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  • Matt Ondesko

The love of the game

by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor

Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union

If there is one thing to know about life, it’s that the thing you love the most can be taken away in matter of seconds. It’s a sobering feeling. One day you are doing something that you love, and the next you are trying to figure out what’s next.

That has happened a lot to student-athletes this spring. For seniors this was the last time they would step on the field, or the court, to celebrate their four years of hard work. For others, it was a lost opportunity.

Players not only lost a year of playing for their school, but they lost that time to develop their game. They lost a year of being looked at by colleges and universities as some of them try to play at the net level.

They lost being with their teammates and bonding during bus rides to away games, and celebrating wins at their favorite place to eat. Even without a spring season, players around Western New York are still getting at it. They are still putting in the work to try and get better.

For some, there is an outside chance that a summer season will be played. No one knows what that will look like, but there is still a chance. Still a chance to play the game they love. People always say you don’t miss it until it’s gone.

That definitely is the case.

“During this break of baseball I think staying in a routine and being prepared to hit the field and go everyday is important. For the physical side of things getting my pushups and sit-ups I’m at home along with anything else I can get creative with and do has been key. Offensively, I have a batting cage at home and have been able to utilize that everyday to keep everything consistent. Defensively, I’m doing everything I can,” stated St. Mary’s High School baseball player Trenton Rumley. “Whether it’s playing catch with dad or going to a local field to work on my footwork and hands as much as possible. I’ve also been watching as much baseball on YouTube and other online avenues just to keep learning the game. And with the purpose to develop my understanding and baseball IQ I’ve been watching shortstop specific plays. Things like double plays or just basic ground ball stuff. I like to pay attention to the littlest of details when watching these old or recent highlights of the best to do play the position.”

If you haven’t heard of Rumley then you haven’t been watching baseball in WNY. The junior is a slick fielding shortstop who can make all the plays, and has the potential to be make a splash at the college level.

Rumley plays one of the toughest positions on the field. While the shortstop is in the middle of every play, they are also the leader on the field. You don’t have to wear a “C” on the jersey to be a leader.

Rumley takes playing the position seriously.

Taking charge is a big part of the position. Knowing where every player on the field needs to be in any specific situation is a must,” stated Rumley. “More so now a days at the higher levels with all of the shifts and different defenses that happen throughout just one game or even just an inning. Every mental error falls on you as the captain of the field.”

That’s why Rumley makes sure she works hard at his craft everyday. He has the talent to go far in the game of baseball, but he knows he just can’t sit back and wait for it to happen. That’s why Rumley works on his footwork, and positing,

“Footwork at the shortstop position is a huge factor for how successful you will be. Ive always had really quick feet and in all, my lower half seems to flow well with what I’m doing at the shortstop position. I’ve been working on that part of my game at local fields by taking a ton of reps and understanding what I’m doing,” stated Rumley. “I feel as if I have a good understanding of how my body moves, or what I’m capable of and what my good and bad tendencies are by now. So for me at this point it’s staying consistent through repetition and tweaking the minor details that might need it. Attention to detail at this position can especially be pointed at the footwork aspect of it and that’s something I take pride on and hope to excel at, at any level.”

He also continues to work on the little things that can make a baseball player great. Athletic ability is important, but so is baseball IQ. Knowing where to be on the field even before the pitch is being thrown.

Confidence is another big factor when it comes to being a good baseball player. Rumley knows without confidence everything can go wrong. Baseball is a very humbling game. Even the base fail seven out of 10 times and still hit .300. The biggest thing for players like Rumley is not to lose the fact that things will go wrong on the field, or during at an at bat.

It’s just how will the player overcome the adversity that is thrown at him.

“In my opinion there are a few things that make a good shortstop. The three biggest things are athletic ability, confidence and baseball IQ. I have been able to work with a good group of coaches throughout my baseball career and have been able to develop in both. The confidence part is huge because as a shortstop you can be presented with a lot of difficult plays or situations throughout a baseball game and without confidence you 100 percent will not be able to take care of all of them,” stated Rumley. “Also, every good shortstop has good leadership skills. If you’re a shortstop, you’re a captain no matter what. Being able to provide teammates with a good example and sometimes vocal leadership is something that’s important at that position. You have a lot of responsibilities and if one person is out of position at any time it your fault. That’s just something as a shortstop that you need to understand, learn, and adapt too. This is something that a lot of the all time great shortstops pride themselves on the most and I think that leadership is something that plays into the overall success of any shortstop at any level.”

Helping him build his confidence along the way has been Western New York Prospects coach Jeff Helmbrecht. Helmbrecht is a very successful high school and travel baseball coach in the area, and helped numerous players reach their potential by getting to the next level.

Helmbrecht believes in teaching the fundamentals and helping each player reach their full potential on the field and in life. There is a reason why parents love him and kids want to play for him.

“ Playing baseball under Coach Jeff Helmbrecht has been super beneficial for me. Since the first day I’ve been with him he’s held me and my teammates accountable for a lot which is what kids should love about a coach,” stated Rumley. “It shows his care and passion for the game. As my coach he’s helped me understand the game a lot better. Two things he’s stresses a lot is having an approach and always having a quality at bat. And in my experience with him he’s taught how to take my mental aspect of the game to another level and how to keep the physical and skill part of baseball consistent through routine and preparation.”

Playing the Monsignor Martin is a daunting task. It is the only league in WNY that uses wood bats. No cheap here, if you get a hit you definitely earned it. It’s a league where the pitchers shine more than the hitters.

But, if a player like Rumley can do damage in an all-wood league then colleges will take notice. Colleges already have seen him play in tournaments during the summer with the Prospects. They also want to see ho she can handle highs school baseball in the cold WNY spring.

Coaches want to see how a player can handle adversity, and playing in a wood league definitely could be adversity.

“I do not feel like getting recruited while using a wood bat is a bad thing. Sure, you lose some of the cheap hits that you could get with a metal bat. In my opinion, if your good it will show with whatever bat you use. A lot of recruiters aren’t getting too excited about the bloop hits anyway. If a player can hit with a wood bat, they can hit with a metal bat. It’s something I think could possibly even benefit a kid trying to get recruited. Using a wood bat and showing a lot of upside with it can reflect your strength and skill,” stated Rumley.”If you’re hitting .400 with a wood bat with a lot of hard, loud contact it’s hard to think anything will change with a metal bat. I personally love using a wood bat in school ball and a lot of tournaments throughout the summer. I think it shows true talent in a kid that can possibly transfer that to the next level. It also adds uniqueness to the leagues and tournament that require them. The crack of a wood bat is a lot better than the ting of a metal bat and that’s something that adds to the excitement and love of the game.”


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