Players are sweating it out as the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League heads down the final stretch of the regular season, and it’s not just because of the pressure related to the playoffs. The dreaded dog days of summer have arrived.
That means 90-plus-degree days, high humidity, and the associated wear and tear of a compact regular season that has teams playing 41 games in 58 days. Many of those contests are day games played under the relentless glare of a blinding sun in the searing heat. Playing under those conditions is bound to take its toll on players.
“You’re playing now every day, five days a week,” Riverhead Tomcats Manager Randy Caden said. “It’s grueling.”
No one has to tell that to Sag Harbor Whalers right fielder Kevin Grove. “It is hot, but there is nothing you can do about it,” he said. “You just got to put it out of your mind. You got to prepare for it.”
The two best ways for players to prepare for it and beat the heat are to make sure they stay hydrated and get their rest.
“You’re trying to do all these things and it’s a wear and tear on you body in the heat, so you want to drink up,” said Tomcats pitcher Dom Macaluso.
Managers can see the affect of the heat on players. Southampton Breakers Manager Rob Cafiero noticed the grind getting to his players in a recent game that saw several errors.
“I see with our guys that they’re getting tired,” he said. “A lot of our guys, they didn’t play a whole lot at their colleges, and they’re starting to play five games a week. That’s a lot for them, so I can see some of the guys getting tired, and that could lead to their sloppy play out in the field.”
It helps to shuffle lineups around and substitute to keep players fresh. A day off can do wonders for a tired player.
“They’re sweaty and they’re out of it,” one of the Tomcats’ assistant coaches, Rob Maccone, said. “That’s why you need days off.”
The Tomcats, for example, make use of their 12 reserve field players and spread out the pitching among their 12 pitchers. Conditions can be particularly taxing for catchers, who have to wear the gear required for that position.
“I think splitting time helps a lot,” said Tomcats catcher Mike Lonsdale, who shares time behind the plate with Chase Fowler and Matt Fleishman.
Caden said managers have to recognize when a player needs a rest. “The guys are doing good job, and they’re not going to tell you if they’re tired because they want to play, so you as a coach have to assume,” he said. “You could see it. You can tell if a guy swings a little slow.”
The ACBL players are not only learning how to fine-tune their craft, but they are also the importance of taking care of themselves off the field.
“To get through such a long season, taking care of yourself off the field is the biggest thing,” Whalers Manager Jim Buckley said. “Make sure you’re in [bed at] a reasonable hour. Make sure you’re getting up early, getting your food in you, getting your water in you, going to the gym.”
Tomcats pitcher Chris Pabisch realizes that the heat and humidity is as much a part of the game sometimes as balls, strikes and outs. In one recent game, Pabisch changed his shirt three times, but he wasn’t complaining.
“It’s not too bad,” he said. “When we’re out there, we’re playing baseball, so you can’t complain.”
As hot as it has been, Caden said there always seemed to be some sort of relief, whether it be welcomed cloud cover, a refreshing drizzle or breeze. Still, it has been hot enough that even players from places such as Florida and Mississippi have noticed.
Caden said, “When the southern boys say it’s hot, we know it’s hot, and that’s happened.”