Taylor Russell, an outfielder at Northern Kentucky University, will be maintaining a blog throughout the summer. Russell will give fans an in-depth look at what it’s like to play collegiate summer baseball and for the Lexington Hustlers. Here is his first installment:
“Sunscreen, hot dogs, and warm weather”
It’s that time of year again as the Hustlers arrive back to the friendly confines of Lexington, Ky. I would like to first congratulate past Hustlers, Dave Middendorf (LHP Northern Kentucky), Gardner Adams (RHP Asbury College), and Casey Lucchese (College of Charleston) on their selections in this year’s Major League Baseball Draft. Middendorf was selected in the 22nd round by the Kansas City Royals, while Adams went in the 36th round to the Atlanta Braves, and Lucchese went in the 38th round to the Cubs.
There are plenty of new faces to the Hustlers in 2011 with only 9 returning players from last year’s team. The majority of the current Hustlers are not new to the area however, and grew up locally playing for different High Schools. I was eager to meet the team this year as we prepared for our two month long battle against some of the top collegiate competition in the country.
Summer baseball is very different from school baseball that’s played every March and April. For starters, the Hustlers will play every game this summer with wood bats as players hope to hone their skills at the plate. Second, is aside from those taking summer classes, players are free of school work to concentrate their efforts solely on baseball. There is less pressure on players, as summer coaches’ goals for the summer are not completely based on winning games but also highly focused on developing their players to go back more prepared to their schools.
We are fortunate to have a group of coaches who realize this and place an emphasis on getting us all better for our school season. For me personally, I really enjoy playing summer baseball for the obvious reasons, baseball isn’t really baseball to me till there’s sunscreen, hot dogs, and warm weather.
My first impressions of the team so far are positive; we are very talented and extremely athletic, we run well and have played great defense.
When swinging with wood bats, especially against top pitching prospects that we will face, stealing bases and getting into scoring position are huge advantages as they increase our chances of scoring and take pressure off the offense to get hits.
Any one of last year’s Hustlers would tell you, that we didn’t finish the way we would have liked to last year and that we have unfinished business with the rest of the league. Although this is mostly a new team I can tell we’re up for the challenge and this should prove to be an exciting summer.