SALEM — The sound a wood bat makes when it connects with a ball was abundant Saturday morning at the Canova Care Center.
Both were welcome sights and sounds for Jordan Genzlinger and the 13 other McCook players, who took batting practice in the cage, fielded ground balls in the gym and threw outside Saturday.
“I am pretty excited to be playing baseball,” Genzlinger said. “I love baseball and I have been playing for quite a few years.”
Genzlinger, who is from Canova and attends Howard High School, beamed with excitement as his first year of high school baseball kicks off.
Genzlinger, a sophomore, was eligible to play last year but wasn’t able to because McCook didn’t field a high school baseball team. A team wasn’t created because of numbers, according to McCook head baseball coach Randy Sabers.
“Of course, the juniors this year would have been sophomores last year, but a good chunk of our team would have been freshmen and eighth graders,” said Sabers, who has been at the helm of the baseball team since it started in 2003. “With the youngness, it just didn’t line up very well for us to be able to compete and maintain confidence for our team.”
There are no seniors on the McCook roster this year, but Sabers is excited about the talent that his squad has.
Juniors Tim Gassman, Isaac Anderson, Cole Cheeseman and Bryce Roth have had success on the baseball diamond before. The four players, along with Will Gottlob, who is sitting out after tearing his labrum during basketball season, helped the McCook/Miner 15-16 teener team to win a state title last summer.
Luke Loudenburg and Jesse Muth were also on the team that won the state title and are on McCook’s high school roster.Loudenburg, who was named the Daily Republic wrestler of the year last week after earning his third straight title, has not practiced with the team so far this season, but could be back with the team toward the the middle of the season.
“We have a young team, but a lot of our juniors are baseball savvy,” Sabers said. “I think our strength is going to be our juniors experiences in summer ball. Our weakness might be our age because we have no seniors, and a fair amount of sophomores. But they love the game of baseball and they want to play the game the right way. At this level, it is not all about winning. It is about playing the right way.”
The team features kids from four different high schools — McCook Central, Montrose, Canistota and Howard. The team primarily practices at the Salem baseball field, where its home games will be played. Some players must travel up to an hour to practice, yet it’s worth it for Howard’s Adonis Ruml.
“The drive doesn’t bother me. I play for the love of the game,” Ruml said. “I really love playing all year long, so I came to play over here and I love it because I am friends with most of the guys on the team.”
McCook opens its season against the Tea Titans at 5:30 p.m. today in Salem.