Much will be different about Wichita State baseball in coach Todd Butler’s second season.
The semester started with work days around Eck Stadium, like last year. On Friday morning, he introduces a two-mile run to his 42-man roster, 27 of whom are new. Players must complete the run in under 14 minutes to get their practice shirts and pants. If they don’t make the time Friday, they try again Monday, then Wednesday and on and on.
News of the test filtered out to players late in the summer. Freshman infielder Jordan Boyer said he and a few teammates ran it in 12:54 earlier this week.
“We should be able to get it,” Boyer said. “I wouldn’t say easy, but we got it in. A lot of the guys have been able to get it in in pretty good shape.”
Butler used the fitness test during his days as an assistant at Alabama.
“I want to see who’s in shape,” he said. “It’s kind of going back to the old-school days. To get that gear, they need to make it.”
Butler said sophomore pitcher Sam Tewes may throw at some point this fall. Tewes’ summer in the Cape Cod League ended early due to a strained elbow. Butler said an MRI revealed no problems with the ligament. “We’re going to take it extremely slow with him and build him back up,” Butler said. “I know the ligament is good. Hopefully, he’ll be able to pitch this fall, but we’ll really watch him.”
Parker Zimmerman, who missed much of last season after suffering a concussion in early April, is quitting baseball and will serve as a student coach. “He can relieve Coach (Brian) Walker with the catching duties,” Butler said. “He’s such a positive impact with our players. With his maturity, he’ll be able to separate himself from the team and go into that coach’s mode. He would be a fantastic coach, if he chooses to do that in the future.”
The roster must be down to 35 players by the first game in February. Injuries will take care of some that attrition. Sophomore pitcher Cody Tyler underwent ligament reconstruction elbow surgery (commonly known as Tommy John surgery) last spring and likely won’t pitch this season. Freshman pitcher Adam Thies may be headed for elbow surgery, Butler said.
Butler will also keep an eye on other rehabbing or resting Shockers: Recovery from June labrum surgery will likely limit Junior C/1B Ryan Tinkham to hitting during the fall. Freshman SS Trey Vickers had labrum surgery on his non-throwing shoulder and is rehabbing. Junior 2B Jordan Farris sat out the summer to protect his shoulder. Freshman P Brad Kinsey may also be on a reduced workload after throwing a lot of innings last spring.
WSU starts individual workouts (four people in a group) on Monday. Full practices begin Sept. 17 with a scrimmage series of undetermined length in late October. Butler plans a Halloween game, with players in costume, on Oct. 30 with fans invited to join in.
Butler’s initial impression is that the Shockers will look good in their uniforms. “We’re very big,” he said. “Our pitching staff is a tall group of physical pitchers. We’ll see if we can throw strikes and compete as we go through the fall.”
Many of the baseball players are zipping around campus on Razor scooters. People who live in the new Shocker Hall must park cars at the Hughes Metropolitan Complex, so walking, biking or scooting are the convenient ways to get to class and Eck Stadium. “I showe up and three people had them the first week and then everybody went,” Boyer said. “Some of the upperclassmen who live around here are jumping on it. I thought it was dumb at first. I’m going to get one.”