workouts and conditioning with the coaches since school started. But now it feels like the season is getting even closer since they are all on the field together as a team for the next four weeks.
"It feels good to be started again," said Cozart, who won a gold medal with USA Baseball this summer. "We've got a lot of new guys out here, and I'm sure they're glad to get the first day behind them. I'm excited to see who will step it up and make a move this fall. We lost some good players from last year and have some holes to fill. We've got the fall and preseason practices to find out who will fill them."
One position that doesn't need filling is Cozart's shortstop spot. Another is second base where Justin Henry was last season. The two veterans took different paths this summer to the upcoming season.
"I stayed here, went to summer school, and worked out," Henry said. "I wanted to work with the strength and conditioning coaches, try to put on a little more weight and get stronger. I'm really excited to get back going, because it was the first summer I didn't play baseball in my life. So I was definitely ready for this day."
Henry said some players do choose to take a summer off to re-energize themselves for the next season, and he knows it was the right thing for him this time around.
"Ever since I got to college, it's been fall, spring, and then playing ball in the summer," said the fourth-year junior who was team captain last season. "So it was good to take a summer off, and it definitely has me rejuvenated to get ready to go this fall."
Henry's little brother, Jordan, is a freshman on the Rebel team this season. Justin says it's different having him around again but a good thing.
"Every once in a while I might forget he's here, and I'll look out there and see him and it reminds me," Justin said. "I'm happy he's on the team this year."
Henry said that some things were a bit different at practice on Tuesday. The staff this year has some new faces as well as coaches in new positions. Newcomer Rob Reinstetle is coaching the infielders and also the hitters. Carl Lafferty, back for his second season, is coaching the catchers and outfielders. Kyle Bunn returns to coach the pitchers, and Matt Mossberg has also joined the coaching staff this year.
"We're getting used to a couple of new coaches out there," Henry said. "This is the first time in four years we've had new coaches. Things moved a little faster during the defensive periods today. We're just feeling things out and getting used to things. That's part of what fall baseball is for."
Cozart agrees with Henry that things are different, but he says they will get more accustomed to them in the days ahead.
"We'll get more ground balls hit to us each day," Cozart said. "More reps in less time. So we're getting a lot done in a little amount of time. It's kinda tiring but the whole plan isn't just fielding ground balls but also to get us in better shape. That's basically conditioning too, running around out there and moving and doing stuff for a longer amount of time. When Regionals and Super Regionals roll around, we won't be as tired after a long season and will be in great shape."
Fall practice day two – Scout Day – is this afternoon at Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field.
Cozart, Henry glad fall ball is here
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