Clovis senior catcher Richard Urdan, getting in his swings Wednesdy in the batting cage, is one of seven returning staters for the Wildcats.
By Rick White
Richard Urban wrings the handle of the wooden bat with his strong hands, the easterly wind nipping at his smiling face like a 2-month-old puppy.
The infield grass only hints at being green as players run wind sprints near the fence at Bell Park.
After the humdrum of six months’ off-season workouts, Urban is excited to be out of the gym and batting cages and on a baseball diamond.
“We finally get to hit on the field,” said Urban, entering his third season as starting catcher for the Clovis Wildcats. “We finally got to do some situation defensive stuff in practice, and that’s the part of the game I love.”
Clovis coach Shane Shallenberger said with only 16 days between the official start of practice for spring sports Monday and the Wildcats’ season-opening tournament Feb. 26-28, it’s time to get busy.
“The good thing now was we get to stay out here as long as it takes,” said Shallenberger, in his third season at the Wildcats’ helm. “Right now, we’re going back to the basics and then we’ll go from there.”
Getting a pitching staff ready for the rigors of a schedule loaded with three-game weekend series is the priority, he said.
“We’ve got to get them in a routine more than anything.”
With seven returning starters and back-to-back state playoff appearances, expectations are high for the Wildcats.
“We’ve talked about our goals since we lost to La Cueva,” Shallenberger. “We’ve talked a lot about what we want to accomplish.”
Clovis lost to eventual Class 5A state champion La Cueva in the first round of the playoffs.
Never satisfied, Shallenberger has the Wildcats using wooden bats in practice, which in theory forces players to make better contact because wood is less forgiving than aluminum.
Built along the Pudge Rodriguez mode, Urban said the wooden bats have helped.
“But I can’t wait for the aluminum,” Urban said.
With a little more than two weeks left before the season opener, that shouldn’t be long.