DHS baseball getting ready

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 20, 2006

Yes, it’s still January. Yes, the days are still short and we probably haven’t the seen the last of scarves or thick gloves just yet. But that doesn’t mean it’s not time already to break out a very different kind of glove as well.

The Demopolis high baseball team has already begun its preparations for the 2006 season, thanks to a change in the Alabama High School Athletic Association rulebook that allows players to get into game shape earlier in the year.

“It’s a three-week period for nothing but throwing and conditioning,” says Tiger head baseball coach James Moody. “They all do long-toss every day, and we’re having all our pitchers throw off the mound.”

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In previous seasons, coaches could not work with their teams in any official capacity until the end of January. The AHSAA approved the measure in order to help players enter practice in better shape and avoid potential muscle pulls and strains.

“What we hope is that on Day One, I’ve put them through enough that we won’t have to work on that as much. We can have crisper practices and cut back on minor injuries,” Moody says. “What [the coaches] presented to the state was the injury factor.”

As an example, Moody cites 2005 senior G.W. Washington, who struggled to work his way into pitching shape after missing time playing with the Tiger basketball team. Washington went on to be drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers and receive a baseball scholarship to Central Alabama Community College, but Moody says he would have been drafted earlier if he had been able to pitch earlier in the season.

“I’m not going to take a kid,” Moody says, “and just throw him into the fire.”

Having healthy, in-shape pitchers will be even more important for the Tigers this season, as the pitching staff will be much younger than in Demopolis’s 2005 state championship season.

“I think it will have more to do with the younger kids, with making sure they have their legs under them and getting their arms in good enough shape to start the season,” Moody says. “Their arms naturally get sore at the beginning and we want to alleviate some of that … We lost so many innings from last year, so it’s good to get a jump start with some of our young guys. They’re going to have to step up on the mound.”

Those new pitchers include juniors Rob Quinney and Kyle Thrasher, who will join seniors Tyler Moody and Hunter Hawley in the revamped Demopolis rotation. Moody says varsity pitchers will take mound two days a week and the junior varsity two other days, with one day off.

But Moody adds that the new conditioning period, which includes plenty of running to go with the arm work, won’t just be of help to Demopolis pitchers

“What it does, is it gets the legs and the core in shape. The rest of the body can take care of itself,” he says. “But when the legs go, everything else goes. The ball just gets up in the zone. On offense, it affects how you swing the bat. It’ll benefit all of them.”

The fine-tuning of the team’s hitting and fielding will have to wait, however. The AHSAA state that the early period is for conditioning only, and that coaches are strictly prohibited from supervising batting, fielding, or any other skills-building drills.

“We told them, you can do what you want to do on your own time,” Moody says, “but that’s the rule and we’re going to go by the rule.”

Full practices begin Jan. 30, with the season opening Feb. 20.