NORMAN, Okla. – Head coach Pete Hughes led his University of Oklahoma baseball team onto L. Dale Mitchell Field for the first day of fall ball practice on Tuesday afternoon, shortly before 3:00 pm. Hughes, who was hired as the ninth coach in program history back on June 27, looks to build on a successful 17-year career with his move to Norman.
A head coach since 1997, Hughes has had stops at Trinity (Texas) University, Boston College and Virginia Tech; amassing a 524-385-2 record with appearances in the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2013 with the Hokies. He came to OU loaded with knowledge of its baseball program having been knocked out of the NCAA Regionals in Blacksburg.
Tuesday marked the first day of fall ball, which will run until October 24 when the team wraps up the fall season with the team’s ALS Awareness Halloween Game; an intra-squad scrimmage played in costume. Throughout fall ball, 3:00 pm practices on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday will be open to the public.
Practice was full of energy; extending from the coaching staff to the players, trainers and grounds crew. The session also served as the first day on the field for new assistant coaches Mike Anderson, the former head coach at Nebraska, and Ryan Connolly, a catcher at Notre Dame from 2006-09.
“Our goals today were to go for two hours at a good tempo and with the right sense of urgency,” said Hughes. “For a team learning a new coaching staff, I thought they did a great job. I thought it was a good, clean practice.”
Jack Giese, a holdover from last season’s staff, worked with his pitching staff in the team’s indoor training facility as well as the bullpen, while Hughes and Anderson got to work with the infielders and outfielders outside. There was a lot of teaching being done as the coaches attempted to implement their style on the players.
“It’s a new start; a new practice structure,” continued Hughes. “We need to take our time and get our progressions right. Today was a lot of teaching and a lot of evaluating. I thought our kids controlled the one thing they could and that was the tempo and the pace. I thought it was great.
Players quickly became accustomed to phrases like “quick pick” and “we’re a clockwise team”. Practice also provided an opportunity to take players out of their comfort zone and get acquainted with different positions. Senior Hector Lorenzana, the starting second baseman in 2013, saw action fielding grounders at second as well as third and short.
“Every player is going to practice at every position until they become comfortable,” stated Hughes. “The quicker we can get guys to play all over the place, the deeper our program will be. It also gives those guys a perspective of what the guys around them are doing. It helps them learn the game and it builds depth to our program.”