America’s favorite pastime has been ever present on campus this academic year, with the Fairfield University baseball team being surrounded by a surprising amount of challenges and successes. Although a spike in COVID-19 cases on campus has forced the team to pause their training efforts, there have been many bright spots along the way. The major upside to this flurry of confusion is the return of five players, some who are using their extra year of academic eligibility granted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and some who are pursuing graduate education at Fairfield.
Head coach Bill Currier, who has been preparing for his tenth year of coaching at Fairfield, is extremely excited for the upcoming season.
“The players have good character and they’re kids you like to be around,” Currier said. “I’ve been very fortunate to coach them.”
The players he refers to come from many different places and backgrounds. Five members of the class of 2020 have elected to return so that they could play one more season with their team; this was made possible through the ruling of the NCAA in response to the suspension of play last spring.
Other players, though, have transferred to Fairfield University so that they can get more out of their college baseball experience. Coach Currier and his staff welcomed multiple transfer students this year, hailing from schools like Union College, Wagner College and Mount St. Mary’s College. These transfers include Matt Hayes ‘23, a first baseman that Courrier was incredibly excited to pick up. All around the infield, position depth is extremely important, and the Fairfield baseball team gained that with this transfer.
Coach Currier is also pleased with the amount of new first-year players coming into the program. With eight new rookies being added to the roster, there is an abundance of new faces on the diamond.
“The first-year pitchers seem to be ahead of where I expected them to be with the truncated schedule in the spring,” team manager Colby Rush said. “They need some work on plate discipline, but that’s to be expected.”
It is a blessing that the team was able to add so many star players in one year. This is something that the team definitely needed after the season got cut short last year.
“We were on our spring break in Florida…we bussed over to Tampa from Central Florida and we were going to play a three game series with South Florida. We got over there and we were all ready to start our game, and the season just got canceled.”
Coach Currier and his staff clearly did not let this affect their morale though, as they had an incredibly productive offseason with recruiting new players.
With the resurgence of cases nationwide, it is much more difficult to begin the recruiting process for different players across the nation.
“Just when you are ready to get out there and recruit, the league extends the dead period, meaning you can’t be face-to-face, you can’t go to their games and they can’t come on to campus and talk to you,” Courrier said.
For many sports teams around the United States, the recruitment process has proved to be much more difficult as regulations ramp up.
The team will return to practicing and working out together on Oct. 23, when the campus-wide pause in athletic play ends.
“It’s pretty tough getting your players into a rhythm when you keep having stoppages,” said Currier, about the pause.
Instead of dwelling on the negatives though, Currier prefers to look at the positives. One example of this would be the Major League Baseball draft only going five rounds, meaning some of his players who were projected to get picked in later rounds can return to Fairfield to play another season, and possibly increase their draft projections for the next year. Another upside that is important for the team is chemistry. Many players on the team have played together before in past years, which ultimately builds chemistry between his players.
The baseball team at Fairfield University seems to always be overcoming some type of challenge presented to them; their effort and resilience in this tough time is incredible. In the coming weeks, when they begin play, they will finally have the opportunity to show every opponent what the Stags are made of.