Wichita State baseball players like everything about working with strength and conditioning coach Kerry Rosenboom. Everything except Rosenboom’s infamous abdominal sessions.
Generations of Shocker baseball players learned to fear those gut-busters. Now that Rosenboom is back on the baseball beat, a new bunch of Shockers are learning their bite when workouts don’t proceed the right way.
“They are not fun at all,” outfielder Garrett Bayliff said. “Thankfully, we haven’t gotten in too much trouble.”
Rosenboom worked with baseball from 1987 to 2007 and earned a national reputation for his strength programs and work with big-leaguers. After the 2007 season, the players, led by third baseman Conor Gillaspie, wanted a change and coach Gene Stephenson went along with them. Rosenboom, at that time without a full-time assistant, was ready for a break. After a conversation with Stephenson this summer, Rosenboom reorganized and took the men’s teams and assistant Adam Ringler works with the women’s teams.
“Just stepping away, it really, really got my energy going again,” Rosenboom said. “The timing was good, because it gave me a mental break.”
Break time is over.
The players say Rosenboom returned to their sport at full speed. Rosenboom prefers free weights and the Shockers are dedicated to benches, squats and drills that work hip rotation that simulate hitting and pitching motions. Flexibility is important, so stretching is emphasized. Workouts move briskly with no wasted time and no time for chatting. The Shockers will lift more during the season and on game days than in recent years.
“He’s helped us out a ton,” infielder Dayne Parker said. “Our work ethic has changed completely. You’re sore in spots where you haven’t been sore in the last two years. And it’s a completely different kind of sore.”
Senior pitcher T.J. McGreevy said the team needs Rosenboom’s discipline.
“We’ve been so used to winning … when we got here we felt like we were already entitled to something, which we weren’t,” he said. “Now I feel like we’ve actually worked and we’re going to deserve to go out there and have success.”
The presence of a head coach in the weight room is rare and adds a layer of seriousness. Stephenson is now a regular at workouts. He sees the discipline and attitude in the weight room as a step toward reviving a program that missed an NCAA regional for a third straight season.
“He’s been here very consistently,” Parker said. “That just shows you how much he is wanting us to get better and holding us accountable.”
Rosenboom said former Shocker Billy Hall walked through recently and smiled, saying the atmosphere reminded him of the 1990s, when Hall played.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Rosenboom said. “The work ethic, it matches any team in my 26 years at Wichita State. I think this year is going to be a very surprising year for a lot of people.”
Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel writes that Creighton is a “near definite” choice to join seven Catholic schools from the Big East along with Xavier, Butler and Dayton. He expects the new conference to include 12 schools, a preferred number to create more games and more inventory for TV networks. The 12th team could be Saint Louis.
WSU athletic director Eric Sexton confirmed that MVC presidents held a conference call last week to discuss the situation. He said any details would need to come from Valley officials.
"It's a dynamic environment," he said. "We are engaged in continuing to monitor all the situations."
Creighton coach Greg McDermott deflected questions about the potential move.
“We have enough to worry about as coaches,” he said. “That decision, if it ever comes, will not be made at our level anyway. That will be somewhere above my title. We’re obviously very happy with the Valley and always have been. Rumors are rumors. Whether there’s any truth to any of it, I have no idea.”
Hinson took over at SIU this season and has the Salukis (7-3 entering Saturday’s game at Utah State) playing better than expected. He coached Missouri State for nine seasons before the school fired him. He spent the past four seasons as director of basketball operations at Kansas.
MSU won the MVC title in 2011, earning coach Cuonzo Martin a big payday at Tennessee. Paul Lusk took over and the Bears went 16-16 last season. This season is turning into a disaster. The Bears (2-9) hadn’t defeated an NCAA Division I school entering Saturday’s game at New Mexico State. Tuesday, they suffered the indignity of a 59-47 loss at Alabama A&M.
SIU is recovering from the Chris Lowery era under Hinson. It went 8-23 last season. Its strength of schedule is No. 332 nationally, but all the Salukis want to do is feel respectable again.
“I don’t think we’re going to know a lot of answers until we get into league play,” Hinson said. “I have no visions of grandeur. But at the same time, I do think we’re playing better.”
MSU fans can’t say the same.