Fall Report: WashingtonFall Report
SEATTLE — Midway through taking in one of Washington’s fall baseball practices, it hit me that there is a sure reason why I’m not surprised the Huskies made it to Omaha last season. Even in a fall practice there is a certain level of intensity and meticulousness.
While Joe Wainhouse was taking his swings in batting practice, coach Lindsay Meggs was next to the cage with a fungo bat hitting baseballs to a couple of players standing in the second base area of the field, who were taking grounders and throwing them to first base.
At one point, Meggs hits a soft grounder toward the second baseman, who kind of underhands the ball toward the first baseman. Meggs yells out, “Hey, stop. Everybody stop.” The B.P. pitcher even halts his throws.
“Listen. You guys. Set your feet and make the throw. You’re too far away to underhand it. Just do the fundamental play. Set your feet. Make a good base. Then make the throw to first.”
With that said, B.P. started back up and Wainhouse began slapping screaming liners again.
That’s how Meggs handles his practices. Everything has a purpose to it. Everything has energy. Everything must be done the right way.
That is part of the reason the Huskies made their way to Omaha last June. The other big reason? “Unlike most teams that wear down and get the injury bug in the middle of the season, we did just the opposite. We started getting players back from injury in late March/early April and we started to come together and gelled as a team.”
The Huskies rode their health, energy and good fortune to get hot at the right time and made their first-ever trip to Omaha. From their 18-18 midseason point, they soon righted the ship and headed to the promised land.
Catcher Nick Kahle said last June after their loss to Oregon State eliminated the Huskies from the CWS, “When we got all our guys back, we just really enjoyed ourselves. We showed that you’ve got to have fun while you’re playing baseball.”
So how do the boys from the land of grunge get back next June? First off, they take every play in practice like its the most important play in the world. Just like I saw first hand. Secondly, coach Meggs tells me that he has noticed in their first few weeks of fall practice that his team has been “more motivated than any team I’ve had before.”
So much for resting on their laurels. The Huskies are a driven team this fall.
Even though the Huskies will lose talents like A.J. Graffanino and Willie MacIver, you could argue that they still have four of their five starters returning due to the injury bug that struck last year.
After what he has seen this fall, Coach Meggs thinks Ben Baird is going to be one of the best defenders in the country at the hot corner. Baird is a shortstop by nature but took over third base last season when Willie MacIver went down with a hamate injury early in the season. But Baird went down to injury soon after MacIver returned and was shelved for the remainder of the campaign after making 31 starts. Though he only hit .204, Baird is a former 20th round draft pick of the Indians and should be a rising name to keep an eye on this season.