By Will McClure
More activity has been seen at Wendeborn Field recently after the end of basketball season as the Stamford Bulldogs have transitioned to a smaller ball to officially kick off their 2016 baseball program. The Bulldogs are once again coached by Jeremy West, who is into his ninth year at Stamford and second year as head baseball coach. Although not having a lot of time to prepare from the end of the basketball season to the first baseball game of the season, Coach West, along with Assistant Coach Shawn Speck, have worked with the Bulldogs to be prepared for another tough season ahead of them. West was able to take some time to talk about the Bulldog Baseball program and how they are preparing for the season.
At the time of the interview, Coach West mentioned that the team had only had two practices and four games, thus necessitating the need to get in the rhythm quickly. West did mention that the team was already off to a good start with the upperclassmen already knowing procedurally what they need to do while the younger players were still a little behind and struggling. However, even though they have had more games than practices, the games themselves have served the Bulldogs well, allowing them to get in quality playing time with innings on the mound and several at-bats to help get the team in sync before almost immediately beginning district play. West noted that it is always a challenge when transitioning sports from basketball to baseball, but did say that skill-wise a team cannot learn how to hit a ball in a week, but being able to transition well and retain the skills that they know have helped the Bulldogs at the plate. West went on to say that as a result, they are able to focus on other areas such as base running and bunt coverage; however, while needing to focus on these areas, West said that would not have time to cover those on two days’ practice before participating in the first tournament games.
“Like I said, most of those varsity guys already know and it is the same way we have been doing it,” West said. “So, we can talk about it, coach on the run and that’s pretty much what we do with all of our guys. We don’t have time to. We have kids that are playing three different sports as well as Ag and One Act so we’re going to go out and coach them on the run and try to get it all figured out by the time we get to district.”
When discussing changes over the years, West said that he has had the luxury of being in Stamford for eight years to see how the program has continued to evolve as assistant coach under former head coach Lannie Templeton up until and through his first year as head coach the previous season. West said that not much had changed in the way they played the game from when Coach Templeton coached the team. West noted that he has been trying to get the Bulldogs to see some good teams early in the season to help them be better prepared for district play. West did say that coaching styles between him and Coach Templeton are a little different, but the program itself has not changed in the last eight years. West did talk about when he first arrived in Stamford to work with Coach Templeton and how the program continued to grow in recent years.
“That was one thing about [Coach] Temp that was so great was from the time I came here he was very open about anything that I suggested. We at least attempted it and if it stuck, it stuck and if it didn’t, it didn’t. He was very receptive and open to letting me try whatever I wanted to. So, consequently, we didn’t have a lot to change because we tried different things…I think all good coaches are willing to listen and willing to change and that was a credit to him,” West said.
Looking at the season ahead of them, Coach West said that the Bulldogs have a veteran team heading onto the field. He said that they are experienced and are a year older and a year better than last season and are excited to see how far they can go. West also noted that the boys always respect the game and hold their composure win or lose. He noted that the Bulldogs win and lose as a team and when things are not going the right way, they do not begin turning on each other but instead help each other out and respect their opponents. With over 30 players in the program at the Varsity and JV levels, there is a bright future ahead for Bulldog Baseball in the years to come, with West noting that the JV team has a full schedule to allow them some quality playing time. West said that they are looking forward to the season ahead, with particular interest in district rivals such as reigning district champions Hawley. However, no matter what the next game and result may be, it is sure to be a fun season for the Stamford Bulldogs.