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Schools of Thought

Baseball waits on deck for cagers

March 3, 2008
By Bill Cain, the Leader-Herald
Play ball!

Well, except for you three over there.

Today is the first day high school baseball teams can meet for official practices. Some teams are meeting later in the week or even next week for their first practices, but the Northville nine are not quite sure when they will get everyone back in cleats and mitts.

Three Falcons — John Briggs, Matt Blowers and Cody Parker — have yet to trade in the big orange ball for the little white one with fine, red stitching. They have unfinished business on the basketball court.

As Northville’s boys’ basketball team prepares for Section VII champion Westport, which it will play Friday at the State University of New York in Plattsburgh at 6 p.m., the rest of the baseball team prepares without them.

Also absent from the first week of practice is newly appointed baseball coach Ryan Gander, who will be hard at work trying to extend his first season as basketball coach as long as he can.

Not that he wants to avoid starting the baseball season, but the Falcons have just won their first Section II Class D championship in 46 years. It feels good. They want more.

A win Friday would send the basketball team to Hudson Valley Community College Saturday to play Section X champion Chateaugay.

A win there would send them back to Glens Falls to play in the state final four March 14.

In the meantime, other Northville baseball players will play ball. Assistant coaches will run the practices while Gander and the cagers see how long they can play.

Gander said the practices will likely be just for pitchers and catchers initially, while the squad is incomplete and without its head coach.

For the three Falcons torn between two seasons, one just starting and one refusing to end, the challenge is to remain focused on the task at hand. Blowers has been a good rebounder and defender this winter and all three will play an important part in getting the team ready in practices this week.

Gander said he doesn’t think the absence from baseball practices will hurt Briggs, Blowers or Parker. On the contrary, he hopes the extended basketball postseason builds their confidence, which could help them this spring on the diamond.

“They’re pretty focused kids and they know what they have to do,” he said. “I think they’re so excited about trying to win a regional game, I don’t think it’ll negatively affect us. The experience we’re having now can only be a confidence builder and hopefully we can carry it over into baseball when that starts.”

It’s never easy starting a season’s first week of practice without a portion of the team, but coaches never complain in situations like this because they are too happy for the kids who have earned the right to keep playing whatever sport from the previous season.

If the Falcons can translate their winter success into a good year on the field, new baseball coach Gander will have yet another reason to be happy for the kids and their extended winter.

Bill Cain is a sportswriter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at


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