Typical Opening Road Trip Looms For Kyle Gray, Mountaineer Baseball Team
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s baseball team is used to epic opening road trips by now. Bowing to the inevitability of snow, ice, freezing rain and fog in February and March, the Mountaineers have made a habit of scheduling a large run of games away from home in the early part of the season. This year is no different, with 15 road or neutral site games set before they make their home debut on March 16.
Saying “the team” is used to it, though, might be a bit misleading. While veterans who have been around for two or three years know the drill, the newcomers to the squad haven’t been through it before. There’s a lot to get used to, and while those freshmen and first-times do that, they are also battling for notice and playing time as well as contending with the challenges of studying and even taking exams hundreds of miles from campus. Those realities haven’t hit for them yet, an veterans like infielder Kyle Gray know that they view those trips positively.
“They are pretty excited. People know the weather we are stuck in [here] in January, February and March, so people are excited to go,” Gray noted.
The true nature of the trips are something else. For a full month, it’s hit the road for a weekend series, typically departing on Thursday and coming back late on Sunday. That leaves three days to get classwork handed back in attend classes, recover and work out, before the process repeats itself. It’s a grind that can wear on even seasoned veterans.
“It’s not easy,” Gray confirmed. “[For classes], we have to get everything prepared before we go, and then figure out when we have practices and games on the road and fit in study hall times. Once you get that first year under your belt you can get used to it. We always have a designated study hall time and we know what we have to get done whether it’s a test or a paper, or whatever.”
The team also uses tech help in the form of iPads and laptops to keep up on classes and lecture notes that are missed, but it’s still not the same as being there in person. It requires a discipline that isn’t found on any other squad. Imagine, for example, if the football team had to play four consecutive road games, or the basketball or volleyball teams went a month between home games.
There’s also a less attractive early schedule this year. WVU will travel near Myrtle Beach, S.C., and to Jacksonville, Fla., but there are also weekend trips to Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky. There’s not a California swing as in years past, so the mental toughness will again be tested.
Still, there are benefits. Make it through that first 15 games, and some home rewards await. WVU will play its first two Big 12 series on the road, but then get for of its final six at home. Eighteen of its final 27 games will be at Mon County Ballpark, providing potential fuel for another postseason run.
“We finally got a taste of that so we have been double-timing getting ready for this year,” Gray said.