Media day: Merkle taking talents to diamond
Spring sport athletes descended upon the GameTimePA.com offices to take part in the first spring sports media day.
We learned a bit about the 45 teams that participated and they took part in some fun and games. Here are a few things that we learned during media day.
Merkle does everything except sell hot dogs
The York Suburban baseball coach had the line of the day when he wrote in his questionnaire that Thomas Merkle "does everything except sell hot dogs." Chris Rotolo joked at media day that if Merkle did sell hot dogs, he'd excel at that, too.
Merkle played along with the joke, but the senior ball player has certainly succeeded at the sports he participates in. He broke a league record in passing yards during football season and recorded 6.6 points per game during a rebuilding year for the Trojans basketball team. Now, he turns to baseball, coming off last season's .458 batting average. Merkle also had a .487 on-base percentage and struck out only three times in 72 at-bats.
"He'll do whatever you want. He'll play anywhere," Rotolo said. "Last year, we talked to him and said, 'You're our best third baseman, but you're our best catcher. So you're going to have to catch.' He embraced that, and we tried to talk to him about maybe the next level you wouldn't be a catcher. We'll get you out of there. Those sort of things, he just goes with it and he knows that we're not going to do anything to jeopardize or put him in a position that he wouldn't be able to succeed."
The York Suburban senior said he spent the offseason working on his arm strength and making sure he was prepared to fill in at any position where he might be needed.
As for trying his hand at selling hot dogs? "I might mix it in there every other game, but probably not every game," he responded with a chuckle.
Taking leadership roles
Senior Jossalin Shipley and junior Gabby Ilyes know they'll need to step up this season for West York softball. The Bulldogs lost seven or eight seniors at the end of last season, and Shipley and Ilyes are the only varsity players returning this season.
"It is a lot of pressure," Ilyes said. "But as long as we come out with a positive attitude and helping girls with fundamentals — just stepping in and if a coach can't help them if we can help them, and just work with everyone.
"It's a lot of pressure, but I think we'll be OK."
Over at York Catholic, the Fighting Irish softball players find themselves in a similar position. They're coming off a rough season last year and also lost a number of seniors. Coach Gary Fissel says he leans on his returning players to help lead the team.
"Anytime you can get these kids involved and help coach," he said. "They're stepping to the plate ... and sometimes (the other players) have more open ears when it comes to classmates versus someone they only see two or three months out of the year."
Getting an early start
Spring sports practice doesn't officially open until Monday, but Eastern York boys' lacrosse and Dallastown volleyball have been clicking in the offseason.
Both teams had a number of players who played together on club teams over the winter, which helps the team hit the ground running once the spring season arrives. The Golden Knights had 24 players participate in winter indoor lacrosse, and Dallastown had 13 athletes play club volleyball.
"We don't have to worry about cardio work and things like that," Eastern lacrosse coach Michael Particelli said about the advantages. "They're familiar with each other and how they play. We played a lot of younger players indoors this winter, so we kind of understand who plays well with who, who plays what positions, what role they might fit best on the team. ... From that point it helped us a lot."
For Dallastown, it has come in extra handy since the team will be much younger than in years past after losing seven or eight players after last season. The Wildcats have five returning players and a mix of younger guys, but because they have played together on a club team, they are much more familiar with one another.
"It's not like you're just jumping into the season," Aaron Ward said. "You have months before it to prepare and the season is just where you show what you've worked on. ... It's nice to be able to not start from scratch at the beginning of the season."