The Bismarck Larks hit the practice field as a team this week for the first, and only, time before opening day on Monday.
“Kind of like Christmas morning now,” catcher Brody Tanksley said. “We’re back out on the field hitting, throwing. It’s awesome.”
While the feeling of cleats in the dirt might not be the same as a white Christmas, the thought of only one week of practice is a tough, but welcoming thought.
“We’re all itchy,” outfielder Wyatt Ulrich said. “We want to play baseball and we’re not going to say no to any time we have.”
Players would typically be coming off a 50 plus game season before summer ball. Instead, most of them played about five games before their season was canceled.
“You’ve got to get the rust off,” Ulrich said. “You’re used to having those 50-40 games of spring ball and going into the summer a little tired. Now it’s the opposite. You’re a little more loose and fresh.”
Fresh players are a refreshing thought for coaches, but they say taking care of athletes’ bodies is the first priority.
“If I see something I’m asking you, ‘Hey, are you alright?” Head coach Will Flynt said. “It could be a guy threw a ball just screwing around or something, but I’m going to ask, ‘Are you alright?’ We just all care about it.”
Players and coaches are using pitch counts, and limits on workouts, among other things to keep players healthy during the compacted season.
“If I was going to feel any pain in my arm you kind of have to know, ‘Hey shut it down,” Tanksley said. “It’s the week before the season, it’s not the season yet. You have to know your limits. If your body is talking to you, you listen to it.”
During a season where health and safety is a priority, these players are just glad to be back out in front of a home crowd.
The Larks take the field Monday night against the Mandan Flickertails.