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Head Coach Bucky Burgau's Florida Journal

* This journal is being kept by Concordia head coach Bucky Burgau in the attempt to help Cobber baseball fans to get a closer look at the spring trip to Florida.

Thursday, March 4
Day Five of Baseball - Final Journal Installment
Great day for the Cobbers today!!

The day started with a talk from Dr. Tom Hanson. We drove to the University of Tampa where we were playing Loras and he gave his talk at the school. He started his talk at 11:00am and finished at 12:30pm. He talked to the team about mentally preparing for the game. It was very informative and interesting. I know it will help the players during the season and they were very receptive to his ideas.

After the talk, we had had our famous bologna sandwiches! It is the staple of the baseball team, as we have them in between every game during the season. We started taking batting practice at 2:15pm and by the time the game rolled around you could tell that everyone was very prepared to play.

The senior duo of Ryan Hebrink and Jeremy Hinderks led the Cobbers to a 9-4 win! Jeremy pitched a complete game and was only in serious trouble in one inning. Jeremy has taken his pitching talent and raised it to another level. Ryan was 4-for-4 with two home runs and a double. His first home run, as my father-in-law says, "would have been out of any park but Yellowstone!" It was hit as far as I have seen a home run hit in sometime. We played well and I am looking forward to finishing off the trip tomorrow against York.

Thursday night on our spring trips has become a tradition for players, family and friends. We all gather around the motel pool for good food and fellowship. It has become a fun night where we all share a common bond - sons, grandsons and baseball!

Gayle Solum has been the great organizer of this event and her efforts are greatly appreciated.

Last but not least, I would like to thank my family for sharing this week with me. It truly is a baseball family and the support they give me is awesome. Any successful coach has to have a spouse who is part of the team. Penny and I are truly a team and the support she gives me and the team is unbelievable.

I hope you have been able to get a closer look at what goes into putting the team on the field during a spring break. It is a lot of work and takes a lot of preparation but after watching all the players this past week, it is worth every minute of work. I can't wait for the rest of the season and look forward to getting back up north and having the snow melt so we can get back outside. Hopefully, we will be able to start the season, as scheduled, on March 26.

Thanks for reading the journal and hopefully we'll see everyone at the ballpark!

Wednesday, March 3
Day Four of Baseball
There is an old saying in baseball that goes, "splitting a doubleheader is like kissing your sister."  Well, we kissed our sister today. We actually got two pretty good pitching performances from two freshman. In the first game against Loras, Tieg Herman had the Cobbers in contention in the 5th inning and then the wheels fell off. If we would of had a normal bullpen, I think we would have hung in there a lot closer. However, we had to leave Tieg into pitch, and I said "the wheels came off - all four of them. Loras put an unlikely 12 spot on the board in the 5th and the Cobbers lost 16-1.

In the second game, we got a much-needed complete game from Zach Johnson. We ended up jumping on top early and hung on for an 8-4 victory. We took an 8-1 lead into the 7th, but started to get a little tired and had to hold down the fort to get the win. Zach pitched really well until the final inning when he started to lose some arm strength. He persevered and picked up his first collegiate win. Luther Kangas and Chris Klabo continue to lead the Cobber hitters on this trip. Defensively Klabo and Chad Worthington have made a good number of nice catches. It is always nice to see the outfielders getting a good read on the ball in the early part of the season. Since that is the one area of the game you can't duplicate inside, it is tough for the players to get used to the sun and picking the ball up in the sky once we get outside.

We have survived the toughest part of the schedule and now have a single game on Thursday and one more on Friday. So, life should return to normal as far as pitching goes. Ace righthander Jeremy Hinderks will start tomorrow and Bryan Romsa will get the call on Friday against York.

On defense we are also starting to make routine plays look routine. So, progress has been made!!

Dr. Tom Hanson (sports psychologist and son of Cobber alums Dr. J. Robert and Lois Hanson) is going to give a talk to the team tomorrow. It should be interesting to the guys and we are looking forward to it.

I was finally able to drag Penny off the beach (her favorite spot when not watching games) and she is helping me with the laundry. We are looking forward to a couple of good games so we can finish the trip off on a high note.

Hope everyone is doing well back in Moorhead!

Tuesday, March 2
Day Three of Baseball
We play two games today against good opponents and we're behind the eight-ball because we are short on pitching. I only have Matt Kemp, Brian Schumacher, Nick Esala and Ryan Hebrink available to pitch because of the need to not overthrow the pitchers arms in the early part of the season. Most of the schools that come to Florida are bringing 30-plus players (Wartburg brought 44), so pitching doesn't pose that much of a problem. They must have some sort of fundraisers to have enough money for the trip. We simply cannot afford to bring any more than 23 players. The problem comes in making the decision to play games straight through the trip, or take a day off in the middle of the week. I have always believed that, at this time in the season, we need to play games. I'm always afraid to take a day off because if we get rained out a day before our day off, or a day after the rest day, we would be sitting with two days off. That is too much time away from the diamond for the field players, and too much rest time when we can get the necessary repetitions outside. So, I take the side of playing as many games as possible even though our pitching staff gets worn a little thin.

Game 4 vs. Rose-Hulman (IN) and Game 5 vs. Wartburg - The baseball did not go well for the Cobbers today. We were pitching short and it hurt us. We lost 15-5 to Rose Hulman and got shutout 6-0 by Wartburg. In the first game, Nick Esala came in the game in relief of Brian Matt Kemp earlier than we had hoped, and pitched well until getting tired. He then had to stay in the game and "take one for the team" because of our lack of available pitchers.

In baseball if your team is getting beat bad, a lot of times you ask one pitcher to stay out and pitch to save arms for the next game or day. Nick did a great job and I, and the rest of the team, appreciated what he did.

In game two, Brian Schumacher did well on the mound but we couldn't produce enough run support on the offensive side. Chris Klabo got the only hit for the Cobbers - a single in the top of the sixth. Losing is never fun but some times you learn more about your team when you lose than when everything goes well and you breeze to a win. Today was no exception - I am learning more about the squad each time we take the field. The lessons learned in the early part of the season will hopefully pay dividends in the stretch drive when we are making a run towards the end of the season.

We hung in there pretty well and didn't give up. That is always a great thing for a team to have - the "never say die" attitude. All my successful teams have pulled games out when they were behind and they just kept plugging away. Hopefully this team will be no different. I know that there will be times in conference games when we get behind, and we have to be able to come back and pull victories out when everyone else thinks the game is over.

We have two freshman on the mound tomorrow. Tieg Herman and Zach Johnson will make their starting pitching debuts for the Cobbers. "Mongo" (assistant coach Steve Montgomery) and I are anxious to see how they will respond in their first action. It's always fun to see new players come in and get their first college action. They look good in practice and you hope that will carry over to the game against a different opponent. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Weather has been great (around 80 degrees every day), and the forecast for the rest of the week looks good. We have a Thursday night get-together planned with the team and all the family and friends that made the trip. Last year's get-together was one of the highlights of the trip and we are looking forward to another great evening.

My wife Penny counted 80-plus Cobber fans (family and friends) at the game today. We have, by far, the biggest following of any team down here. It is always nice to play the games and have a group of people that cheers and really supports the team. The players are very fortunate to have family and friends that are willing to go that "extra mile" to support them wherever they go.

Hopefully tomorrow we'll have better news from the diamond!

Monday, March 1
Day Two of Baseball
My favorite days of baseball are when you get to play one, nine-inning game. That is what is on the table for today against Johnson and Wales. The down side of one game a day is not everyone gets to play. However, we need to do it a bit on the trip to spread our pitching out.

Game 3 vs. Johnson and Wales - We got into a good baseball battle today. We ended up winning the game when Bryan Romsa pinch hit in the bottom of the eighth inning and scored Ryan Hebrink on a suicide squeeze play. Aaron Eckhoff pitched well from the sixth on, to get credit for his first varsity win. Nice win for the Cobbers in a tight game. It is always good to see the players come through in a tight game. You never know how they will respond to pressure situations and the guys handled it very well today. We executed the little things correctly to pick up the win - a credit to our senior leaders and the fact that we have been in these type of situations before in the past couple of seasons.

We played at Jack Russell Stadium today. The facility is one year removed as the spring training site of the Philadelphia Phillies. It was a treat for all of us to get the chance to play on such a nice diamond. We will play all the rest of the games on this field except for one. On a trip like this we need to extend our pitchers into the game more than we usually do because of the number of games we're playing in a short time. Plus, it's a bit more difficult this year because we don't have the services of Dormanen. We are still searching for the player that will fill that role.

One of the great things about coaching at Concordia is the tremendous support you receive from parents, extended family and friends. I am always amazed by the amount of people that follow the team wherever we go. This spring trip is no different. There is a group of about 50 people (made up of parents, family and friends) that made the trip south to see us play. It is fun for the kids to play in front of a "home" crowd even though they are hundreds of miles away from the diamond at Concordia.

Everyone else is at the beach - including my wife Penny who made the trip - while I sit in a coin-operated laundry place doing all the players laundry from the first two days of games (oh, the life of a coach, wife and players get to relax and sight see and I get to spend three hours with smelly uniforms!).

We will play two games tomorrow, which is good as we'll split the squad up again and play alot of players. It's important for the players to win starting spots by on-field performance. Contrary to what players that don't get to play alot believe, how a person plays on the field is usually the sole indication of whether they will see alot of playing time. This helps form the team and also helps the players know that they are in charge of who plays and who doesn't. Most of the time coaches just take in all the information and then play the players that are doing well at that time. Nothing more than that - no grudges, no biases - just objective decisions about who will give the team the best chance to be successful. That way, in the end, everybody feels good about themselves and the role they play, and everyone feels good about being part of a TEAM.

It's really fun for me to watch the team grow in the early part of the season. Three games down, six to go. We are on a two-game winning streak and the weather is nice. Can't wait until tomorrow!

Sunday, February 29
Day One of Baseball
The nice thing about coming to Clearwater, FL as opposed to Ft. Myers is that we are able to get on the field and take on-field batting practice and ground balls. Last year, in Ft. Myers, we just stepped on the field and played. The pregame routine of ground balls, fly balls, etc. is almost as important to us as the games (It's a bit hard on us old coaches but definitely better for the team!).

Game 1 vs. Wartburg - Jeremy Hinderks pitched great! We just didn't score enough runs for him. We gave up two runs in the top of the sixth and lost 3-2. It was a good first game and, despite the loss, a good way to start the season. We found out that we can still play the game which always nice after having to spend a month playing simulated baseball indoors.

In between the two games we had to drive from one field to the other and assistant coach Steve Montgomery got us lost! It's his first year with the team and he has done a great job with the pitching staff in the first month. We will have a huge hole to fill with the loss of Derek Dormanen as the team's "go to" pitcher out of the bullpen. "Mongo" has done a good job getting the pitchers their necessary repetitions in practice and making sure their arms are strong. Now we will have a chance to see who will step into the different pitching roles and be the key parts of the puzzle once the MIAC season starts.

Game 2 vs. Dubuque - We started the game as planned - only three position players started the second game that started the first. After a rough start, Bryan Romsa settled in on the mound and gave us six solid innings. Chris Klabo got a big two-out double in the bottom of the sixth to drive in the game-winning run. Ryan Hebrink set a new career home run mark with a solo blast in the second. He was also credited with the save - his first as a Cobber! He threw a scoreless seventh inning and struck out the last two batters he faced. We won our first game of the year, which always a nice thing to get out of the way early in the trip.

Saturday, February 28

Departure Day
Off from Concordia at 1:00am on Saturday morning. We arrived at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Hubert Humphrey Airport terminal at 4:45am. As we are waiting for our flight, things that could possibly go wrong with the trip flash through my mind. As I go over the different reservations we made in Florida, the first thought that races through my head is about the vans. I get a bad feeling in my stomach as I remember that new school policy mandates no use of 15 passenger vans for athletic travel. This also included taking the last row out of seats in the 15 passenger van to make it a 12 passenger van.

I quickly call National Car Rental - to make sure that they had downgraded out 15 passenger vans to the 12 passenger models (I had called them yesterday to make sure that we would get 12 passenger vans). The phone call confirms my worry. They thought that I meant that we still wanted the 15 passenger vans with the seat removed - Uh Oh!

Another quick call at 6:30am, this time to assistant coach Dave Klug who stayed back in Moorhead to run the High School basketball tournaments at Concordia, to have him work on transportation that is legal.

11:20am - We are finally in the air. I won't know if Dave is successful or not until we land. I always warn the players about bumps in the road when we go on long trips but this is more like something unseen in Moorhead - a hill! As worried as I am about that, my thoughts turn to baseball and our lineup for tomorrow's opening game against Wartburg.  On these type of trips I feel it is important to play alot of players and we will do that. Jeremy Hinderks will start on the mound in the opener and then Bryan Romsa will follow in the second game of the day.  I also want to see as many players on the first day as I can, so I plan on playing only three players, out of a possible 16 in the batting lineup in both games, in both games. Ryan Hebrink will play shortstop in the first game and shortstop in the second game. Nick Esala will DH in the opener and then move to shortstop in the nightcap, and Luther Kangas will play outfield, and then catch the second game. Even with all that change, I feel that we will have a good team on the field for both games.

Final thought from the air; a travel agent I am not, a baseball coach I am.

4:30pm - We made it. We are at the hotel and the players are resting. The biggest hurdle of the day was cleared as Dave came through with the rental vans! It's good to have assistant coaches!

We were planning on heading to the practice field but I will decide to give team the day off since they are very tired from not having slept in their beds and then traveling all day long.

Baseball tomorrow . I can't wait, it's been a long four weeks of preparing inside and I am more than ready to see what the team can do outside.

Take care and we'll send another report on Monday.


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