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Baseball concludes semester with the Omaha Challenge

Paul Sherman/Daily
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By Danny Vargovick, For the Daily
Published December 5, 2013

As the semester winds down, the Michigan baseball team’s preparation for the upcoming season is ramping up.

With the season two months away, the coaches are placing extra emphasis on individual fitness and player development.

“Right now, we’re in a period where our time is very precious and valuable,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “We don’t have much of it with the team, so we’re really focused on individual player development. We’re not doing as many team-specific drills. It’s more working with the players one-on-one and in small groups.”

The team ends the semester this week with the Omaha Challenge, its annual week of intense strength and conditioning, named after the site of the College World Series.

“This is a period of the year where there’s a huge commitment to strength and conditioning and getting the players’ bodies as strong and physical as possible,” Bakich said.

Players are pushed to their limit all week in events like the mile run or obstacle courses where they have to do things like push the John Deere Gator vehicle 50 yards and army crawl through ice water.

At the end of the week, players are not only physically stronger, but mentally, too. The whole team is split up into smaller teams that compete against one another throughout the week.

“This week, in particular, I feel is a great way to prepare for our upcoming season,” said fifth-year senior pitcher Ben Ballantine. “I think it’s symbolic in the sense that you’re never out of it. If your team has a bad day or even a bad event, there’s another day full of new challenges right around the corner.”

One of the goals of the week is to simulate the effects of a long baseball season. Even though the players are competing against each other, the idea is that they will become closer since they all went through a week that few other programs put their players through.

“Guys are going to struggle physically and mentally at some point in the week, just like they will during the course of a baseball season, and it’s imperative that as a unit we pick them up and keep pressing forward.”

The Omaha Challenge concludes Friday, and after that, players follow their own individual workout plans during final exams and winter break. Practice will start back up the third week in January when the team will have just a month before its season starts on Valentine’s Day in the Texas State Tournament.