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Jan. 9, 2003

By Jeff Robinson

The Virginia Baseball team opens regular season play Friday, February 14, in a weekend series against the Tigers of Auburn. Auburn finished the 2002 season with a record of 34-26, and is ranked 21st in the nation according to Baseball America’s Preseason Top 25 Poll, but this tough opener is only a taste of what the Cavalier Baseball team will face this season.

The Cavaliers 2003 schedule includes eight teams selected by Baseball America’s Preseason top 25 poll, five of which are ACC contenders, including #1 ranked powerhouse Georgia Tech. Over the course of the next four months, the Cavaliers will compete in fifty plus games, and average over three and a half games per week.

To prepare for the upcoming spring season, the baseball team began strength and conditioning as soon as classes began in the fall semester. For the first month, the baseball athletes were limited to ten hour per week lifting and conditioning sessions. All players lift weights, but the conditioning exercises vary among positions. Pitchers concentrate in long distance running and stadium step exercises, while the position players focus more on short sprinting exercises.

After the first month of conditioning, the baseball players are allowed to practice for twenty hours per week during a session named, “fall ball.” During fall ball, the Cavaliers scrimmage each other at least three times per week to simulate game situations and get freshman players adjusted. During Finals week, the baseball team is given time off to concentrate on their academic studies. Official practice is not held over winter break, but players are given packets that contain lifting and running programs that they are responsible for carrying out on their own.

In the off-season,Virginia baseball players put in enough hours to satisfy the time constraints of a demanding part-time job, but during the baseball season the work schedule is more like that of an investment banker. During a given regular season week with a home game on Tuesday and a weekend series on the road, the players are usually given Monday off. If there is a home game on Tuesday, it will usually start at 3:00 PM, the players will start getting ready around 12:15, play the game, and when all is said and done they will be free around 7:00 PM. Wednesday will usually consist of a full practice lasting no longer than four hours, and Thursday will include light practice and lifting sessions lasting about three hours.

For a weekend series on the road, the Virginia Baseball team will play a game on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday against a particular team. If the drive will cover a large distance, such as Clemson, SC, the Cavaliers will depart Thursday night after the conclusion of practice. Upon arrival to their hotel, the Cavaliers immediately get rested for the game on Friday that usually starts at 7:00. Curfew for the Baseball team with games the next day is 12:00 midnight. The games on Saturday and Sunday are usually around 1:00, so Saturday night is the only time on the road the Cavaliers have for leisure or academics. At the conclusion of Sunday’s game, the bus will head home to Charlottesville. The baseball team has returned as late as 3:00 AM Monday morning from series as far away as Clemson.

In a recent interview with Alan Zimmerer (Montoursville, Pa./Montoursville), a junior left-handed relief pitcher for the Cavaliers and full time student in the University of Virginia’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, he explained the time commitment that collegiate baseball poses on the players.

“I pretty much tell all my friends that I will see them at the end of the semester,” said Zimmerer. “It definitely takes a toll on your social life.” Baseball players must schedule all of their class in the early morning so they can make practices and games. After a practice or game, they have only enough time to eat dinner and complete their homework before awaking to early classes.

Zimmerer explained that he probably misses around 35 classes over the entire semester due to baseball. When asked how his professors react to his absences, he replied, “for the most part they are cool about it, but there are a few that believe I am here solely for an education, which I understand.”

The Cavalier Baseball team will continue to prepare for the rigorous schedule that lies ahead before its season opener at Auburn. The Cavaliers will have their first home appearance of the 2003 spring season on Saturday, February 22 at 1:00 PM, in a double header versus Penn State at the recently constructed Davenport Field at the UVa Baseball Stadium.

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