Archive for Thursday, July 22, 2004

Massey enjoying summer pace

Off-season baseball gives catcher, team more time to correct problems

July 22, 2004

The Lawrence Outlaws are a successful baseball team competing in talent-heavy American Legion summer ball. This select group of high school stars involves an elite handful of Eudorans, including catcher Cole Massey.
The Cardinal catcher split time behind the plate during the school year with recently graduated slugger Troy Van Horn. But during the 2005 campaign, the joint burden and privilege of quarterbacking Eudora will fall upon Massey.
The catcher may be the most critical player on the baseball field. He is charged with controlling the pitching staff and quite often is looked upon as a power bat and RBI man.
Massey meets both requirements with great merit.
His mission this summer is to shape his game for a run at the 4A state championship next year and, in the process, hopefully win an American Legion state championship.
"We're playing pretty well," Massey said. "When we've lost, we've lost because we ran out of pitchers. We've had to pitch everyone during a weekend tournament or something. Some errors have hurt us in the past, too. But we're starting to come around.
"We're playing like a team now. We've got a feel for what everyone can do."
And that's an advantage of summer ball. The summer season actually allows teams and players to feel things out.
"During the high school season you may do something wrong with your swing or something, and I transfer that over to the summer," Massey said. "You play twice as many games, which means you have twice as many chances to improve.
"And I try to carry that improvement back over to the high school season."
The lengthy schedule is also an advantage for the team.
"Our summer league is a lot more laid back and less intense than high school," Massey said. "In high school you kind of have to be serious. There's not that many games. You can't just turn things around, play better and improve your record.
"In the summer, though, if you have a few bad games you can bounce back and be alright."
But Massey tries not to overemphasize the high school season at the risk of sacrificing the summer opportunity.
"I don't try to think about the high school season that much, like the regional loss to Ward or anything," he said. "But I try to improve on what I did wrong personally."
Dwelling on that Ward game isn't much fun -- and Massey tries to relax a little and enjoy the summer season.
"In high school, you have to try to win every game to get a high seed for regionals and win the state championship," he said. "It's the same in summer ball. You can win a state championship. But it doesn't mean quite as much as high school.
"In the summer, you have to take it pretty seriously if you want to achieve as a player, though."
There are many circumstances where the line between the summer season and the high school season blurs. One such case is competition between Frontier League rivals like Ottawa, which will be in the league next year.
"We've played them five or six times," Massey said. "It's a lot of fun. You know everybody, you've seen all the pitchers, and you get a good feel for their game."
That growing familiarity should help the Cardinals as the league expands.
But there are catches.
"It can help a lot, but it can hurt you, too," Massey said. "Personally I don't like to see teams a lot for that reason.
"With new teams, you don't know what to expect from them, and they don't know what to expect from you. You have to feel your way through the game and try to throw them off.
"Playing the same teams all the time can, in a way, get old after a while."
But as a catcher, it can simplify the scouting process and the game plan.
"It makes my job a lot easier," Massey said. "You get to know certain people in the lineup. You know what they like to chase for an out pitch and you know what they hit hard."
Massey likes the spontaneity of the unknown; the strategy and the anxiety.
"But it also isn't the best because I like to get a feel for the game as it goes along," he said. "That's kind of fun for me."

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