By Stephen Tool, MCIN Staff
The sky is cloudy and the grass not quite green. Still, spring is in the air. Despite the clouds and chill, the smack of horsehide against cowhide is unmistakable. Spring is here because baseball is here.
Darren Hamrey, “Ham” to those in the know, boys baseball coach for Mineral County High School is ready for his 11th season. Coach Hamery also teaches several subjects at the high school.
The team’s opening game is March 14 in a tournament hosted by Yerington.
As spring is the rebuilding time of the earth, this spring is rebuilding time for Coach Hamrey’s Serpents.
Twelve players are out for the team this spring. Not as many as some years, Hamrey acknowledges, but enough to field a team and to give players the personalized instruction they need to succeed at baseball, and later, at life.
Today, March 3, is the first official school practice. The players start by running a lap around the field. Neville Field is a large field, over 400 feet at the gap and 386 feet in center field.
Hamrey’s not concerned with fence distances; he is not fielding a team of power hitters. His team plays “inside” baseball: short on home runs, but long on style and excitement.
Inside baseball offense features lots of strategy: base stealing, bunting, taking the extra base on a bobbled ball. “Our process is to manufacture runs, getting them on, over and in. Move the guy over, steal bases, it’s exciting baseball,” Hamrey says.
To prove his point, one of Hamrey’s first drills is having players practice lateral movement and the proper base runner and base stealer stances.
The team fields only three seniors this year, but Hamrey is excited about some of his freshman prospects. “We have these young guys with real reputations as ballplayers coming up. I expect last year’s players to steadily progress, and when everyone steps up to the plate, I expect us to be in the money in our conference.”
Juinior Hunter Mitchell, in her third year as team manager, is looking forward to this season as well, “This is the smallest team I’ve seen here, but it has positive vibes. We’re going places.”
Before Hamrey leaves the dugout for more drills with players and assistant coach Steve Bowles, he says, “What’s so great about this game is the way baseball prepares you for the future. It’s about making decisions, entering situations and being prepared for those situations. Baseball reflects life.”