BAXTER — When Max Seeman took over Collins-Maxwell/Baxter’s baseball program last season, he inherited a team that, in his mind, didn’t even warm up properly.
There was no routine, no sense of purpose. Games of catch broke out before practice rather than a productive session that loosened players’ arms and prepared them, physically and mentally, to improve.
Forget winning, something the team had only done twice in the previous two seasons combined. Seeman knew before he could change the result on the scoreboard, he had to change the habits of his players.
“Before coach Seeman, it was get out there [before practice], get your arm loose by just playing catch for four, five minutes,” junior pitcher Seth Balke said. “Now, we have a routine where you work your wrist, then your elbow and the rest of your arm out, just a routine to keep your arm fresh.”
Seeman enters his second season this summer as head coach of the Raiders varsity baseball team. Despite winning only one game again last season, he’s trying to continue and build upon what Balke described as a “culture shift” at CMB.
“There’s certain things I like done a certain way,” said Seeman, who played college baseball at Central College. “My number one rule is to hustle, whether it’s in a game, you’re going in to your spot, you’re coming out from your spot, you got walked to first base — I’m all about hustling. If you develop good habits there, they’ll carry over into games and hopefully lead to success.”
Success by scoreboard standards proved hard to find in Seeman’s first year. The Raiders finished last season 1-22, their third straight one-win season. Lack of experience and consistency were a few of CMB’s pitfalls, Seeman said.
Despite not seeing an increase in wins, the new head coach saw a change in his players that should start to payoff in the near future.
“Attitudes, for sure, are already better now than where they were at the beginning of last year. You can tell that they want to be out here and they want to win, they want to get better. You can just tell that by the way they practice,” Seeman said. “That wasn’t necessarily the case when we started last year. I had to teach them how I wanted things done. This year, they have an idea of that so we can work on the more important aspects.”
In addition to scoring more runs — CMB scored three runs or less in 20 of its 23 games last year — Seeman and Balke both mentioned limiting opponents’ ‘big inning’ as another improvment they hope to make during the upcoming season.
Such occurrences cost the Raiders multiple wins last year. On June 5, CMB was tied with North Polk, 2-2, going into the bottom of the fifth before allowing North Polk seven runs in the inning and losing, 13-2. Eight days later, the Raiders led Gilbert, 9-1, late before Gilbert erupted for 12 runs in the sixth inning and eventually beat CMB, 13-9.
In total, CMB opponents scored five or more runs in one inning in 10 games a year ago.
“ ... We’ll have one inning where we give up four or five runs and we just never recover,” Balke said, describing such instances as the team’s “Achilles heel” in recent years.
Asked what he thought would be a successful season this summer, Balke referenced the consistency his coach mentioned that was lacking last year.
“A couple years ago, it was, we’re bad and we’re frustrated about that,” Balke said, “and then last year, it was frustrating that we weren’t executing when we know we can. It’s just putting it together for seven innings.”
For Seeman, continued player development sits high atop his priority list for the season. Increasing the team’s win total to five to eight wins is another measuring stick of success he mentioned.
“And if we get more than that, that’s awesome, great,” Seeman said. “If I see individual growth in each guy, that’s huge.”