Waseca baseball coach Kelvin Nelson still finds it hard to believe.
It's been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the shores of the United States and, as a result, it's been nearly two years since many of his athletes have been able to play actual baseball.
"We were able to do a little bit last summer, practice-wise, but not a lot. Most of these guys haven't seen live pitching in two years. Which is crazy and it's sad, just sad for them that they've had to miss out on so much," Nelson said over the phone earlier this week. "But I've also noticed a lot of excitement compared to years passed...That's been really cool and fun to see."
Nelson is hopeful that this increased level of excitement will lead to good things for a Waseca Bluejays program that managed to accumulate only three win the last time they took the field. However, that team of two years ago is much different than the iteration that will be playing at Tink Larson Field this spring.
The roster of the 2019 Bluejays was chock-full of sophomores and other underclassman, many of whom were simply overwhelmed and not quite ready for the shine of the varsity lights. Those sophomores are now seniors, however, and have experienced quite a bit of success in the other sports they have participated in.
Nelson will turn to the likes of Zach Hoehn and Tyler Klinger to provide solid innings on the mound, both of whom have seen their pitch velocity and control improve since their sophomore seasons. Zander Fitzsimmons and Carter McQuery will be key members of the Bluejays' infield and also provide past varsity experience.
Nelson has yet to develop season goals for both the team and his individual athletes, believing that right now the Bluejays' focus is best placed on taking it one day at a time.
"I'm more of a game-by-game [approach kind of guy]. I told these guys that we need to focus on our defense and that if we play defense and we pitch like I know they're capable of, we'll be in every game. We'll be able to compete with anyone. That's kind of my main goal for these guys, to just focus game-by-game."
Waseca opens their season Thursday night in a game against Lake Crystal-WM.
Thursday, April 8 — at Lake Crystal-WM, 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 13 — at Maple River, 5 p.m.
Thursday, April 15 — at St. Peter, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 17 — Marshall, 11 a.m., Double Header
Tuesday, April 20 — New Ulm, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 22 — Fairmont, 5:30 p.m.
Friday, April 23 — NRHEG, 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday, April 27 — Sibley East, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, April 29 — St. Peter, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 6 — at New Ulm, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 8 — at Worthington, 1 p.m., Double Header
Tuesday, May 11 — at Fairmont, 5:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 15 — Le Sueur-Henderson, 1 p.m.
Tuesday, May 18 — Medford, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 20 — Tri-City United, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 27 — JWP, 6 p.m.