With a few Division II teams already playing games and most DI and DII schools opening the next couple of weekends, our thirst for baseball to this point has been moderately quenched with all the pre-season rankings, conference predictions and pre-season player recognitions. These things are exciting. They get people talking. They motivate both those teams at the top and those at the bottom. The early season predictions raise expectations for the players and almost always find themselves tweeted and re-tweeted, or in some cases, as motivational bulletin board material.
At the end of the day, it’s a bunch of peoples opinions. Some based on facts, some based on feelings, and some educational guesses. As we enter our 10th season of baseball at Seton Hill, we find ourselves in an unfamiliar position as staples in just about every pre-season Division II top-25 rankings that are out there… uncharted terrirtoy for us. Last year we garnered a few early season votes in just our fourth year as an NCAA-II member. That was satisfying to see. But this year, it’s at a new level, with one of our junior pitchers on the front page of Baseball America’s web site as the top small college draft prospect. We’ve been ranked anywhere from 27th in the country to 2nd in the country. I’d be lying if I said this doesn’t get us excited and raise the bar a little bit, but at the end of the day, we all know it has absolutely no bearing on anything that truly matters. Its HYPE.
As this new phenomenon for our small college baseball team creates a significant buzz among our university, team and our community, it also requires a delicate management. Our players have high expectations for our season and for themselves. But we continually remind them that they play for each other. Not for the pollsters, not for the recognition. “For the name on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back.” We enjoy the flattery but we don’t inhale it.
We had the fortunate experience of having our season ended in 2012 Regional by National Champion Westchester. Yes, FORTUNATE. If you are going to get knocked, it should be by the best. We saw first hand what it means to play your best baseball when it counts down the stretch. We saw what value the polls have as Westchester (.500 in 2011) received no love from anyone last pre-season. But when the chips were down, they rattled off 8 straight wins en route to the title in Cary. Goes to show you never know…
So I HOPE we don’t live by the HYPE. We want to stick to what’s important to us and our core values as a ball club. Those things will help us weather any storms we encounter on this journey and keep us always focused on the process of getting better every day, because the last poll is the only one that matters!
Seton Hill University Baseball