BANGOR — Sun-filled days like Wednesday and Thursday leave virtually all baseball players in snow-battered Maine yearning to get outside.
But expectations for 8 to 12 inches of snow on the first day of April are why many head coaches, including Bangor High School’s Jeff Fahey, are just as eager not to rush spring as they prepare their teams for the upcoming season.
“What we’ve found in the past is that we would practice inside for a few days and then it would be nice, so we’d go out and might get one day outside and then be right back inside,” said Fahey, who has compiled a 149-34 record in his first 10 years as the Rams’ head coach, including 17-1 last spring.
“It’s just such a risky time of year for that, plus we have so much teaching to do in the first seven practices or so and it’s easier to teach in the gym than it is outside.”
Fahey and the Bangor program benefit from the size of its Red Barry Gymnasium, large enough to contain three full-sized basketball courts.
“I think the confines help out,” he said. “It’s not cold inside and you’re not fighting the wind trying to yell instructions. We have the luxury of three gyms so we can almost have a full infield, we have about 80-foot baselines instead of 90. We can do a lot in here so it makes sense for us.”
Bangor also needs the space to provide for a large number of players who typically try out for the program’s varsity and junior varsity squads, with those tryouts both a competition for roster spots and a refresher course in baseball fundamentals.
“We usually start with about 60 kids trying out, and we really start from the basics,” said Fahey. “But what’s good is that the older kids mentor the kids who are new, and they also can use a review themselves so it helps everybody.
“We talk about the fundamentals not only of fielding but hitting, too, and the pitchers and catchers start right from scratch. We take advantage of the seven to 10 days when we’re going to be inside most years, and I think we’ve done it long enough so we know you can count on having five or six days inside no matter what, even on a good year.”
A typical Bangor practice during the first week of full-team workouts devotes one-third of the gymnasium space to pitching, while another area is home to a batting cage and the rest is used for infield and outfield drills.
“We can set up four pitching mounds so we can run a lot of pitchers through,” said Fahey. “We’re going to hit half-cage tonight which is something new for us at this point of the season, but we think we can get all 60 kids through in about an hour and have them all get a decent amount of swings.”
Fahey and his staff were scheduled to make their final player cuts after Thursday’s practices, with between 36 and 42 players earning berths on Bangor’s varsity and JV teams.
“We’ve gone now to picking the team Thursday night and posting it Friday, so all the kids get at least four days to try out,” Fahey said.
Bangor is scheduled to play its first preseason games on Saturday, April 9, at Mansfield Stadium against Cheverus of Portland and Cony of Augusta — a first outside test of the success of the Rams’ indoor workouts.
“We try to be more prepared than anyone else on Day 1, realizing that once everybody gets outside things will start to even up a bit,” said Fahey. “But because of our facility, it’s certainly an advantage for us before we get outside.
“We try to take advantage of that by being better prepared than everyone else when the season starts, and then we try to improve on something every game.”