Practice time begins
Turnout good for Baldwin High teams
Monday brought an end to summer for those athletically inclined at Baldwin High School. Practice started, even though school was still down the road.
Football, cross country, volleyball and tennis all cranked it up Monday and with it came a quick stop to sleeping in for most. Others found their days occupied by more than usual and it might have been without air conditioning, which involved some sweat.
Baldwin High School football coach Mike Berg was first to welcome players back into the fold with a 6 a.m. kick off to the season Monday. There was an ocean of purple helmets as a record 92 hopefuls showed up. That tops last year's previous top mark of 75.
"I am very happy with that," Berg said of the turnout. "I really was not too surprised because of the turnout we had at spring sign up. We had more than 100 then, so I was expecting 80 or 90."
It's a sure sign of Baldwin's football rebirth. Need another? The first ever Baldwin Junior High School football practice Monday afternoon brought out 74.
"I've got good news," said BJHS football coach Nick Harris as practice unfolded. "We don't have enough equipment."
There were 70 helmets, etc., slotted for the junior high's first endeavor into football. The turnout exceeded that. It will be fixed easily. That's a good thing, much like what's happening in Berg's camp.
But, the fourth-year football coach is still amazed at what's happened with Baldwin's effort into the sport. Five years ago, when the program was in it's lowest point, there was a total of 30-plus high schoolers playing football in the city. Now, between the BHS program, the new BJHS program and the youth football program there are around 230.
"That's unbelievable to me," said Berg. "It's amazing to me and I know that speaks well towards our future."
But, it wasn't all football Monday. Cross country at BHS, with it's three-time state championship squad back in tow, also opened practice. Coach Mike Spielman welcomed 17 runners back, including the nucleus of those state teams.
"We've got all the kids back from last year well, six of the seven varsity runners," said Spielman. "We've got some young kids that are going to push them, too. We'll be pretty strong."
There's probably the understatement of the year.
As for the girls' team, it's a bit harder to tell. Gone are Megan Noonan and Shawna Trarbach to graduation. Spielman is taking a wait-and-see attitude there for the 11 girls who showed up for the first run Monday.
"It's so hard to read," Spielman said of the girls' squad. "Everyone came back except for Megan and Shawna. We'll be all right. Hopefully we'll do like we did last year and get better as the season goes along."
Read that young. There are quality runners, but they're isn't the experience. That's much the case with Jill Brown's volleyball squad, too. She welcomed 40 players to practice Monday, but there was only one senior and seven juniors. That means 16 sophomores and 14 freshmen. That's young, but they'll be all right, she says.
"That's pretty close to where we were last year," Brown said of the turnout. "Jen Wingert is our only senior. I know we look young, but we'll be all right."
Then there's tennis. Ginny Honomichl had 20 players show up Monday, which is down from years past. But, that's okay, she says.
"That's a good number," said Honomichl. "I'm pleased with that. It's a good number to work with."
So, obviously, there are youngsters at work in all programs. But, it's a core of seniors with their leadership that marks the Baldwin High football program. Berg has 18 seniors, a number that even amazes him, and those are players that have started with him when he took the program over.
"That's a very high number," Berg said of the seniors. "I've talked to a lot of coaches and if you can have 10 to 12 seniors, you're doing pretty good. When you have 18, you've got to be happy as a coach.
"They're a really good bunch, too," he said. "They're leading by example which is the way it should be. It's a great environment on the practice field."