What a difference a year makes.
Last year, when the Blue Earth Area baseball team finally got outside to prepare for their upcoming season, they were faced with shoveling snow off the baseball diamond in order to be able to play on it. This year, above normal temperatures have allowed the team to enjoy some nice outdoor weather to train in.
This year marks head coach Todd Schmidtke's 20th year at the helm of the Buccaneer baseball team. Yet, his enthusiasm for the game is still very evident as he works with the young men who will be taking the field for their first game on April 3.
Members of the 2012 Buccaneer baseball team are, front row, left to right; Alec Huber, Seth Anderson, Quinn Huisman, Reed Rasmussen, Jonah Pirsig, David Franta, Eric Spellman, Dallas Barslou, Coach Schmidtke. Back row, left to right; assistant coach Brent Legred, Alex Stewart, Brady Anderson, Christian Haugh, Andrew Bell, Blaine Hougen, Carter Hanson, Brandyn Olsen, Matthew Rockers and Zac Bartlett.
On a day when they were forced indoors because of a rain shower that began right as they were starting their practice on their outdoor field, Schmidtke and his assistants now have the team going through drills in Pemberton Auditorium.
One group is working on their hitting skills, while another group plays catch, and yet another group works on fielding skills. Another group is busy putting pads up over any glass that could be broken by an errant throw or a missed catch.
"These guys have a very positive attitude," notes coach Schmidtke. "They work hard and are a fun group to be around."
The team has five returning letterwinners and four returning starters. A fifth starter, Brady Anderson, who played shortstop and also pitched last year, was lost before the season began due to a knee injury suffered during the basketball season.
Twelve men will make up the varsity team this year and versatility will be a key to this year's squad.
"I told the guys that each one of them should be prepared to play at least three different positions," says Schmidtke. "Depending who is on the mound will dictate where we will position people."
Two veteran pitchers return to lead the pitching staff. Seniors Jonah Pirsig and Andrew Bell will be joined by Brandyn Olsen, Matthew Rockers, Dallas Barslou, David Franta and Reed Rasmussen in seeing action on the mound.
Other returning starters are catcher Carter Hanson, outfielder Blaine Hougen, and first baseman Zac Bartlett. The other members of the team are Eric Spellman and Christian Haugh.
"We will have decent speed," says Schmidtke. "And we will be aggressive."
The 12 guys on the team have taken on the nickname "The Dirty Dozen."
Schmidtke explains, "They intend to play hard, slide into every base when they need to, dive for every ball and give the kind of hustle and effort that will leave their uniforms dirty."
Their first game will be in Blue Earth on April 3 when the Bucs host New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva.
As for the conference favorites this year, Schmidtke looks for Fairmont and New Ulm to be the teams to beat.
Schmidtke is assisted by Brent Legred. Lee Hodges will be heading up the B-squad and Roger Schoenfelder will handle C-squad duties.