By Matthew Yoder
The best coaches adapt when circumstances don’t go as planned, adjusting on the fly to play to their team’s strengths. So, when the top two hitters in Arcadia’s order became unavailable before practices got underway, coaches Michael Hatcher and Kyle Williams put their heads together, looking at what they already have in place, to enter the season with a formula for success. As best laid plans often go astray, Hatcher and Williams are moving forward into the 2020 baseball season with the 13 players in front of them on a damp, Monday afternoon in Oak Hall.
What the Firebirds will benefit from is experience, and without hesitation Williams believes gloves in the infield will help the team remain competitive.
“Our strength will definitely be the defense; defense is going to win us games,” said Williams.
That’s not to say there won’t also be a learning curve, as holes will need to be filled to round out the defense. Robbie Sterling is Arcadia’s catcher, but will also log substantial innings on the mound, leaving a void behind the plate when he does.
“We’re probably going to have a ninth-grader catch at times,” Hatcher said.
The outfield, too, will require some retooling, with some players green to the position picking up the slack.
“We have some people that are not used to being on the grass,” said Hatcher.
Despite the setbacks, Hatcher and Williams appeared optimistic and focused on Monday afternoon, working through specific scenarios, all the while professing their passion for the intricacies of the sport. They could be seen intensely working with the dedicated athletes they have on the field, discussing a focus on pitch counts and small ball to keep games within reach.
It’s likely the Firebirds will not want to get caught up in slugfests with their opponents, as Hatcher believes 3-2 games will likely be their calling card in pursuit of victory. Perfecting the little details and minimizing mistakes will help offset any power issues, and it will come down to situational execution.
“That is baseball in a nutshell, it’s a team game but comes down to individual performances,” said Hatcher.
Hatcher and Williams seem up to the task of teaching all aspects of the game, rolling with the punches in an effort to field a competitive unit. The second-year coaches also double as groundskeepers, positioning the field itself to be in live game shape headed into the season. With limited resources, their stewardship is commendable and the field is admittedly much improved from a season ago.
“It’s our school, so we take care of it,” Williams said.
The Firebirds spring into action next week with a Tuesday scrimmage at Snow Hill and turn around two days later for a home matchup with Pocomoke City in advance of a 16-game season.