After the baseball team’s 12-41 finish last season, coach Rob Valli sensed that there needed to be some changes.
By moving senior Dan Brady from third base to first, handing freshman Matt Heltz the job at second base, and naming junior transfers Ryan Weber and Mike Kelch the respective starters at shortstop and third base, Valli certainly gave his infield a brand new look.
Despite the inexperience and lack of game time necessary for each to get used to one other, the Owls’ infielders said they aren’t worried. In fact, they said they feel pretty confident about the group they have.
“I think we’re meshing real [well],” Weber said. “We got a lot of team chemistry, even though we’re all new. We’ve all jelled together, and I think we just benefit from each other.”
Heltz felt the same way.
“We came together pretty well, being a new group,” he said. “We bonded pretty well with each other. We work real well together.”
The veteran of the group, Brady has been playing his games here a lot longer than the other members of the infield. And with that, he’s a little more aware that chemistry amongst teammates doesn’t happen overnight.
“I think we’ve doing pretty well,” he said. “We’ve been working with each other for the last couple of months, but it takes some time.”
Part of that time could be spent getting used to an old position. When Brady came to Temple as a freshman, he played first base. But the last two seasons, he had played third base. Despite not playing the right side of the field for the last two seasons, Brady said he feels fine.
“The transition has been pretty good,” he said. “It was basically just remembering how to play. It’s a lot easier in practice than it is during games, but once you get out there in the games, it’s all reaction.”
Perhaps the position where reaction plays the biggest role is third base. For the newcomer Kelch, a shortstop by trade, getting used to the hot corner is something that only practice and preparation can perfect.
“For me, I played shortstop my whole life,” he said. “So moving to third, it’s just a different bat angle. It’s harder to read the ball off the bat.”
The transition for Heltz has also taken some time to get used to. Coming from high school, where he was a shortstop, Heltz now has to learn a new position that requires different timing, footwork, angles and responsibilities.
“I think I can handle [playing second base] pretty well,” Heltz said. “I’ve been doing [well] so far, so I don’t feel added pressure right now.” As the team looks to rebound from its sluggish start – a 1-5 record – improvements must be made. A transfer from Eastfield Community College in Texas, Weber understands what the infielders need to do as a group to get the job done.
“Every day, just being at practice, practice working together,” he said. “Just communicating. Talking it up in the infield. Every day we’re getting better and coming together as a team.”
But the overlying factor with this group is confidence. While meshing takes time, one thing that doesn’t is each player’s expectations.
“We’ve got three shortstops and a third basemen playing in the infield,” Kelch said.
“So all of us have confidence in each others’ gloves, and we’re going to have a real solid infield this year.”
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.