CASA GRANDE — When the high school baseball season was canceled March 30, it not only hurt the seniors, it also hurt the development of freshmen.
For San Tan Foothills baseball coach Ryan Sutterby, who had seven freshmen on his roster this year, he will depend more on the summer schedule to make up for the loss of experience a junior varsity season would’ve given him.
“I would say it hurts us more by not getting the JV games in and not getting the game experience that could’ve been helpful down the road,” Sutterby said. “Now we are going to rely on a good summer schedule and a fall and winter schedule and try and make up some of those games here for the experience.”
For most teams, the summer baseball schedule consists of either two routes — travel ball or American Legion baseball.
However, for the Sabercats, Sutterby said his team typically plays games with other high school teams. He said in years past they would travel to Prescott and play three games with four teams.
“We are going to plan a summer here,” he said. “We have one scheduled and we have one that is in the works.”
Sutterby said in the current environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was better to go ahead and plan for it instead of scrambling for games once things start to get back to normal.
“We’re planning on playing those games, and if they don’t happen, well at this point in our lives, we are getting pretty good at canceling things,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of practice at that.”
Casa Grande Union coach John Batina said summer ball is important in the development of young players.
“This game, it takes practice, but you have to apply what you do in practice in game situations,” he said. I’m not always a big fan of playing challenging games offseason because if you are doing something wrong, then all you are doing is ingraining the bad habit. But the main token is you can’t just practice all the time either because you have to see if you are applying what you are working on.”
In years past, Batina’s team would have a similar summer schedule as what Sutterby does with his team; however, last year Batina had his team play American Legion baseball along with Vista Grande.
On Wednesday, the national American Legion competition announced the Legion World Series and regional tournaments would be canceled, but it left it up to the state associations to decide if they will have a season or not.
In Arizona, the start of legion baseball typically starts about the first of June, however according to officials within the Arizona state association, the season could pushed back if needed.
“For me, usually the summer is to try things — play kids in different positions,” Batina said. “I might project a kid to play in a certain position that they have never played before. To me that’s what the summer is about. To me it’s not about winning a championship in the summer, it’s about work and reps and things like that.”
While the summer is important in the development of baseball players, it’s also important in the development of football players.
For most football players, the summer is spent working out with the team in the school’s weight room while participating in other camps and 7-on-7 drills — gearing up for the start of the season at the end of July.
In most cases, this includes being under the supervision of coaches. With schools closed and gyms shut down, the players are on their own to get their work in and be in shape when practice starts.
“It’s really going to expose those kids who go out and work on their own as opposed to (those who) only work when a coach sees them,” Sutterby said. “Those kids that do that when the coach is watching, they are going to get exposed. It’s going to show probably now more than ever.”