Even if the regular season ends in April, Penn baseball never stops.
That’s because after the school year ends, when most students are going to their internships or taking summer classes, the Quakers head off to play summer ball.
As the season’s end approaches, coach John Cole and his staff work to put each player into one of several summer leagues around the country so they can improve throughout the offseason.
“It’s very important. Baseball is a game you have to play,” Cole said. “We have an expectation here at Penn that we will help [players] find a summer league, and they will play all summer.”
In the past, summer ball has helped many of Penn’s players improve by leaps and bounds.
“Paul Cusick, two years ago, went from a guy who really couldn’t win a game to an Ivy League Pitcher of the Year because he had a very good summer and got his confidence,” Cole said.
“A lot of the guys will get their confidence in the summer and come back realizing they can play really well at this level.”
Summer leagues also give players the chance to work on their game through increased playing time or even a new role. For example, sophomore Ronnie Glenn, who has handled the closing duties this year for the Quakers, was a starting pitcher last summer.
Glenn started seven games for the Alexandria Aces of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League, going 3-1 with 33 strikeouts in 40 innings.
“I had a lot of playing time this summer,” he said. “Basically, being able to play [41 games] in a two-month span really helps you become a better baseball player.”
While the extra playing time can be helpful for players like Glenn, there is also the worry that more time on the field can lead to overuse, especially for pitchers and catchers.
“With the travel, hitting every day while pitching once a week, it does start to take a toll, especially in the heat of the summer,” Glenn said. “Some games I pitched were in 104- or 105-degree heat.”
In order to avoid the adverse effect of too many innings on a player, Penn’s coaching staff works with the summer league coaches to make sure the players are not overworked.
Cole gives guidelines to each starting pitcher’s summer league coach, specifying how often and for how many innings each player should throw. Additionally, summer league teams utilize multiple catchers in order to lighten each backstop’s load.
But the guidelines and contact from the coaches don’t seem particularly restricting for the players.
“For the most part, [Penn’s coaches] let us do our own thing,” sophomore catcher Austin Bossart said. “Last summer, they didn’t want me to play every day, but that was pretty much all they would control.”
Bossart went into last offseason looking to work on adding more power to his game and found success, hitting to the tune of a .532 slugging percentage for the Licking County Settlers in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
No matter the outcome of this season, Penn’s underclassmen will look to improve upon their season in different places this summer.
While Glenn will continue to play for the Alexandria Aces, Bossart is going to play in the Coastal Plain League for the Asheboro Copperheads.
“It will be a different experience, but I look forward to keep doing the same things: improving my hitting and defense.” Bossart said.
And while Glenn is returning to Alexandria, he isn’t sure what his role will be.
“My coach from last summer would like to have me as a starting pitcher and to come back as the designated hitter,” Glenn said. “I will have to talk with coach Cole to see what he wants me to do.”
So even as the sun starts to set on the Quakers’ season, a new beginning lies just beyond the horizon.
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