Sophomore infielder John Kinne was back on the baseball field for summer ball the day after he flew home from the NCAA tournament in California.
"As soon as I got back from California, my parents wanted me to go to practice the day I got back to Massachusetts. I took a day off, but that was really the extent of the break," Kinne said.
After one of the baseball program's most successful seasons in history, marked by an Ivy League championship and the program's first ever NCAA tournament win—over New Mexico on June 1—Kinne and 17 other Light Blue players dove headfirst into summer league work.
Members of the baseball team played for competitive summer leagues across the country—from California, where sophomore pitcher Adam Cline played in the Far West League, to Massachusetts, where senior pitcher David Speer took a spot in the Cape Cod League.
Head coach Brett Boretti said that the additional game experience is invaluable as they continue to develop and adjust to playing at the college level.
"They are getting another 40 to 50 games played, another 30 to 50 innings pitched for the pitchers. It is a tremendous asset to be able to play that much more baseball, and the competition level of these leagues is very good," Boretti said. "For the young guys especially, the biggest difference I see in them physically is when they come back for their sophomore year. It's the freshmen that have been playing all summer and lifting all summer—that's where we see the biggest impact."
Kinne said that unlike playing at Columbia, where balancing academic pressures and a Division I time commitment can be difficult, playing in summer leagues allows players to make baseball their sole focus mentally.
"We have the opportunity to focus 100 percent on baseball and get the minor league experience. Here, obviously, while we are up at Baker, we are focused 100 percent on the sport, but once you get on the bus, you probably have to start studying, and your mind is diverted elsewhere," he said. "Over the summer you get to really immerse yourself in baseball for a good two and a half months."
Cline thought it was impressive that 18 out of the team's 21 returning players made baseball their number one priority over the summer.
"I think especially with the number of guys we had go and play, you don't see that often in a lot of Ivy League teams, so everyone getting more experience out of that will help us all around a lot more," he said.
The commitment of these players to improve in the offseason resulted in several summer triumphs for individual members of the baseball program. Junior pitcher David Spinosa recorded a 1.05 ERA regular season performance for the Waynesboro Generals in the Valley Baseball League, and Spinosa's contributions in the postseason helped lead the Generals to a league championship. Cline and Kinne, both returning this year as sophomores, also made great strides this summer. Cline tossed 63 innings for his summer league team and recorded 10 starts. Kinne boasted a .315 batting average with 28 RBIs and 27 runs scored for the Pittsfield Suns in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League in New England.
In addition to the experiences that players get on the field, Boretti noted that summer leagues are a great opportunity for his players to meet other college players from across the country.
Kinne formed a bond with his summer league team through community service.
"We would do clinics for special needs kids and other youth groups in the area, which was really special for me because that is my area, so it was an opportunity to give back to the place where I'm from," Kinne said.
Although they went their separate ways this summer, Kinne said his teammates were excited to reunite for fall practice.
"It's the best because you go out over the summer, and you meet different types of people, but these are your guys that, especially winning a championship last year, you have really strong bonds with, so coming back I feel like we were just gone for a week or so. It's been great to return."
Cline added that the summer league work clearly had an impact, as everyone returned sharp and in solid form for fall practices.
"I think we could be just as good—if not better—than the team last year, to be honest," Cline said.
And while the team gained important experience in the spring season and over the summer, Boretti wants to make sure that the team keeps looking forward instead of dwelling on past accomplishments.
"It's a brand new team and a brand new season," he said. "What happened last year happened last year, and has nothing to do with the year."
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