Although the high school baseball season technically began with the start of practices on March 18, anyone who has played the game can tell you that the season really starts the first time you're able to get outside and play a game. For most teams in Minnesota, that means they are still waiting to start the season, as weekly snowstorms in April have forced teams indoors to field grounders off the gym floor.
Included in the conglomeration of ballclubs still hitting in the cage are the Marshall Tigers, under first-year head coach Chace Pollock. After previous head coach Steve Fleck announced his resignation on July 8, 2012, Pollock was tabbed as his successor on August 22. Like his players who are waiting to get their season underway, Pollock too has been waiting a long time to make his head coaching debut for the Tigers.
"That's something that I wanted from the moment I was back in town, from the moment that I took the teaching job it was one of my goals to coach the team," said Pollock, who returned to Marshall after graduating from St. John's University in 2008. "I was ready for that opportunity, but I was happy with where I was at the same time. This just opened up and I was prepared for it."
Photo by Travis Andries
Marshall head baseball coach Chace Pollock keeps an eye on his players in the batting cages on Wednesday at Marshall High School. Pollock was named the Tigers’ bench boss on August 22, but weather and field conditions have prevented the Tigers from making their 2013 debut.
Even though he had four years to wait before being named the head coach, Pollock used his time well, learning from some of the brightest baseball minds in the area and coaching at all levels of baseball.
The variance in his coaching responsibilities, from the youngest levels in the Marshall Area Youth Baseball Association to the head coach of the Marshall Legion team, have allowed Pollock to keep the continual indoor practices interesting for his players.
"We're going on our sixth week of practice. At this point in time, you've done everything that you can possibly do in the gym to prepare you for the season," Pollock said. "Usually the spring season is about two or three weeks inside then you work outside, but we're not doing anything crazy yet. We're just trying to keep things short and simple. To be honest with you, with the weather we've had a couple days off of school, so there have been breaks for the kids, and the weekends are breaks."
Pollock has also turned to his assistant coaches, some with extensive experience in baseball, to keep a competitive edge in practices.
"They're looking for anything, we're looking for anything. Whether it is competition amongst the kids during drills or conditioning things to change it up," Pollock said. "Blaine Schnaible, my assistant, he's doing a great a job with the outfielders and keeping it competitive and keeping them somewhat tuned in during indoor practices. The other coaches we have helping out, (Mitch) Maxwell with B-Squad, (Michael) Weiss with ninth grade, and we have a couple other coaches volunteering, who are awesome to have around. They're doing a great job.
"Sometimes it's just another set of eyes to see things, sometimes it's ideas that we bounce around one another," Pollock said of the influence of his assistants. "All of those things have helped us get to where we're at right now. It's been a long trek, I think practice No. 21, so it's been awhile."
The Tigers were supposed to make their 2013 debut on April 9 with a road game against New Ulm. That same morning, as the first flakes of a foot's worth of snow began to fall, Pollock's wife, Emily, gave birth to the couple's first child.
"I get a lot less sleep, I'll tell you that much," Pollock said of how having a newborn has changed his daily schedule. "At certain points in the night I'll have to wake up and check on Decker, who was born two weeks ago on April 9.
"But you know, that's what it's all about," he added. "I couldn't be happier to be a father and to start a family. It definitely puts a little more on your plate, but it was something that we were prepared for and ready to do. It's been a bright spot in our lives and luckily he was born through all this chaos in spring. You'd hate to have a full schedule and be on the road when Emily went into labor. So yes, we're very blessed."
Decker could have been the perfect gift to cap off an incredible year for Pollock. Instead, he stole home, so to speak, to provide his dad with an extra distraction on days when the weather simply will not allow baseball.
"I've been spoiled with him at home," Pollock said. "It's not great to miss practice, but it's great to be home with him."
The past year has provided Pollock with a number of personal and professional changes. With so much excitement it would be understandable if Pollock were a little impatient when yet another snowstorm delays practices and games for another week. But despite getting married, landing a dream job and becoming a father, Pollock has remained remarkably calm through each postponed game and every delay to the start of the next chapter in his life.
"The nerves, I'm not too worried about," Pollock said. "I've coached the Legion team in the summer and I've coached a lot of these seniors throughout the whole summer. The coaching part isn't the nerves about it. I'm just more excited about the kids to get out there and play.
"They're chomping at the bit, and it's been a long wait," he added. "It'll be fun when it gets here. We were hoping that this week would be our first game, but things happen. We were prepared for it, it's not as if we're the only team in the state who are going through it."
Marshall was supposed to play a doubleheader in Windom today against the Eagles, but will instead start the season against their Southwest Conference rivals in Windom on Friday. The Tigers will also play their entire 18-game regular season schedule over the next three weeks.
"Bruce Remme, our athletic director, has done a great job of finding dates that work," Pollock said. "It's going to be a crazy schedule come May, it'll be a whirlwind. But it will be good to keep a lot of those games that were supposed to happen this week and last week on the schedule. That'll be important for the kids to not miss out on too many games, especially the seniors."