Baseball may be known as a traditional sport, but the methods employed by the No. 24 Michigan baseball team are far from conventional.
Yoga, meditation and mental exercises. You should buy a lottery ticket if you guessed that.
The unique methods used by the Wolverines are an effort to stave off any injuries, mental fatigue and frustration that the season may bring.
“We’re interested in anything that makes us better and makes us mentally stronger,” said Michigan coach Erik Bakich. “So meditation or yoga or just taking mental reps, whatever it may be, those are all things that there’s a lot of value in.”
A more familiar method of dealing with the grind of a season comes in the form of leadership. Michigan has three captains this season: redshirt junior left-hander Ben Keizer, senior infielder Jimmy Kerr and junior left-hander Tommy Henry.
“I could talk about Ben Keizer and Jimmy Kerr and Tommy Henry all day,” Bakich said. “Those guys have really set the tone from day one back in August at our first team meeting. And have been as consistent as you could ask for, to the point where as coaches they make our jobs easier because we know we lean on them a lot and have a lot of dialogue with those guys.”
Keizer has appeared in seven games this season, winning the only game he was eligible to qualify for a result in. It’s clear that Keizer’s experience is a major factor in why his teammates chose him as their leader.
His four years of learning and patience under Bakich have paid off as Keizer for the first time is seeing serious action for the Wolverines. Keizer has proved to be more than an off-the-field leader as his 0.93 earned runs average ranks second on the team.
Henry has been the breakout performer this year, but, a starting college pitcher only sees game action a couple times a week. There’s only so much that can be done on the field to influence a team, and Henry has made sure to be a force in the locker room as well.
Last, but certainly not least is Kerr. His presence in the locker is hard to overstate. As the third player in his family to play for Michigan along with his four years of experience in college baseball make Kerr an invaluable asset.
“(The captains) are great extensions of the coaching staff,” Bakich said. “They’ve totally taken control of the team and they’re great leaders. (They are) great Michigan men really, really happy that they’re our captains.”
The team environment for the Wolverines has been consistently praised by Bakich as something different than in years past. Michigan is ramping up for the Big Ten season and hopes to keep the strong leadership going.
“Just really proud of those guys and how they’ve developed and how much they’ve worked,” Bakich said. “You know, it’s good to see hard work paying off. A lot of how they’ve trained and how they’ve prepared how it’s coming to fruition so they’ll keep the pedal down, and they’ll keep working extremely hard.”