Hartleb looks to keep team on track for spring


The Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois former pitching coach Drew Dickinson makes a visit to the mound during the game against Milwaukee at the Illinois Field on Wednesday, March 14, 2018.

By Rich Eberwein, Staff Writer

Baseball is underway for the Illini as new procedures and guidelines have taken the forefront of a fall season that has a slightly different look to it.

While college football is giving a go at a regular season this fall, baseball is taking a step back and focusing on inter-team practices only. Autumn is normally a time for exhibition games against other schools in the college baseball realm. However, with COVID-19 outbreaks always lurking around the corner, universities are looking to minimize the number of opportunities for the virus to spread and just focusing on holding practices, albeit in a more controlled manner.

Illinois head baseball coach Dan Hartleb says his guys are gearing up with masks on and distancing as much as possible at Illinois Field while areas have been designated for the team to split up and give each other room to stretch and condition. Gear and equipment are stored in multiple areas and players are even parking away from each other in an effort to mitigate the virus spreading should someone on the team contract it.

The team is adjusting to the new procedures as they come while they take mostly online classes on the academic side of things.

“The fact that classes are online gives you some flexibility in areas, yet the medical portion gives you less flexibility,” said Hartleb about practices so far. “I would say it’s been difficult, but I really think our guys have done a great job adapting from day to day with whatever is thrown at us, and that’s a great quality.”

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    Team practices will run into mid-October before splitting off into smaller, more specialized groups to fine-tune individual skills. Until then, the team will continue team practices with COVID procedures to prepare for the spring and Hartleb said the team is hungry after last year’s campaign was cut short.

    “I’m hopeful we can move forward in a fairly normal situation, but there’s a number of factors that are going to dictate how that works,” Hartleb said about next year. “There’s just so many different factors and variables right now that we’re trying to at least think through so that when somethings thrown at us, we have an idea of the direction we want to go.”

    The fall and winter sports — football and basketball predominantly — and how their seasons shape up amid COVID-19 will undoubtedly play a part in how baseball and other spring sports will look like next year. Plenty of new and old faces will make up the 2021 Illinois baseball team as they look to take home the Big Ten Championship for the first time since the dominant 2015 season.



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