Baseball Lions preparing for new season
New Head Coach Jon Shockley leads SAGU
Chavez and Kolczak lead the Pride Nine
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- It’s that season in the Deep South that provokes jealousy from those up north still buried in the throes of winter. The crack of the bat. The smack of baseballs clapping against leather mitts.
The late Hall of Fame player, Rogers Hornsby once said; “People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”
For the Southwestern Assemblies of God University baseball team, who’ve recently begun practicing for the start of the season, it’s already spring.
And hope has sprung to life for new Head Coach Jonathan Shockley.
Formerly at Central Christian College in McPherson, Kansas, he took the reins of a Lions team that went 10-30 last season, 5-25 against teams in the Red River Athletic Conference.
During the fall they went through weeks of isolated drills, game situations and live hitting, and general fundamentals practices, finishing with a week-long series of intra-squad games called the World Series. The current roster has over 30 players with about half of them returning veterans.
The coach held a tryout in July with about twenty candidates involved. “Ten of those players are still with us,” he said before the holiday break. Eleven are freshmen and a few possible transfers may make the team this month.
Coach Shockley, in assessing the results, said he “...was very pleased with the team at the conclusion of fall camp. We started out rough but showed enough improvement that I am excited about the upcoming season.”
One of the areas he noted that showed the most development was team chemistry. “Without it,” he said, “will not play to our maximum abilities.”
“I’m very excited about our offense, defense and the amount of pitching we have this season,” Coach Shockley pointed out. “We are pretty well rounded at this point. I think our camaraderie is something that all coaches hope to achieve.”
As for the early line on team strengths, he was generous in his praise of the offense throughout the batting order and especially the rise in the pitching staff.
The RRAC is known for several perennial powers, so the goal of SAGU’s first-ever winning record will not come easy. Shockley says the Pride will have to produce with timely hitting and reduce mental errors.
“Simply put, we’re working at having better concentration during games,” he added.
Trying to guess at the starting nine or rotation after fall camp is like predicting the weather in this region in January and February.
It’s similar to Mark Twain’s famous line; ‘In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.”
A starting line-up, even a tentative one, has yet to be announced. Coach Shockley’s staff, which consists of assistants Rance Melton, Brady James and Tommy Benningfield, is expected to collaborate towards that decision.
Two players who will provide leadership and direction are a pair of seniors in Ben Chavez (Roswell, NM / NM Military Institute, Gateway Christian HS) and Tim Kolczak (San Antonio, Tx / Taft HS).
“Chavo,” a 5’10, 195-pounder, is an outfielder, though he also played throughout the infield in 2011. Kolczak is a veteran relief pitcher. In 2011 he served as SAGU’s designated closer. Both are righthanders.
Who to Watch For
As for players who could enjoy a breakthrough performance this season, watch for Dustin Jett, Brett Frost, Donovan Vess, Jacob Spivey and Chavez. They appear ready for the glare of the prime-time spotlight.
The appropriately named Jett (Patterson, La / Patterson HS) is no stranger to SAGU fans, as he has been the starting centerfielder since his freshman year. Frost (Euless, Tx / Central Christian College, L.D. Bell HS) is a sophomore pitcher and outfielder.
Vying for the job at second base is Vess (Ft. Worth, Tx / Eastfield College), who has freshman eligibility. Spivey (Georgetown, Tx / Harker Heights HS) is a range-rover at shortstop. He, too, is a freshman. Chavez, whose warrior eye-black personified his play on the hot corner last year, is back as Captain Versatility.
“I’m very pleased with the young men we have this season,” Coach Shockley summarized. “These men have a great desire to win. I believe they are the kind of young men who make this university proud. I look forward to seeing what these young men will accomplish.”
Season Debut, January 27-28
The Lions will open the 2012 season with a three-game homestand a week from Friday, when they host Hillsdale Baptist College on January 27. The first game is on Friday, Jan. 26, with the first pitch slated for 6:00pm. They are set for a twin-bill on Saturday, at noon.
Southwestern’s first nine games are all at home. They play at the Waxahachie Sports Complex, which is located near the Whataburger and Showbiz Theatre, north of Highway 287 on Broadhead Road.