Bobcats open season looking for second straight league title
If you didn't know where you were, you might not think Basehor-Linwood High School coach Curtis Press was coaching high school baseball.
With each request or demand he gives, Press precedes the players' name with a formal title.
"Mr. McCoy, you're going to need to pitch tonight," Press told junior third baseman Ross McCoy at a recent practice.
The Mr. part is standard practice with Press and it is part of a new attitude at BLHS.
"Hopefully we're starting a new era here, at least as far as baseball goes," Press said during a recent practice. "I've tried to instill a sense of discipline. Because if you have that then the pride and the desire will come with it."
So far, Press said his disciplinarian ways have been well received by his team. Almost to a man, the players said that Press' straight-forward attitude has inspired them to give more than 100 percent every day at practice.
According to Press, that's what it takes to win and he said he has taken notice of his players' dedication.
"They've done nothing but what we want every time out and they've been a lot of fun to work with," Press said of his players. "I've got enough ballplayers to make a run."
The bulk of those players are juniors and Press said the situation he has at BLHS is similar to what he saw at Bishop Ward when he was an assistant coach there in the late 1990s. Bishop Ward has traditionally been one of the strongest high school baseball programs in the state of Kansas and Press said BLHS has the making of a solid foundation.
"It's eerily similar to what I saw at Bishop Ward when I was with them," Press said. "They had a group of six juniors who won state two years in a row."
Press went on to say that the talent at BLHS is not as good as it was at Bishop Ward, but he admitted his evaluation was based on never seeing this year's group in a live game.
By the numbers, the comparison to Bishop Ward is scary. BLHS has a group of seven juniors that have played baseball together for several years. Most of those players were heavy contributors on last year's Kaw Valley League title team, and they figure to be the group that contributes the most this year as well.
The junior class brings with it the top two strengths of this season's team pitching and hitting. Press said junior hurler Jeremy Sheehan has the tools to be a dominant pitcher and first baseman Chris Maleta returns as the team's clean-up hitter. Maleta is surrounded in the batting order by six other solid hitters, leading Press to determine the Bobcats will be all right at the plate.
"I'm itching to see what our sticks can do," Press said. "I see a whole lot of offense on this team."
With the offense and pitching taken care of, Press said most of the practices thus far have been dedicated to defense.
"We've been stressing defense a lot lately, because of the three main components of the game (hitting, pitching and defense), that's our weakest right now," Press said. "But at the same time ,we've stayed on top of the pitching because we have to. You can't take a day off if you want to be successful."
The Bobcats have bought into Press' all work and no play attitude and they are excited about getting the season started.
"Coach Press was exactly what this program needed," McCoy said. "He's been perfect for us and we can't wait to get started."
The Bobcats will open the season Thursday, March 28, against De Soto before traveling to Santa Fe Trail the following Thursday for a clash with last year's co-KVL champions.