Reinforcing the Message

Most people planning for a long outdoor hike hope for good weather. West Virginia University baseball coach Randy Mazey wished for just the opposite.

One of Randy Mazey's first team activities upon taking the West Virginia job last year was to set his team on a 12-mile hike along Morgantown's trails. The event had a theme -- "One Step At A Time" -- meant to show his players that despite the huge challenge facing them in joining the Big 12, any obstacle can be overcome with a steady approach and an eye toward long term goals.

The hike turned out to be just the first in a year-long stretch of brilliant moves by Mazey, who worked wonders in a variety of ways. He overhauled returning players, brought in talented newcomers and led the Mountaineers to a fourth-place finish in the league, missing out on third by dint of a tiebreaker. WVU also advanced to the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament, and set high expectations for the upcoming season.

With a new baseball stadium in the site preparation stages, it seems as if everything Mazey has touched has turned to gold recently. So it's little wonder, in preparing for the second edition of his (Big) 12-mile hike, that even the weather cooperated for him.

"It was perfect this year. We scheduled it a week in advance and I was really really hoping the weather would be awful," Mazey admitted with a wry grin. "We woke up that morning, and we had gotten about two inches of snow and the temperature was in the twenties."

Last year's hike, a difficult enough challenge for a team starved for success and clearly searching for leadership, was conducted under clear skies with temperatures "in the high forties and low fifties," Mazey noted. That was probably enough for a team coming off several moribund seasons, but this year Mazey desired more.

"Going into it this year I told the guys this is exactly what I wanted, because this hike is going to be a little bit harder this year than it was last year. I think the league is going to be better this year than it was last year, too, so the hike I think is going to be indicative of the conference this year."

When Mazey awoke and saw leaden skies and spitting snow, he had the perfect match for his year two message. The hike was going to be more difficult, just as the season wiould be. Not only is competition in the Big 12 expected to ramp up, but WVU will face tougher out of conference foes. Included in the pre-conference schedule are two weekend trips to South Carolina where opponents included Louisvile, The Citadel, Duke and Coastal Carolina, and two west coast swings. The second trip to California is an eight-day, seven-game affair, featuring match-ups with Cal State Northridge and UNLV. The toughened slate will give the Mountaineers a better chance to build an NCAA tournament resume, but will also be tougher to win against.

"I know we have a better team this year. Whether we have better results, I don't know if we can control that," Mazey opined. "We will just go out and do what we do."

That approach, be it "one step at a time" or "upping the challenge" has worked so far for Mazey and his Mountaineers, so it won't be surprise to seem them follow that path to more success this season.

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