By Lisell Waterman/Contributing Writer
The baseball team’s fall season is underway and the Panthers are using this time to prepare for the upcoming year and also work on personal and team development.
After finishing last season with a 31-27 record, FIU is looking to take the next step forward to transcend the program to new heights.
Head coach Mervyl Melendez has big plans for the team this year and it all starts with preparation.
“It starts in the weight room and transitions to the play development,” said Melendez. They [the practices] are intensified at times then on top of that we scrimmage quite a bit to see their weaknesses and how they will react in games.”
Melendez also explained that outside of practice game development; the team has been working on chemistry and communication, which he believes is essential.
“Here it’s all about communication. What works for me and what works for you. After that it’s just working hard,” said Melendez.
Regarding the incoming freshman, Coach Melendez explained that it takes time for them to transition from high school to college.
“Different speed of the game. We are constantly on them, requiring them to do the little things. It’s not as easy, having the different pace and not working at their old pace. They have to work a little bit harder and stronger,” said Melendez on how freshman must work to succeed in college baseball.
Former Freshman All-American Nick MacDonald, now a sophomore, has a chance to guide the younger players throughout the team and help them with the transition from high school to college.
“I’m going to give them the best advice that I got last year from the older guys, so I’m going to pass it down to them,” said Macdonald We got a lot of good young talent this year that can really compete and play. Whatever I can bring to their game play that can help them out there on the field that can help us win, I’ll do.”
McDonald finished last season with a record of 7-2 and pitched a 3.84 ERA as a freshman. He has an opportunity to build upon this during the fall season.
“I’ll have to come back and show leadership. It’s a whole new squad this year. We have a different game plan and players; I need to bring what I brought last year and more. I have experience now. Keep the young guys on the same track as I did, to see the same outcome.”
MacDonald explained that earning the All-American award was an excellent stepping-stone, and hopes that another person on the team will earn the accolade.
“It was an honor. It was a good year for the team and me last year,” MacDonald said. “But I wouldn’t say I have high expectations. Just got to get out there and do my job; get everyone to do the same. Hopefully everyone can get to be Freshman All-American.”
“My biggest priority is to get bigger and stronger. I came in as a young skinny freshman, so making sure I eat and get healthy to get stronger is my goal.” McDonald spoke of his goals for this upcoming season to evolve his game.
This season, the team has also implemented a nutritional plan for the players to follow. Having a nutritional routine enables the athletes to have better health and also perform at a higher level.
Dax Norris pitching coach for the FIU Panthers’ baseball team says he recommends his athletes to do a dietary plan.
“Nutrition is very big for our guys,” said Norris. “We don’t carb-load because we don’t want to overload our players. We have our pre-game meals though.” Norris talks of how nutrition helps before a game.
Nick McDonald, recipient of the Freshman All-American award, has even been following a nutrition plan.
“We just started this year, right after practice we go upstairs and have a protein shake. Even at the weight room, they offer us fig bars, protein shakes, jerky,” said MacDonald. “I think it helps because taking care of your body is important, it’s a priority in baseball. After a long day making sure you recover and stay healthy is important. It’s guarantee helping me.”
Diet plans are made for the athlete to follow for their betterment; it affects their performances on and off the field. Head coach Mervyl Melendez had a good analogy regarding dietary plans.
“If you have a high-performance vehicle are you going to put cheap gas in it? No, you can’t,” said Melendez. “So, when you have a racecar you don’t put cheap gas and you maintain it a little bit different than a regular vehicle. It’s the same thing with athletes, I think athletes need to consume different type of meals to be able to function at a high level. If put garbage in, garbage will come out.”
Fall season is a good opportunity for the players and coaches to work together in real games situations and also helps the incoming players get accustomed to their new environment.