The sultans of spring
EHS baseball team doing ‘everything with a purpose’
Baseball is the great American pastime, and that's no different in Eudora, where Cardinal baseball is underway.
In past times, the nation has revered it as a symbol of the American spirit. As time passed, however, the reverence has diluted. The perceived negligence the professional baseball player has shown the game has resulted in bitterness and distrust among fans.
Those fans long for the day that players played for the love of the game. They long for the time when players ran out ground balls and worked on the execution of a sacrifice bunt. They simply long for baseball to regain its integrity. Baseball fans long for the purity of...high school baseball?
Are high school athletics the last safe haven for sports in America? Upon graduation, the majority of high school athletes will cease competitive participation in their respective fields of play. They probably won't play in college, and they're certainly unlikely to ever make a living playing a game. What, then, is the motivation for the student-athlete? It just might be for the love of the game. High school baseball, and its respective counterparts, may be what so many fans have been looking for.
Just less than a month ago the Eudora Cardinals baseball team began preparing for the season.
"We've been working hard and things have been going real well," coach Dirk Kinney said.
"We've been doing everything for a purpose. We work on bunting and hit and runs everyday. We go through all the fundamentals of baseball to be successful."
And this team wants to be successful.
"We have six seniors who have never had a season above .500. They should be pretty hungry," Kinney said. "They realize this is their last trip. They're pretty focused."
Eudora is determined to finish above .500, with a focused goal of 15 game of baseball, driving his team toward perfection through hard work. The team conducts a three-hour practice daily.
Betting that the early bird actually gets the worm, pitchers added an extra two hours of practice from 6 to 8 a.m. Kinney believes the extra work will benefit the team by getting the pitching staff into superior condition.
The early birds forming the Cardinals rotation are seniors Seth Johnson and Heath Fanning, junior Chris Gabriel, and sophomore Rod Evinger. Senior middle-reliever Tyler Wingebach and closer Tyler Jackson add veteran experience out of the bullpen.
The pitching staff, coupled with sound fundamentals, form the basic formula of the success of this year's team.
"We probably won't have a guy hit 10 home runs," Kinney said. "We'll have to bunt and hit and run. I'm big on doing the little things right."
The importance of the little things is amplified by the loss of two all-league outfielders to graduation. Michael Lehman and Lear Bowling allowed the team to overcome occasional failures among the "little things."
This year's Cardinal team will return a three-time all-league selection at shortstop, Andrew Pyle. Eudora will look for Pyle to continue his magnificent play while awaiting the evolution of the next great Cardinal star.
Perhaps that shooting star is sophomore Cole Massey. Massey will bat cleanup and split time between third base and catcher -- where he'll share duties with Troy VanHorn.
"It's a pretty big deal for a sophomore to hit cleanup," Kinney said.
And regarding his catching tandem, "It is a huge luxury to have two very talented, well-rounded catchers," he said.
Coach and team alike are ready to get the season underway.
"We're eager to start," Kinney said. "(The team) is ready to play. They've worked hard enough, I don't blame them."
The Cardinals will get their chance in a double-header starting a 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Pleasant Ridge. Note the location of this season opener has been changed from the originally released schedule. Also, the Cardinals softball team will move its opening contest with Pleasant Ridge to Eudora, where it will be televised. The April 17 boys baseball game at Anderson County will also be televised.wins, improving on last year's 11-11 squad.
A 15-plus win season will not satisfy the Cardinals though. They have set league and state championships as their primary objectives.
Somewhat ironically, such success may be determined by the team's ability to manage failure. Failure is a peculiar thing within the confines of a baseball diamond. A player that hits .300 is considered to be highly successful. Consider, however, a .300 batter actually fails seven out of ten times, a 70 percent failure rate -- for a good player.
In order to keep failures at a minimum, maximizing the potential for success, Kinney is looking to infuse his intensity into the Cardinals' approach.
Kinney, in his first year as a Eudora head coach, is optimistic that the team will complete a smooth