TARA SLEDJESKI PHOTO | Two Vegas boys meeting at third. University Nevada-Las Vegas infielder Justin Jones taking a throw as Cody Howard, a fellow Runnin’ Rebel, advances. Both players, on the Bucks’ roster this summer, were at the team’s first practice Thursday.
Summer hit Shelter Island instantly Thursday with temperatures rising into the 90’s, just in time for the first practice of Bucks baseball.
At least one new player on the team representing the Island in the Hampton Collegiate Baseball League had a bit of a shock. Outfielder Cody Howard’s first impression of Shelter Island was a sticky one. “It’s crazy.” Mr. Howard, who plays for the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said about the humidity. “I definitely sweated a little bit more out here than I did at home. It’s a completely different world out here compared to Vegas.”
General Manager Cori Cass is excited for the summer of 2013 following a 21-19 inaugural season that resulted in a league title. However, disappointment still lingers over the team’s first round playoff loss. This season, Mr. Cass’ goal is to win the HCBL Championship. But he understands there are obstacles in the way. “It’s a very competitive league so it will be tough,” he said.
Mr. Howard and many of his teammates had their real first taste of life on Shelter Island at Thursday’s practice. Some got onto the Island for the first time and headed straight to Fiske Field. On an unbearably hot day, the work out was a typical baseball practice featuring a variety of traditional drills. Rookie Coach Johnny Hernandez oversaw his team’s first efforts by getting involved, hitting and pitching to his players.
Hernandez was pleased with what he saw following the first practice. “I feel pretty good about the team,” he said. “They’re my type of guys. They look like they’ve got some speed and can put the ball in play. They look like a bunch of grinders out there. The pitchers threw pretty well. I really like what we have.”
Asked what he thought would be the team’s strong spots following his first look, Hernandez was quick to put emphasis on pitching. “Anytime you’re playing baseball it’s going to be pitching and defense,” he said. But he also noted the importance of hitting, especially on a team with speed.
“Like I said, we have some runners so we will be able to hit and run and lay some bunts down, steal a bunch of bases so I think we will be pretty strong,” he added.
Just like Mr.Cass, Hernandez also has high expectations “My goal is to win it,” Mr. Hernandez said referring to the league.
The players are pumped to win the league also, but a few have other goals. Mr. Howard said his main goal was to improve. “Just basically get some more at bats and get better,” Mr. Howard said. “Get stronger, get faster and get better every day, basically.”
The environment is not the only thing Mr. Howard will have to get used to while playing for the Bucks this summer. “It’s different with a wood bat,” he said. “The field is definitely way different than I’ve been playing on all year, it’s not really a stadium, it’s just the teams and maybe a couple fans, so it’ll be different, it’ll be fun.”
The Bucks begin their season this Sunday, June 2 on the road against the Sag Harbor Whalers. Their first home game is Monday, June 3 against the Center Moriches Battlecats at 5 p.m. at Fiske Field
Part of the experience of the league for the players is saying with host families. Currently, eight host families are still needed for this summer. Anyone interested, please contact Mr. Cass at 516-361-4399, or email him at [email protected]