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The Daniel Utts Blog: Inside the Locker Room

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OHIOBOBCATS.COM Daniel Utts is in his senior season as a relief pitcher on the Ohio baseball team.
OHIOBOBCATS.COM
Daniel Utts is in his senior season as a relief pitcher on the Ohio baseball team.
OHIOBOBCATS.COM
Daniel Utts is a senior left-handed pitcher on the Ohio baseball team. This season he is chronicling the team's voyage from February to May to give fans an inside look.

April 18, 2007

Putting Things in Perspective

It sounds like an old saying, but perspective is a thing we tend to lose during a long baseball schedule. After a tough weekend that saw us lose to Eastern Michigan three times, the tension on the bus ride home was evident. People did not want to talk, players could see the season slowly slipping away, and there were just a lot of angry people on the bus.

That following Monday, I woke up to a blurb at the bottom of Yahoo's website that one person was killed on a campus shooting. I honestly thought nothing of it. A death was sad, but in America you become all too familiar with a solo death.

Later that morning I checked Yahoo again, and this time it said "22 dead." A half an hour later it said "32 dead, plus the killer." All of a sudden those losses to some directional school in Michigan were not the end of the world. Life goes on for us; unfortunately the same can't be said about those involved in the tragedy.

I have been to Blacksburg, Va. before and we played Virginia Tech before in baseball as well. Those unfamiliar with the school would be shocked to see how similar our campus is to theirs. Needless to say, this event hit way too close to home.

So as we plug along on our season, we might get down and feel horrible about our predicaments, but you know what? In the end, it is just baseball.

April 11, 2007

Tripleheader Time!

Sorry for the missed week, I got caught up with some homework. We also had some problems with my computer, but we have it all fixed now. Stay tuned for continued updates.

Easter Sunday finds a lot of scurrying home to spend a weekend with their family. Baseball is different; we can't take the weekend off. Despite the holiday, we had a big weekend in Ball State coming to our place. After starting off rough in the MAC at 1-5, we knew this series would be huge.

The first game on Friday was quickly called off due to snow. That's right, snow in April. Saturday the game was called off relatively early, setting up an unprecedented tripleheader against Ball State on Easter.

Marathon days usually consist of doubleheaders. I suppose this day would be considered a triathlon day. After arriving at the locker room at nine in the morning, I didn't check out until nine that night.

In between, we found a way to win the series against Ball State. That was a big win for us as well as a confidence booster. Ball State won the MAC tournament last year, so any time you can beat a team of that caliber is a plus.

The families of the players had a well deserved meal at the end of the day for the players. I think a lot of times parents get overlooked at the college level, but we have quite a few that show up all the time. When we are younger, the parents have to drive us around to all the games, most of which are relatively close to home.

Although we are located in Athens, a town that only one player on our team is closer than an hour drive to the field (The Plains pride, Chris Pitts), parents are always there to support us.

One family I would like to particularly thank is the Walkers. Willie and I are in the same class, and I have seen Steve, Cindy and a lot of times Taffy at just about every game. This includes trips north, south, east and west. All the families of the senior class have been pretty supportive, but I think everyone would agree that the Walkers have found the most time to attend our games.

We have Eastern Michigan next weekend; we'll se how that goes. They have a pretty good MAC record so we will need to fight for everything.

April 2, 2007

A Long Trip

Spring break 2007 has come and gone and I must say, I have had better. It started out well, but ended on a sour note.

The last exams were wrapped up on Friday and then it began to rain. Nothing says spring break like a little rain, right? Our scheduled three game tilt with Oakland resulted in a doubleheader sweep on Sunday.

That ran our home record to 9-1. The record sounded great, but we still had four big road games for spring break to be played.

In between the next week of baseball games, we did not have much else to do. Since we practically lived out of hotels in Winston-Salem, N.C. and Dekalb, Ill., a lot of video games were played. Guitar Hero (which Hayden Johnston can never beat me in) and MLB: The Show were two of the more popular games. Other than that, the televisions were tuned into movies or NCAA basketball tournament games.

After dropping a 6-4 decision to Wake Forest, we focused on the Mid American Conference opener. We were going to Dekalb to play Northern Illinois. This was the first trip out to the most western school in the MAC, and the road trip was one of the longest I have experienced.

We dropped all three games, but we still were right there in the game. Only a couple of mistakes kept us from taking a game or two in the series, but it's over now and we can only focus on what is ahead.

A couple other things occurred during spring break that did not directly involve our team, but still important.

First, everyone on the baseball team was saddened by the news we heard before leaving for Dekalb. Sarah Merritt played soccer and was about to start her senior year when she passed away while on spring break. Although I did not know her personally, a lot of teammates did. Her death shook up the entire athletic department, and our hearts go out especially to her family and soccer team.

Former Bobcats wrapped up spring training, and a few players our knocking on major league team doors. Cory Keylor, Adam Russell and Adam Fox highlighted a nice spring training for former Ohio University baseball players.

I never got a chance to see Keylor and Fox in the green and white, but I did play with Russell when I was a freshman. The 6'8" pitcher always showed flashes of brilliance, and I am happy to see him flourish the way he has in the big leagues. This fall he returned to Ohio to visit for a week and slept in our living room. His stories of dining with White Sox stars such as Jose Contreras just left me in envy. Hopefully in the not so distant future all three, along with the other minor leaguers from Ohio, will have a chance to shine on the grandest of stages in the major leagues.

March 21, 2007

Spring break!

It's time to trade in the books and take some time off. While classes are off and other students are doing next to nothing the next week, we have seven games scheduled between March 17 and March 26.

Having no classes really changes a lot of things. For example, everyone can actually make practice. Scheduling around everyone's class schedule is next to impossible, and most of the time at least one person will have a conflict. Now we just play baseball and hang around the now sleepy Athens.

Since the dorms are closed, the underclassmen have to stay with the upperclassmen in their off campus housing. My house (which consists of Jon Vondrell, Jared Willis and myself on the baseball team) took in Joe Morris, Jared Yakubik and Matt Smith for the week.

MAC play is just around the corner. It seems as though the season is flying by right now. Perhaps it is because I am writing once a week about it. Anyway, our goal is to win the MAC regular season title so we can host the MAC tournament and have a good chance to make the NCAA tournament.

Stay tuned for an entire recap of our baseball spring break.

March 12, 2007

Home at Last

The relentless work on our home field made it possible to start our official home slate on March 6. We spent last weekend playing in Chillicothe (our new home away from home?) due to our field being wet. Every year, we are one of the first northern schools to play home games. Not only does that say a lot about our field being able to take so much water, but also the maintenance crew and our team.

As Coach Carbone points out, college baseball is not the pros, so we have to act as our own field crew. That includes hooking up fans to dry out the infield, pouring Turface on the field to absorb moisture and putting the tarp on among other things.

Having the home field is obviously an advantage, and we made the most of it to start the season. You could see a little bit more energy on the field this week, and I think a lot of it has to do with being home. One of our goals going into each season is to win 75 percent of our home games, so we understand how important holding serve at home is. We will look to continue this success in the upcoming weeks.

With home games now on the schedule, entrance songs are now being played. Each player has a short clip of music played before they bat or pitch. I am coming out to Tomorrow Never Knows by the Beatles. I must say, my favorite entrance songs so far on the team would be Andrew Shisila's (Can't You Hear Me Knockin' by the Rolling Stones) and Willie Walker's (Can't Be Touched by Roy Jones Jr.).

Well, this weekend was filled with baseball and exam studying for us. A lot of us have exams on Monday, so most likely if you see a player on campus he will either be in uniform or holding a book. We can't afford to have anyone ineligible, so as long as everyone takes care of themselves in the classroom, we can look forward to a successful spring quarter.

March 9, 2007

At home...

After hitting the road the first couple weeks, it's now time to play some home games. After all, there's no place like home.

We kicked off our home schedule this weekend...sort of. After battling to get the field dry before the series, a Thursday rain moved us to play our games at Veteran's Memorial Stadium, home of the Chillicothe Paints.

It's not like we didn't try to get the field ready. Countless hours of work on the field by the maintenance staff and the players were put in. The temperature has just not been warm enough to completely thaw out the ground.

The field we played on is made entirely of field turf, one of the first of its kind in the country. Dirt can't be found on the field (not even the around the bases or the mound), and it can take inches of rain and still be playable.

Coach See, known as Andrew "See You Later" from his playing days with the Paints, helped initiate the move to the former state capital of Ohio. See played for the Paints from 2001-2003 when the field was still made of the conventional grass and dirt. He teamed his connections with Coach Carbone to pull the move off.

For me, along with freshmen Joe Morris and Zach Roll, the series acted sort of a like a homecoming for us as we grew up playing prep baseball on the field countless times. Although none of us are technically from Chillicothe, the city served as the closest place to play summer ball.

To be able to drive an hour to and from a nice stadium like VA Memorial Stadium three days in a row on such short notice really says a lot about our sports department. A lot of schools would not be so willing to accommodate such a move.

Thankfully, after another week of blowing huge fans on the field and some decent weather, we officially started our home schedule Tuesday against Cleveland State.

After all, there is no place like your real home.

Feb. 22, 2007

The first road trip

Vanderbilt was good. Really good. There is a reason they were ranked third in the country, and now ranked by some as the best team in college baseball. We are disappointed we lost, but we also know that a lot of teams are going to get beat by them like we did.

The snow followed us to Nashville. Some southern trip. On Saturday, outfielder Jared Willis and I walked by the field only to see some of the Vanderbilt players scraping the snow off the field so we could play Sunday.

Our trip almost didn't happen, as our original bus started to break down right outside of Athens. Luckily, we were able to drive back and change buses. When we returned Monday morning at three, we only had a couple of hours before classes and tests. Oh well, that's the life of a student-athlete.

After the first bus trip of the year, I forgot how fast you can get bus delirium. For about half the team, this problem can be solved by going to sleep. However, I am part of the other half of the team who can't sleep on the bus.

Besides studying and the occasional movie (Jeremiah Johnson anyone?), the drive gets pretty boring. One way we passed the time was by starting a contest to see who would room with whom. Each trip, we are assigned roommates and we tried to predict the fate Coach Malinowski would give us. Everyone was way off on their picks.

This weekend is important because we need to bounce back from the rough start. I think in the long run, facing such a great team to kick off the season will benefit us. It allowed some of our first-year players to get adjusted to college baseball.

Snow is not in the forecast this weekend, so hopefully we can get all three of our games in. It looks as though we might actually be seeing the end of the tunnel and spring weather is slowly appearing.

Feb. 15, 2007

Playing in the Snow

Hey everybody, my name is Daniel Utts and I am a senior on the Ohio baseball team. To give some insight on the season, I plan to write periodically on the team. Stay tuned for updates.

Snow has been falling from the skies and temperatures continue to dip below zero. That can only mean one thing: the college baseball regular season is ready to start.

Our team only graduated three players, but they all had major roles on the team. Two of them (Derek Witt and Anthony Gressick) are preparing to start their second season in the minor leagues. Eight of our nine batters return, however, so we should have an experienced lineup. We have ten seniors this season, led by captains Dan Weiss (pitcher) and Dusty Hammond (designate hitter/infielder).

Two of our outfielders are receiving some preseason publicity after having good seasons last year. Outfielders Willie Walker and Matt Stiffler are preseason All-MAC according to Baseball America. The two will help anchor our experienced lineup.

Pitching wise, we are going to have to find a way to replace Witt, Gressick and Yale Silverman on the mound. They ate up a lot of innings that now need replaced. Right now, are starting rotation consists of junior JUCO transfer Matt Smith, Weiss and senior Zeke Isaacs.

Like it has been the four years I have been here, baseball practice has been taking place inside. As we prepare to depart for Nashville, Tenn. this weekend, no one has stepped foot on the baseball field. I am beginning to forget what our infield even looks like since it has been covered with a tarp for the winter.

There are creative ways to get ready for the season, and we have done that the best we can. We do our hitting and pitching in our indoor batting cages, and can simulate an infield inside the indoor tennis facility. We just got our cage extended with a building annex, so we have some extra room to do batting drills. Things are not ideal, but after all, we live in Ohio, not Florida.

As we walk from the Convocation Center to the tennis courts, we endure our own "walk of shame" across campus. The stroll is cold, usually wet and involves a story or two. A lot of stares and questions such as "You can't play baseball in this weather" come our way as we our stuffed inside our sweats and jackets, but none the less we make the trip almost every day.

Vanderbilt is our first opponent. They are usually solid, and this year they are a top ten team in the country. Their ace on the mound is David Price, who has been mentioned as a possible #1 pick in the upcoming major league baseball draft. Also, third baseman Pedro Alvarez is coming off national freshman of the year honors from three different publications. Last week, they started their season by beating preseason No. 1 Rice, 7-3. Needless to say, we are going to have our hands full right out of the gate.

Well, we plan on leaving soon for our series so I better wrap this up. Hopefully weather does not become too much of a factor this weekend, as Nashville's forecast is not supposed to be too much warmer than Athens. The game is rumored to be aired on the internet through Vanderbilt's athletic website, so check us out this weekend here and click on ALL-ACCESS. Alright, it's time to pack up the bus and start the 2007 baseball season.

Remember to check back regularly for the next installment of the Daniel Utts blog.