Baseball starts practice

By Erik Hall

The ping of aluminum bats could be heard along Peabody Drive on Sunday. The ringing sound coming from the Irwin Football Practice Facility marked the beginning of the 2005 Illinois baseball season.

“It was good to get back,” said Illinois baseball coach Itch Jones. “Our kids came back in very good shape. They did their job in the fall and came back after winter workouts and were all in very good shape.”

Jones started his 39th baseball season at 1 p.m. and used the entire NCAA maximum practice length of four hours.

Senior third baseman Chad Frk sensed a positive attitude from his teammates about starting practice.

“It seems like it’s a lot more upbeat,” Frk said. “A lot of guys have a lot better attitudes than we have (had) in the past and just the atmosphere seems totally different. I think it will be a lot better this year.”

A team essentially healthy this year has aspirations not possible last season because injuries decimated the Illini.

“Since I’ve been here we haven’t even made it to the Big Ten Tournament,” said senior pitcher Jimmy Conroy. “We’ve been totally under achieving.”

Illinois starts its season Feb. 25 against Kent State in the Winthrop Tournament at Rock Hill, S.C.

“The last two years I have not been very pleased with,” Jones said. “I don’t think we should have had the type of years we’ve had with the personnel we had. I think these guys now have got to decide that, ‘Hey we’ve got to go out and get the job done and just go do it.’

“They are capable of doing it.”

-Erik Hall