Members of the Castleton baseball team have played a total of seven games this spring, yet none of them have come on the frozen Vermont soil. The team has recently logged hundreds of travel miles on trips to Texas and Virginia, and will be flying to Arizona on Wednesday, March 26.
Due to the cold weather that continues to loom over Castleton’s campus, the team is subjected to practicing in the shape gym in the back of Glenbrook Gymnasium. The only way to get real playing experience is to head south.
The first trip to Dallas, Texas, was made without a few members of the team. Several players could not go to the Lone Star State due to monetary difficulties. Each member of the team must account for his own airfare, and although some fund-raising has been done to help pay for plane tickets, not everyone could afford the trip.
The team also traveled without head coach Ted Shipley. Shipley, also the head coach of the Spartan men’s basketball team, had to stay behind for the last two games of the regular season and to prepare for the playoffs.
During the trip, the team played a total of five games. The first two games were against the University of Texas-Dallas, and the last three were against the University of Dallas. Like Castleton, both of these schools are in Division III.
However, the Spartans were unable to secure a victory in these five games. When asked if the talent is superior in the south, head coach Shipley discounted this theory.
“I don’t think the talent is any better in southern schools. Talent is talent, and it’s not superior due to weather,” he said. “I think these teams are better due to opportunity and work ethic. We’ve been practicing in a gym. They had already played five or six games.”
Shipley also said that these two teams are currently both receiving votes to be nationally ranked.
The results were more of the same in a recent trip to Virginia.
On Friday, March 14, the team played in a double-header against Christopher Newport University. Castleton dropped both games by scores of 16-4 and 15-3.
Again, several players were unable to attend this trip as the timing did not sync up with the academic schedule.
Oliver Aldrich, a junior first baseman and pitcher, said the trip was poorly planned. “So many guys had to stay behind because [the trip] was during mid-terms,” he said.
Aldrich was also displeased with the traveling aspect of the road trip. “We took off on Thursday, played a double-header on Friday, and left on Saturday. We spent more time in our vehicles than on the field.”
The two losses dropped the Spartan to 0-7 on the year. However, many positives can be taken from these games. The players are getting an early opportunity to play outside rather than in the gymnasium. Also, none of these losses have come to in-conference foes, so they will not have any impact on playoff seeding later in the year.
According to Shipley, many of these early struggles are a result of a lack of experience on the team. “The last three to four years, we have had very experienced teams,” he said. “We lost seven of our top nine guys from last year. We’re fairly young, and it’s too early to tell about how our freshmen will develop.”
The team will be traveling once again over spring break. The players and coaches will be flying to Phoenix, Arizona, on Wednesday, March 26, for what will be a tournament style event. They will be playing a total of six games, all versus Division III schools.
Phoenix hosts these types of games throughout the spring, and has become a hot spot for Division III schools. This is interesting since there are no Division III schools in the state of Arizona.
“Usually, there would be around 50 schools in the area playing spring baseball,” said Shipley. “But since our spring break is so late, there will only be a few left for us to play against.”
The Spartan men will return to Vermont after their final game in Arizona on April 1.