January 24, 2017
Excitement is buzzing around the athletic department as the UCCS mountain lion s prepare for their first baseball game in university history.
With a moderately snowy winter and no baseball field to call home, head men’s baseball coach Dave Hajek has found creative ways to instill fundamentals in his athletes and get ready for the oncoming season.
The first week of practice for the semester started Jan. 9 on the new soccer field, where the team had their first defense-focused practice since the snow melted.
The team will also be able to spend time on Wasson High School field, where they can practice both live and situational defense.
“The main challenge will be for the hitters, being able to get enough quality batting practice; that is one of the reasons we have situation games,” said Hajek. On Jan. 10, the team also practiced hitting in batting cages, playing long toss and working on defensive skills.
A lack of a baseball field, unpredictable weather and the newness of the season have created a need for team unity and an efficient work ethic, according to Hajek.
“I want to stay positive with these guys. I want to work hard, I want to work efficient and I want to work smart so that we are not grinding them into the ground as they are trying to be successful in the classroom,” said Hajek.
“I have encouraged them to look out for each other and help each other out in whatever way possible, and that message has been received very well.”
Continuing these practice methods at three separate locations is what will prepare the team for their pre-season games at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, Calif.; the same university Hajek started his playing career.
“I could not be more excited about starting my college coaching career right where my college playing career started,” said Hajek.
“My main goal is for these guys to get a very up close look at one of the top teams at the Division II level in the country. Cal Poly is ranked number six, they actually went to the DII World Series last year and finished third. So they had a tremendous year right after we got them on the schedule.”
The three-game series will be played on Feb. 2-3 in Pomona, Calif., followed by games in Fullerton, Calif., where they will play Hope International University on Feb. 4.
The coaching staff expects their games in California to prepare the team for their RMAC competition and games against Colorado Mesa. Right now Mesa is ranked ninth in the nation and is the league’s team to beat.
Hajek’s coaching philosophy has kept fundamentals at the forefront, and it shows through the team’s combined GPA of 3.2, according to Hajek.
Coming into this season Hajek said he wanted to find a group of guys that would play for something bigger than themselves and create a buzz around the new sport.
“The sense of pride that these young men have of being the initial players is very evident,” said Hajek.
“UCCS has a very exciting aura on campus. These guys are proud of it and happy to be a part of it.”