Hannah Saad | @hannah_saad21
Nearly two weeks ago familiar faces made their way back into Sewell-Thomas stadium for the first time since March 8 to begin fall practice.
The past six months spent off the field without the presence of the staff and team due to the pandemic has given men’s baseball coach Brad Bohannon a renewed appreciation for the game.
“Just being away from our team in the spring and summer, it just really reinforced how much I love what I do,” Bohannon said. “I just missed being in the dugout with our group every day.”
Despite the fall season being young and the limited time the team has spent together due to following social distancing guidelines, second-year freshman outfielder Owen Diodati believes the team has already developed a strong bond.
“I think our chemistry is really, really good and getting better every day, which is awesome and really positive,” Diodati said.
Bohannon said the returning players from last year have “little edge” since they did not have the opportunity to show conference opponents and the nation what he believed to be a talented and threatening team. However, Bohannon’s message to the team and staff heading into the fall is to not hang its head because last season did not play out, but to continue to work toward improving each and every day.
“Last year is over and done,” Bohannon said. “Now we’ve got to look forward. We don’t have any time to feel sorry for ourselves that we didn’t get a chance to play in a regional and maybe even win one.”
Every player headed into fall practice is coming off a different offseason agenda. Each player set up a Facetime call with strength and conditioning coach Brett Price to show what type of weights, space and equipment each of them had available. From there, Price would build a unique workout regimen for each individual player.
Players also had the option to compete in a summer league and Diodati and sophomore TJ Reeves are two of the Alabama players who took advantage of this opportunity. Both Reeves and Diodati competed in a summer league in Mississippi, which was composed of about 25 games.
Aside from playing in the summer league and completing the workout regime that was provided by Price, Reeves hired his own personal trainer to further develop his skill sets.
“I went and got a personal trainer to get my speed up a little bit, work on stealing bags and work on my feet work…to become more agile and controlled,” Reeves said.
Since the offseason was less structured compared to past years, Diodati believes that it allowed for the team’s true character to show: encouraging, self-driven and motivated.
“As a team, we really tried to encourage each other to do as much as we could in the time off,” Diodati said. “We were really good about getting better as baseball players. I think that’s going to pay dividends going into the fall and then obviously the season.”
The first couple weeks of fall practice were solely composed of getting players in good physical shape where they can perform at a high level. Once those two weeks passed, players then began to do fundamental drills in playing catch, swinging the bat and defensive footwork. Pitchers started throwing programs, which they will build over time.
By the end of fall practice Bohannon wants his team to continue to build its chemistry. Come late November, Bohannon and his staff expect to have a good idea of what the lineup will look like when the season begins in February.
“We [the coaching staff] got to get closer to getting guys in the right roles,” Bohannon said. “I would like to end the fall and have a better idea of where the pieces [the players] fit the best.”
Diodati stated that the team’s goal for the end of fall practice is to play the game “clean” and to feel as “prepared as possible” for the season.
The team will compete in several intrasquad scrimmages throughout the fall as Bohannon and staff see this as the best way to get the team better and to help piece together a lineup.
“Coach Bo always tells us the way to get better at baseball is actually playing the game,” Reeves said. “So we’re going to scrimmage a lot this fall, as much as we can.”