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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball kicks off new era with first practice

Michelle+A.+Monroe+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat+%0A%0AUniversity+of+Arizona+Police+Department+officials+gave+awards+to+UA+employees+and+one+student+who+helped+them+solve+crimes+or+arrest+people.
Michelle A. Monroe
Michelle A. Monroe / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona Police Department officials gave awards to UA employees and one student who helped them solve crimes or arrest people.

As Opening Day 2012 inches closer and closer, it’s business time for head coach Andy Lopez and the Arizona baseball team. The first item on the agenda is official preseason practice, which starts this afternoon.

“We’ve been working in skill hours and they’ve been doing some things on their own,” Lopez said. “Today is just kind of that initial day when it’s time to get things going.”

Last Friday, the Wildcats were named the No. 20 team in the country by the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ poll and the country’s No. 5 team by Baseball America.

Regardless of the rankings, which Lopez has said he won’t bring up with his squad, the focus of official practice will be to get the team up to par for the regular season.

“(We’re focused on getting) them ready, and when I say that I’m not talking about the upperclassmen, but I’m talking about (some of the younger guys),” Lopez said. “Riley Moore, who will be catching for us, Matt Troupe and Lucas Long who could be pitching for us early in the season as freshmen. Really it’s the new guys, getting them ready for the speed of Division I baseball.”

Although getting new players up to speed sounds like a trivial thing, it’s the hardest part of the preseason for the coaching staff. Lopez said the only way for younger players to adjust is simply by playing in the regular season.

“They’re going to have to get their feet wet,” he said. “Then they’re going to have to submerge and figure out how to swim at this level.”

It’s not an easy transition, and Lopez has seen it every season since he started coaching 30 years ago.

“As much as you think, ‘Boy, that guy’s ready,’ the game shows up and they do things and you’re like, ‘That’s a freshman,’” Lopez said.

The freshman catcher, Moore, has been working hard to make sure that his transition to Pac-12 baseball is a smooth one, and said he sees the start of official practice as just another benchmark en route to the beginning of regular season play.

“Year round we’re just anticipating towards the season, it’s just another one of those building blocks,” Moore said. “You know fall was done then we were on our break, we came back and we were still working on it, and now it’s the first official day of practice and we’re just building up to February 17.”

Lopez said he knows his players have been charging hard all offseason, and he knows they will continue. But one of the only physical changes that could be seen as practice begins could be the coaching dress code.

“Well, honestly, it’ll be the change where you’ll see the coaching staff and myself without the shorts. I know, I kind of look like I’m on a Club Med vacation and all the players are in uniform,” Lopez joked. “(Today) we’ll be right there with them in uniform and we’ll go out and get it done.”

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