Tough summer gives Reds character
It's easy to look at the Lansing Reds' 7-25 season and say their summer baseball season was: A.) a failure because they lost so many games; or, B.) a success because they advanced to the American Legion Class A State Tournament.
Either of those scopes would be too narrow, however, and neither would do justice to the amount of time and hard work the players put in.
The reality is that the value of the Reds' summer season has nothing to do with wins, losses or tournament victories. The true value of their summer efforts won't be realized until next spring. That's when most the Reds likely will make up the varsity baseball roster at Lansing High.
Reds coach Troy Andrews - who also is the head coach at LHS - took the 16-and-under Reds and designed a daunting summer schedule for that very reason. He knew the Reds would win some games. He knew they'd lose quite a few. He also knew the summer needed to be this way to make sure the high school program would be able to grow in the next two years.
There was no other choice, Andrews said, if the LHS program wanted to continue to prosper after this year's Class 5A State Tournament appearance. After all, the Lions lost a talented and experienced senior class that included college baseball signees Chris Wagner, Cody Mohan, Jeff Terrill and Mike Amaral, as well as outfielder Mike Bayless who chose to play soccer in college instead of baseball.
A handful of players returns from the state squad, but the Lions will have very few seasoned veterans when the spring rolls around. With that in mind, Andrews knew he had to do something to give those returning players a stable supporting cast.
With an eye on the program's future, he tossed the youngsters into the fire and let them burn a bit. Eventually they grew together, rallied and showed some solid growth and maturity.
"With the schedule that we had and by playing the quality kids and teams that we played, they learned a lot," Andrews said. "There were things like our base-running mistakes, and you learn that you have to take advantage of those things. You learn the little things that you need to do, and I think they're starting to see those things a little bit better and understand wat they have to do. They have to step up."
Andrews said by the end of the summer players routinely were stepping up. Sure, there still were mistakes, but that's part of what summer baseball is about. It's about making the mistakes now, learning from them, and then eliminating them during the high school season.
As much as the Reds improved fundamentally this summer, potentially the greatest outcome of their season could be the level of character each of the players developed.
In general, there's nothing easy about losing. When you lose 25 of 32 games, though, the strain of losing becomes greater to shake. Players oftentimes quit when faced with such adversity, or they'll finish the season but succumb to the idea that they're going to get beat every time out.
That wasn't the case for Chase Horseman, Elias Moya, Kyle Hutchison, Dylan Delich, Kris Hernandez, Cameron Trowbridge, Mike McSweeney, Taylor Majure, Paul Sargent, Peter Gibson, Hawkins Hall, John Sebes and Shea Goodnature. Instead of giving up on their season, they showed character, grew together, kept the faith and finished the season strong with a Zone Tournament title.
As for their 0-2 showing at the state tournament, there may even be a silver lining with that. The Reds earned a taste of success, but the end-of-season losses are a reminder that there still is room to grow. Baseball players should be weight-room regulars during the fall and winter. The batting cages should be full in February as players take extra cuts. The commitment doesn't stop now.
The summer was a struggle for the Reds, but they are better for it. Next spring, the Lansing High baseball team also will be better for it.