Over the past two years the JV baseball team has shifted from a team fully comprised of Grade 8 players, to one carrying a much larger High School presence, with seven freshmen, two juniors and four Grade 8 athletes.
Tom Linkas (’18), who has played on the team for two consecutive years, believes the team’s main focus has altered from enjoying the sport to competitive success.
Similar to baseball, the JV softball team is currently comprised of ten high schoolers, contrary to last year, when the team consisted of Middle School students exclusively. The JV baseball and softball teams face comparable experiences as both have transitioned into teams dominated by High School students “We have more of a responsibility than we did being a Middle School team,” Ava Rose (’18) said.
Assistant JV Softball Coach Lisi Arrarte joined the coaching staff this year and believes that having a team made up of a majority of high school students adds renewed expectations to the season. “To have a mainly High School JV [softball] team is a new departure from last year and so I think there’s that desire to really prove themselves and have a good season,” Arrarte said.
The additional experience and skill gained from last year will bode well when playing teams of similar skill again. “We’d be more prepared to play other advanced teams this year just because we are older and I guess that extra year of experience did help most of us as players,” Rose said.
For Linkas, the transition to a High School team is most evident with the dimensions of the infield and batting against quicker pitches. Being able to hit fast pitching was at first a struggle, but improved gradually. “As the season progressed we became accustomed to that type of pitching and that type of playing and towards the end we were consistently able to hit off that type of pitching,” Linkas said.
Director of Athletics John Farmer attributes the increase of athletes as a whole to a “very athletic” freshman. Additionally, the few open spots granted by seniors on last year’s varsity baseball and softball teams and open spots accompanying them led to larger JV teams.
With the Grade 8 students completing both JV rosters, full Middle School teams and the current freshmen, Farmer hopes that both JV teams will be completely comprised of High Schoolers in the near future. Despite the incoming additions, he doesn’t envision a JJV baseball team similar to those in basketball and soccer. “I’m not going to start worrying about getting a third baseball team when three years ago we only had nine varsity players in the High School and we had to bring eighth graders up to play varsity to go to ISSTs,” he said.
Alberto Orive (’16), a player on the JV baseball team and JJV basketball team, appreciates the experience both teams provided him. “[JJV basketball and JV baseball] was a medium, a resource to play these sports that I love,” he said.
The need for JJV teams will be evaluated on a “case-by-case” basis. JJV team’s – from the athletic department’s perspective – are intended to benefit students and provide greater opportunities for athletes. Space, interest, game competition and budget, specifically for coaches are the main aspects considered when forming an additional team. “If I anticipate a huge influx of people in a given sport and we can provide [a JJV team], I think we should,” Farmer said.
The philosophy behind reducing athlete cuts across all sport teams stemmed from a desire to benefit students in multiple ways. “Our goal isn’t and won’t be to win ISSTs as a program. Sure as an individual team if that’s what teams decide to be their goal, great, but we’re not trying to be just the ultra-competitive sports academy,” Farmer said. “I think that sometimes people lose sight of what athletics is supposed to be, I mean at the end of the day the most important thing is fun and enjoyment.”
In certain ways, having more teams and more players trying out benefits the varsity team. “I feel like if there’s more people [trying out] there’s more competition to make varsity… makes people want to be better, improve, reach their best potential,” Orive said.
Due to the competitive nature of athletic teams and the inherent need to make cuts, not all players can be guaranteed a place on a team. “If we have to make cuts, we have to make cuts…we’re not going to keep creating and creating teams if it’s not going to be beneficial to that group in the long run,” Farmer said.
While coaches are forced to cuts players in certain situations, Farmer wants as few as possible so students can be active and play sports.“I want people playing sports and I hope that that view that I have, that the rest of this department has, has sort of percolated into the minds of the High School student body,” he said.