Time Out: July 23, 2014
“They were just regular guys. The nice thing was that they were as interested in us as we were interested in them.” That was Cooper Reither’s assessment after meeting two Binghamton Met baseball players at a post-game picnic Sunday afternoon at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton.
Sometimes the best surprises are unplanned. Cooper and I left from Margaretville for Binghamton simply expecting to watch the B-Mets take on the Trenton Thunder in an afternoon game. But, arriving at the NYSEG Stadium, I learned about a post-game picnic for season ticket holders in the pavilion deep down the left field sideline. As a season ticket holder I was eligible to attend the picnic and discovered there was no problem in Cooper tagging along.
After grabbing some eats and finding an empty table, it wasn’t long before two of the B-Met players, Kyle Johnson, an all-star outfielder, and Jayce Boyd, the B-Met first baseman, asked if they could join us.
The B-Met players peppered questions at Cooper, first wanting to know what his interests were, then, after learning Cooper played baseball and was soon to be a senior in school, asking if he planned on attending college after high school.
Discovering college was part of Cooper’s plans, Johnson and Boyd strongly encouraged the Margaretville senior to give playing a college sport a try. Both B-Met players emphasized their strong belief that Cooper should play a sport in college, claiming athletics can become the roots that help anchor your start in a new environment, helping create a social network smoothing the transition from high school to college.
The B-Met counsel was advice I’ve shared many times in the past. Generally, I expand the concept to include any of the many clubs, groups or affiliations found on most college campuses. When Cooper indicated that several of the schools he was considering were bigger institutions with large athletic programs, the B-Met players were undeterred. “If you’re not recruited, most schools try out walk-ons,” Johnson noted. “You never know unless you give it a try,” added Boyd.
Learning Cooper’s interests in sports management, Johnson urged Reither to check in with the athletic department at whatever school he finally decides to attend and chat with folks about his future plans. He went on to say that many times individual sport’s programs in a college athletic program are eager to find students willing to cut their teeth assisting one of the many facets involved in operating a college sports program.
It was great to listen to these B-Met players interact with Cooper. They showed genuine interest in chatting with him about his interests and future plans.
For my part, I was curious to learn about what the minor league baseball prospects did during their off-season. The number one off-season priority of both B-Met players was a little surprising - to gain weight. As Johnson explained, the baseball season is a grind for every professional baseball player. Almost to a man, baseball players end the season dropping pounds from the weight totals they brought to spring training, pounds that need to be recovered between seasons.
Johnson, who grew up in Idaho and returns there each off-season, needs a full month of doing nothing to allow his body to recover from the baseball grind before hitting the weight room and beginning his training regimen to prepare for another season. Boyd said the off-season program a player chooses can look very different based on where each player resides. A cold-weather training plan might not resemble an off-season program designed for a warm weather setting. For that reason many of the players relocate to Florida, Arizona, or California during the winter month.
Johnson and Boyd both believe there are many advantages for young athletes who play multiple sports during the developing years. Like me, Johnson is concerned with year round youth participation in a singular sport. “In high school, I really only thought about baseball during the spring and summer,” Johnson explained. “I played high school baseball in the spring and American Legion baseball in the summer. But, in the fall it was all about football and in the winter my thoughts were focused on basketball.” Johnson went on to explain the assets he acquired when playing football and basketball that have added value to his professional baseball career.
For me, there’s little I’d rather do than enjoy a well-played baseball game on an incredible sunny summer afternoon. We saw a little of everything Sunday; three B-Met home runs, including back-to-back shots in the first inning, some brilliant starting pitching from B-Met Greg Peavey, and some well executed defensive plays.
Cooper, an observant young athlete, brought home some valuable lessons from watching the game. Things like the important role of a change-up in a pitcher’s repertoire or the way professional hitters cock their wrists and start them backwards before they explode forward attacking the ball.
But, the real magic of the afternoon was unexpected, two professional baseball players shooting the breeze with two baseball enthusiasts like guys chatting over coffee at Hess or catching a lunch at the Crazy River Cafe in Margaretville.