Young Team Approaches First Season with Optimism
By Grace Brown, Correspondent
For decades, the game of baseball has served as America’s pastime. Casual afternoons at the ballpark eating sunflower seeds while watching home runs and double plays evokes a feeling of nostalgia that is unmatched. Soon students at ERAU can experience that same feeling here on campus. The new baseball program is set to play the first baseball games ever at ERAU Prescott in the spring of 2021.
Head coach Geoffrey Fox comes to ERAU with nearly 15 years of experience coaching college baseball, including six years at Chapman University. In his time at Chapman, he helped the team win their program’s second National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division III National Championship and was eventually named the NCAA DIII Assistant Coach of the Year. Fox is joined by Randy Smith-Barber who serves as the pitching coach and brings almost 40 years of coaching experience. Lastly, Aaron Siple serves as an additional assistant coach and the Sports Information Director for the entire athletic department.
The team has 36 student-athletes, including 23 freshmen and just 3 three students who were attending ERAU when the baseball program was formed. The remaining 10 athletes are transfer athletes from other colleges or universities.
When recruiting athletes for the team, Fox made a point to focus on more than athletic ability and considered the character of the team he wanted to build. “We wanted the best player/person we could find. I think that’s one of the recruiting philosophies that I’ve had for 15 years. You don’t just recruit the player; you recruit the person. And I think that’s something that’s really important for us – especially as a brand new program,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated the operations of the team as they get to know each other and establish a team culture. Despite difficult restrictions, Fox is optimistic about the work the team has been able to put in regardless: “Our university did a phenomenal job of creating an athletic restart plan for not only our campus, but the Daytona campus as well. We just started implementing it from day one, making sure our guys were getting into their small groups and being able to utilize our time.”
The team had their first full practice on Monday, Oct. 12 and their energy was evident. Junior Taylor Mantick called the team atmosphere “constant energy – everyone shows up to work. Everyone wants to be here. It’s a really great environment; there’s a perfect balance between work and fun.” Now that they are all together, Fox stated, “Just being able to see these guys out here and seeing them practice and engage in that bonding – in that team component – is so special.”
As their inaugural season nears, the athletes continue to work towards the goals they have set for their future. In the months leading up to the program’s first pitch, freshman Luke Jepson
looks forward to “working as an entire organization to get those wins, and to really have fun and prove what we can do as a first year program and that we’re not just the newbies.” In addition to this, Mantick highlighted the team’s ultimate goal: “Raising that national title up.”
The attitude and maturity from the young team shows promise as they head into their college careers. They embrace the need to push each other to constantly improve and understand that “there’s always something on the line and people are always fighting for something. It’s a really cool thing to see and be a part of,” according to freshman player Kevin Fedoruk.
The team is expected to start their season in the spring of 2021 and will compete in the Cal-Pac Conference. Dates and times for games will be released when the season details are finalized. Go Eagles!