The Michigan baseball team held its last in-person activities of the year last Friday. Its next in-person meeting will take place on Jan. 19, the first day of winter semester classes.
In the intermittent two months, the Wolverines will follow customized training plans and participate in regular Zoom meetings to ensure individual and team progress.
The training plans follow the same general direction: A taper of baseball activities from now until Christmas to allow players to recover from a busy fall, and then an escalation in intensity, volume and duration of baseball activities between then and the return to campus. Strength and agility training will take place throughout. Plans vary by player position, by individual kinesis and by individual strengths and weaknesses, which have been evaluated throughout the fall by frequent testing.
“This is philosophical in our program: we want to try to personally train 35 guys within the framework of a team, even though we’re still doing team training,” Michigan coach Erik Bakich said. “We try to customize our training as much as we can so we’re not ever doing a cookie cutter type of approach. It’s just not conducive for maximum player development and team development.”
All players have told Bakich they will have access to training facilities, despite hailing from states with very different approaches to limiting the spread of COVID-19. With training instructions and places to carry them out both in place, players just need an incentive to get to work — and there’s plenty of that.
“No roles have been determined on Nov. 21,” Bakich said. “All of it is going to be predicated on the growth and development over the next couple of months and the preseason training prior to Opening Day.”
More than just starting jobs are at stake; players will be responsible for Michigan’s direction as it enters preseason workouts. Bakich expects that use of the training plans will allow the team to “hit the ground running” on Jan. 19.
Zoom meetings, set to take place once or twice a week, will allow for continued team-building despite the solo training. The meetings will mostly be a continuation of the leadership training done in the Branch Rickey classroom, along with some discussion of baseball theory and principles.
Bakich will also use the next two months to find a new pitching coach to replace Chris Fetter, who became the Detroit Tigers’ new pitching coach earlier this month after three seasons at Michigan. Bakich is creating a list of candidates now, and plans on conducting interviews in December so he can make a final decision in December or January. Before he decides, he’ll ask players to talk with candidates who made the short list. Players were not involved when Bakich hired Fetter at the end of the 2017 season, but given the proximity of this hire to the beginning of the 2021 campaign, Bakich thinks it’s important for players to meet their future pitching coach before his or her first day on the job.
“Not that they’re going to pick their pitching coach,” Bakich said. “But just so they can start to build a relationship, and if nothing else they expand their network of some very qualified people throughout the baseball industry.”
With proper use of the next few months, Michigan will enter preseason training with a new pitching coach and improved fitness and skill level — all steps towards putting a winning product on the field in 2021.
“I think we’ve got a good plan moving forward,” Bakich said. “Hopefully we don’t have any more curveballs. We’ve had enough for the 2020 calendar year.”