Anyone who passed by Veterans Field between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. today likely experienced some familiar sights and sounds characteristic of Chatham. Baseballs were flying onto Depot Road, bats were cracking, fastballs were popping into catchers mitts and blue hats with the trademark "A" filled the diamond.
With five days remaining before the start of the regular season, the Anglers have completed four days of official practice. These two-hour sessions have largely consisted of batting practice, bullpen sessions, infield drills and conditioning. These preseason workouts are of tremendous importance to the team considering that there are no official practices during the regular season.
"These guys have been playing long seasons with their college teams, so getting them ready so to speak is giving them a bunch of repetitions so their bodies are back in shape," said assistant coach Derek Sullivan, who is back in Chatham for his second season .
In addition to fitness, the coaching staff has made a particular point to develop familiarity with their players and keep them healthy.
"Everybody is just getting to know each other," said Sullivan. "We're being careful not to get these guys hurt. We just want them to get comfortable with a couple of easy practices and then we'll work everybody up to game speed."
So far in 2012, Chatham has had the advantage of having the majority of its players present. With the NCAA Tournament still continuing, the only member of this year's roster still playing for his college team is infielder Pat Valaika of UCLA. This level of early attendance presents an enticing opportunity for the team to develop some chemistry and a common goal for the start of the season. Yet, while the coaches have been hard at work helping the players get acclimated to Chatham and the team's style of play, there is a shared level of responsibility.
"Most of these guys know what kind of players they are and they know what they need to do to get game ready. We're just there to help out," said Sullivan.
So far, the results have been productive for Chatham. Players have been leaving practice together and a great deal of laughter can be heard from the coaches as they debrief the day's action and discuss their plans for the upcoming days. Tonight, players will attend a preseason party hosted by the Chatham Athletic Association at the town's creative arts center. Chatham's Founders Weekend will culminate on Monday night as the Anglers take on the U.S. Military All-Stars at 6 p.m. in the Founders Day Game. The town band will be playing in-between innings and there will be fireworks after the game followed by a cook-out at the Red Nun.