Marmion baseball coach Dave Rakow received a recent email from a Toronto Blue Jays representative inquiring about the pitching schedule of Cadets senior ace left-hander Alex Troop.
Rakow probably had to suppress a number of smart-aleck responses that came to mind because the reality for the Cadets – and just about everyone else in northern Illinois – is they don’t know when it’ll finally be time to play ball.
In the absence of actual games – most baseball and softball teams have seen the starts of their seasons delayed the past two weeks by subpar weather and field conditions – an email like the one Rakow received will have to suffice for early-season excitement.
The Cadets already have had their first three scheduled games canceled, and that’s the norm for teams in the area. Rakow said he’s only surveyed the Cadets’ field once so far, and he came away discouraged.
“Once it thaws out this week, we’ll be able to go out there and take a look and see where we’re at, but the one time we went out there, it was not pretty,” Rakow said.
Last year, part of the infield grass in front of first base on Marmion’s field was plagued by pooling water that caused the Cadets headaches much of the season. Rakow said the school’s maintenance staff tried to troubleshoot the area during the offseason and more drainage work is planned after this season is finished, but for now, the whole field is soggy enough that it’s hard to tell whether progress has been made.
As for the kind of progress Rakow is more focused on – the pitching, hitting and fielding performance of his Cadets – that’s also in wait-and-see-mode.
The Cadets are one of the area’s lucky teams in that they have a fieldhouse to bolster indoor practices, but Rakow is still driving himself batty trying to make sense of what he’s watching.
“I’m worried the first time we get to go outside is going to be our first game, and I don’t know how it’s going to go,” Rakow said. “When you’re in the cage, when the ball comes off the bat, you’re not really sure if it’s a popout to the shortstop or a gapper to left-center. The infielders haven’t realty seen the ball off the grass yet. As a coach, it makes you a little bit nervous.”
Marmion is a senior-heavy team this spring, which Rakow said has helped keep the natural cabin fever from derailing the Cadets’ sense of purpose.
“You never want it to be this kind of weather but I’d rather have a senior-heavy team when you’re kind of struggling to stay focused than the alternative,” Rakow said. “If it was last year, I think it would have been harder. The maturity level would have been not where it is now.”
One of those seniors, of course, is Troop, a Batavia resident who has committed to Michigan State. Rakow said the Blue Jays’ overture marked the first time a MLB team has sent him a scouting-related correspondence since Marmion and Illinois product Matt Milroy pitched for the Cadets. Milroy is a minor leaguer in the Miami Marlins’ organization.
Rakow said the email about Troop bodes well.
“Once you’re on the radar for pro guys, usually you stick there, even if you don’t get drafted,” Rakow said.
Moving on: As noted in Friday’s Chronicle, St. Charles North graduate Quinten Payne plans to transfer from Ball State, where he recently completed his freshman year in the Cardinals’ men’s basketball program.
Payne, who averaged more than 11 minutes a game off the bench, told the Muncie Star Press he likely will look at some of the other schools that recruited him out of high school. Payne originally committed to Loyola but did not end up there after his older brother, Cully Payne, left the Ramblers’ program.
“[Ball State] just wasn’t really the right fit for me,” Payne told the Star Press. “I didn’t see myself really growing with what was there, had to make a decision just as a basketball player, pick the right place for me.”
Ball State went 5-25 under first-year head coach James Whitford.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.