Warm-up routine key part of game for Chartiers Valley baseball

Sunday, April 23, 2023 | 11:01 AM

If you are a high school baseball fan that shows up right at game time, then you miss the pregame performance every team at nearly every level goes through.

Pregame warm-ups are a well-choreographed chance for players to get their bodies prepared for the game while getting used to the nuances of the field and Mother Nature at the same time.

While watching teams go through their pregame warmup rituals, most of it is smooth sailing. However, there are exceptions.

“It was my first year coaching and we went straight from practicing indoors to playing a scrimmage,” Chartiers Valley assistant coach Aaron Kellington said. “Coach (Curt) Cairns looked at me and asked me to hit some fly balls for the guys. I had never swung a fungo in my life, but I was thinking how hard can this be?

“I took the kids to the outfield and I had a kid who was unable to play in the game catching in for me. I throw the first ball up and swing, and boom I drive the ball right into the ground. Second ball, same result. The third ball I hit a hard ground ball, the fourth I drive in right into the ground.

“This went on for what felt like an eternity, but in reality, it was only about 10 attempts. My nerves were shot. I look to my right, and I say to the kid, you know what, your turn buddy. His results weren’t much better. That night after the game, I bought a bucket of balls. When I got home I proceeded to hit balls in the backyard and send them over the hill into the woods.”

Needless to say, Kellington is much better at fungos many years later for the Colts, who got off to a 6-3 start with a 4-0 mark in Section 3-4A.

We asked Chartiers Valley coach Curt Cairns some behind the scenes questions about the Colts’ pre-game ritual.

What is the goal of the warmups for infielders and outfielders?

At home, we hit live on the field before games. In that time, we hit situationally with a runner on. Our goal is to replicate as many realistic game situations as possible and execute. In the defensive part of infield and outfield warmups, we again want to hit all of the realistic basic plays and throws you get in a game and execute them.

Is this something you practice? If so, how long before all the players are on the same page?

We usually work on it at the beginning of practice a couple of times before the season starts. We also use it as a quick warmup at the beginning of some practices. It becomes pretty ingrained pretty quick. We like to switch it up from year to year, but the goal is always the same.

What are the different responsibilities during warmups for you and each of your coaches?

I used to swing it, but my assistant coaches love to hit infield and outfield and I am happy to oblige. I like to watch body language at that time. I have an infield coach and an outfield coach (Brett Willner and Aaron Kellington) that hit fungos. It took a while to coach them up, but they are in my opinion the best in the business.

Do these drills vary from team to team or do most teams do the same thing?

Oh they vary greatly. I don’t think I have ever seen a bad infield and outfield set up. My vote for best infield and outfield goes to Thomas Jefferson. Their system is fun to watch.

What does a player who plays both infield and outfield do on game day?

Whatever position they are starting at that day is where they will take infield or outfield.

How often do you guys get a chance to take batting practice before a game?

At home, we have a window of 45-50 minutes to hit. For away games, we set up a tee station, Whiffle balls, and also bring a bucket of cage balls if the hosting team has a cage available to hit in. It is never as good as hitting on the field though.

Have you ever cut short the warmups because you didn’t like what you saw?

I have seen it a couple of times. I haven’t personally done it, but it is never a good thing if that happens.

Has the on-field preparation for a game changed at all since your playing days?

I think the goal has always been the same, but I remember our coaches hitting absolute rockets at us. But, maybe everything just seems bigger when you are younger.


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