Warm temperatures greet the boys of summer|[01/08/07]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A balmy 75-degree day welcomed three local prep baseball teams on the opening day of practice Monday.

“This is unbelievable, especially as cold as it was last week,” Vicksburg High coach Jamie Creel said of the unseasonably warm early January weather.

“Good ole South Mississippi weather. Last week it was cold and a good time to be in deer stand. But this is great for baseball,” Warren Central coach Randy Broome said. “I’d love for it to stay like this but it won’t. I remember one spring break when I was at Meridian when it snowed during the tournament.”

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Porters Chapel Academy coach Randy Wright was also thrilled the weather allowed his team to get on the field.

“Just beautiful. We go from 18 degrees last week to 75 today. You gotta love it,” Wright said.

The only team not to hit the field Monday was St. Aloysius. Coach Clint Wilkerson planned to put his team through physical training today and hit the field on Wednesday.

While all three coaches were pleased with the weather, each has a different challenge when it comes to getting prepared for their respective 2008 seasons.

Wright’s Eagles face a major rebuilding job after a 32-6 campaign and a trip to the second round of the MPSA Academy AA playoffs. The Eagles are back to Academy A this season but will do so with only one returning starter.

“We lost eight starters with only Matt Cranfield back,” Wright said. “Everything else will be up for grabs.”

The top losses for PCA were two-time Vicksburg Post Player of the Year in pitcher/shortstop Michael Busby, who is now a freshman at Mississippi State, and Hinds C.C. signee Hayden Hales.

“What we’ll do this week is try to get our arms in shape and swing the bat some to get our eye on the ball,” Wright said.

That’s pretty much the same formula both Creel and Broome will follow.

“Get the arms in decent shape and try and develop a feel for the game again after a long layoff,” Creel said.

“Trying to get the rust off. But we’ll also do a lot of fundamentals and a lot of conditioning work,” added Broome.

The WC coach, however, did say he is changing a basic approach to workouts in the first month.

“When you try to start with defense and then go into hitting and offense, you could be looking at a four-hour practice and that’s not fun. Kids lose interest. What we’ll do this year is work two hours hard on defense and then come back with a two-hour practice on offense the next day,” Broome said.

WC also faces a rebuilding job after last year’s 6-22 stumble. Broome brought in former WC standout and current Florida Marlins pitcher Taylor Tankersley to talk to the team.

“Taylor mainly went over things like work ethic and having pride for the game. He also touched on the mechanics of pitching, even though what he does for the Marlins is a lot more to it and than what a high school pitcher does,” Broome said.

Creel, meanwhile, has an experienced team coming back from a 19-12 campaign which saw them challenge 31-win Tupelo in a tight three-game 5A playoff series.

“We’re returning an awful lot of experience and we have every inning of pitching on the mound back,” Creel said. “We still need to fill the catcher’s spot and one outfield spot.”

The only losses for the Gators were catcher/DH Tyler Wells and outfielder Vernon Wolfe, who are now at Hinds.