Edward Little High School baseball coach Dave Jordan, center, conducts practice Monday during the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

AUBURN — Practicing in a gym or parking lot doesn’t bother Edward Little senior catcher Will Cassidy. He is content standing on hardtop or a lush, green field with the teammates he has played with over the past decade.

A grateful Cassidy was one of several players participating in the rigors of a catchers-and-pitchers practice in Edward Little’s gym on Monday evening.

“It is my favorite sport since I was a kid,” Cassidy said. “Just getting out there and playing again — that’s all I need. It feels pretty good (to have a season), especially after missing out on last year. I have played with these guys my entire life.

 “Getting back out there with them is fun. I have played with these guys for 12, 13 years. Hopefully, it could end on a good run.”

Cassidy, who last week was named a semifinalist for the Travis Roy Award, recently traded in his hockey stick for a bat and a round of catch with fellow teammates in preparation for the upcoming season. He said he was confident a full baseball season was not out of the question despite COVID-19.

“Once we started hockey and how successful that was with area teams, I knew,” Cassidy said. “Especially being outside, I thought we could have (baseball).”

There was gleam in the eye and a smile on the face of Red Eddies baseball coach Dave Jordan as he discussed the season, adding that he is quite pleased with his club that is oozing depth and experience.

“We have 48 guys signed up for baseball right now,” he said. “We have a lot of talented guys. … It will come down to how they work and how well they jell. It is a great group of guys and we are excited to be out there with them.”

The cancellation of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic was rough on the Red Eddies, who reached the Class A North final two years ago.

Edward Little High School senior Clay Robbins throws Monday during the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

“We had returners,” Jordan said. “We were obviously heartbroken for our seniors who couldn’t play. But these guys are excited to be out here. A lot of them are passionate about baseball, and having that year they missed, I think is going to (make) them more competitive and work harder than they usually would.”

Jordan knows the coronavirus remains pervasive and added that in itself is still the greatest challenge for any team this season.

“We just have to do the best we can to keep our distance and make good choices … so we can get out there and play as much as we can,” he said. “I think some teams will have some adversities throughout the year. I believe we are building a lot of depth to help with that, in terms of if we are going to miss players for whatever reason.

“… But I think overall these guys have been doing this for quite a while, most of the school year. They know what is ahead of them.”

Jordan pointed out that many of his players have been “doing stuff,” including participating in travel baseball, in the offseason to prepare for this season. He added that some players, such as Cassidy, are coming off a winter season and didn’t have as much time to hone their baseball skills.

“Basically, it is how we go about every year,” he said. “We’ve got to start pretty close to ground zero. The ones who have been doing stuff for the winter, we will push them a little harder, and the other ones, we will kind of go at it with kid gloves. So it is not a lot of change for us.”

DIAMOND DAYS AGAIN

Mt. Blue coach Nic Koban explained to his team that throwing and stretching are important to a good season.

“Put it this way — spring sports doesn’t start until next week,” Koban said to his athletes. “The preseason is not until next week. This is them just allowing us to throw to get our arms ready to go. … I think the kids were just anxious to get into the gym and actually play a little bit … and just feel like baseball season is happening again.”

Koban can see that some of his players are a bit nervous after a two-year layoff.

“They feel like they have forgotten how to play, or the swing won’t be there, or they have forgotten how to throw a strike,” he said.

Will Cassidy, left, Colin Merritt, right, and other potential catchers for the Edward Little High School baseball team listen as assistant coach Jordan Croteau provides a demonstration during the first day of practice for pitchers and catchers Monday. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

Like the Red Eddies, Mt. Blue is fielding a larger team with some depth.

“We’ll be fine. The kids will get back to it,” Koban said. “We have a nice mix of quite a few seniors, quite a few juniors, a really big sophomore class. We’ve got 37 kids out for baseball. That just doesn’t happen all that often at Mt. Blue. I think some good things will happen this year.”

The joy of having a hard ball in one hand and a glove on the other means a great deal to these kids.

“I hope we play good. I hope we have a good season,” Edward Little senior catcher Colin Merritt said. “Hopefully, none of us will get shut down and we have a full season.”

Red Eddies pitcher Clay Robbins just happy to be playing baseball his senior season.

“Competing with my classmates (because) we missed year last year so we didn’t get to do that,” Robbins said. “We are looking forward to it this year.”

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