Head coach Steve Jaksa and the baseball team celebrated the new season with roughly 150 community during their Feb. 8 Leadoff Luncheon.
The luncheon helped the team excite fans for the upcoming season. An autograph and social kicked off the event, followed by a lunch and team introductions.
Justin Garcia, a 2002 baseball alumnus and former team coach, spoke at the event. Garcia led the team to back-to-back GLIAC championships from 2001 to 2002. He coached infielders and hitters as an assistant coach from 2015 to 2018.
SVSU baseball team card sets were available for $5. Attendees could also buy a baseball for the same price. Players were lined up at tables to autograph items.
Jaksa said the luncheon was good exposure for the players.
“That’s something different we added,” Jaksa said. “They get excited about that sort of stuff. We start in less than a week, and we’re ready to go. You can tell the guys have cabin fever, and they’re ready to start playing and have some fun.”
Jaksa said the team is in good shape to start their new season.
“They played a lot of hard-nosed, close games, so we feel good about coming back for this year,” he said. “We had a nice run at the end, so we hope to pick up where we left off.”
He said the team will focus on situational hitting and pitching as they prepare for the new season.
“You want to be able to hit a certain way depending on where the runners are,” he said. “It’s the same thing with pitching. It’s the ability to be able to command your pitches. If you were a two-pitch guy last year, maybe try to add a third pitch this year.”
Jaksa said the team has several good returning players for the upcoming season.
“We had several guys who played really well last year, so we’re expecting them to play really well again this year,” he said. “We had John Riggs, who was a transfer from Alma last year. Andrew Burke played short-stop, so he’ll probably play second base. He’ll probably play both. He hadn’t played a lot until last year.”
All returners are expected to play well this season, Jaksa said.
“They’re battle tested – they’ve been through it,” he said. “If they play well, then the rest of the guys will fall in line.”
Thomas Loftus, a sophomore outfielder, said he looks forward to “getting back out there.”
“We ended on a hot streak last year, so we’re ready to keep that going this season,” he said. “The biggest thing we need to work on is winning close games. We lost a lot of close games last year, so hopefully we can be the ones winning them this year.”
Gerrit Eding, a senior catcher and infielder, said he plans on working on consistency for his last season with the team.
“For me personally, I’m working on staying consistent with the bat,” he said. “Once I get on base, I can use my speed to score runs.”
Eding said his teammates have become his close friends, and he enjoyed seeing the program grow once Jaksa took over last season.
“We’ve seen the program go up as the years go on, and we’re very grateful to have Coach Jaksa here,” he said. “He’s brought a very good perspective to our team and a lot of maturity. I’m just really happy to have him here, and I’m looking forward to the start of the year.”
For Eding, the luncheon helped the players and the fans get ready for the new season.
“It’s extremely important to grab as many people as we can to kick off our season,” he said. “We wear the Saginaw Valley name on our shirts, so it’s not just about the team. It’s about the university and the community.”