A head start in the arms race
John Hilton hasn’t even seen Placer High’s oversized underclassmen throw off a pitching mound yet. But it didn’t take the first-year varsity coach long to realize he had a pair of talented fireballers in junior Ryan Mason and sophomore Eddie Vanderdoes.
Mason is a 6-5 right-hander, who emerged as Placer’s ace last season as a sophomore. Vanderdoes was inserted into the middle of Placer’s batting order last year as a freshman and put up monstrous numbers immediately. The 6-4, 250-pound sophomore is also an imposing left-handed pitcher.
“Just looking at them and watching them throw a little bit, I know I wouldn’t want to step into the box against them,” Hilton said.
The Hillmen were on the football practice field at Placer last week for one hour each day, taking advantage of the Sac-Joaquin Section’s rule revision that allowed pitchers and catchers to work out one week ahead of the official first practice date.
Will DeBoard, director of communications for the section, said spring sports is starting a little later than normal this year because of shuffling to the calendar.
“The feedback we got from athletic directors and coaches was they needed a little more time to get their arms ready,” he said. “It’s kind of like spring training.”
Spring sports will kick into high gear on Monday when all practice restrictions are lifted.
Hilton said close to 40 players worked out as the varsity and junior varsity players mingled together.
“Every player on our team pretty much, honestly, has dreams of pitching,” Hilton said. “Obviously when we start the season, will all these guys be pitching? No they won’t. But we said, ‘Fine if you think you might consider pitching then come on out and we’ll get your arm going.’”
Said DeBoard, “A lot of coaches, what they told us, ‘You do realize every single player on our roster is a pitcher and catcher, right?’ We’ve gotten that a few times.”
The Placer players took it easy on their arms. They threw for only 10 minutes at each workout before doing a few basic baserunning drills and working on their overall fitness.
“Pitchers have to run more than position players because we have to get our legs stronger to be able to throw,” Mason said.
Though baseball players weren’t allowed to do skill work or pick up bats, the anticipation for the season was palpable.
“It’s a chance for us to get together and get in a flow before the season starts,” Vanderdoes said. “If we work hard and do the right things, we should definitely be a really good team this year.”
Placer, which finished 13-8-1 last year and missed the playoffs, will start the season March 2, hosting River City.
Gold Country News Service’s Bill Poindexter contributed to this report.