Jan. 27, 2015
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – University of Notre Dame baseball player Kyle Fiala and the rest of his Irish teammates didn’t mind putting on Under Armour Cold Gear underneath their practice jerseys last Friday and Saturday before heading out to Frank Eck Stadium.
Normally bound for the Loftus Sports Center’s indoor practice field upon exiting the Irish locker room during the winter months, the team instead ventured out to Jake Kline Field on consecutive days to open preseason preparations thanks in large part to the facility’s brand new FieldTurf artificial surface that was installed last year.
While the installation caused Notre Dame to play home games all around the region in 2014, the surface is already paying dividends for the program in 2015.
“With a natural surface, the possibility doesn’t even enter your mind (to come outside) when you have some snow on your field and it’s a cold day,” said head coach Mik Aoki. “This is exactly why we put this artificial surface in because the playing surface is the same today when it’s 35 degrees than when it’s 70.
“The opportunity to come out here and scrimmage on the very first day of team practice is great for us. We might not have that same opportunity until we get outside in Oklahoma. These are the kind of days that we play on every now and then in South Bend.”
With the likelihood of several games being played in cold weather during the first few months of the season, Fiala sees getting outdoors early in the preseason as a major positive.
“We needed to get out here,” said the sophomore from Carmel, Indiana. “We play a lot of schools throughout the season that might not be used to this weather, so if we can get outside during the preseason we need to take advantage so when the weather is cold during the year we will be used to it and can maybe get that little advantage that we need to win a ballgame.”
Taking the field on an overcast day Friday, the Irish appeared full of energy, as they look to continue what everyone surrounding the program called an extremely successful fall.
“The energy has been good so far,” said Aoki, who is entering his fifth year with the Irish. “These guys have really embraced our program mentality of grinding and toughness ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ it’s a cold day and these guys aren’t out here complaining. They are into it.
“I’m pleased with where we are mentally. I’m pleased with where we are from a team perspective. Individually, we will need to clean it up, but that’s going to come with more repetitions. Overall, I’m pleased with where these guys are at right now.”
Just 17 days from opening the 2015 season against SIU-Edwardsville and Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, the Irish are using every practice to work on all the details that come with playing baseball.
“We are keying in on all the little things that we need to do to be successful,” said Fiala, who started 47 games for Notre Dame last year as a freshman. “Having good at-bats, pitching well, the bunt defenses, all the things you might not want to do but will come up in the season and come up quickly.
“It’s also about figuring out what all the guys on the team can do. It’s about having good at-bats, having good communication with teammates ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢’Â¬Â¦ all the little things that we need to do to win games.”
–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director