Baseball at Mount St. Joe is an institution, with a long and storied history. Over the past few years, the record for the varsity squad has not been as good as expected, but things might be turning around this coming season. Last year, the varsity squad finished just shy of the playoffs, ending with a deceptively solid 11-16 record. Although they ended with this losing record, there were some very well played games, including their defeat of Spalding in a tight 3-2 contest. Coach Rod Cameron was the head coach of the baseball program until this season, having a very productive and successful run as an assistant coach, and also as head coach. While he may not have won a championship as a head coach, he set up a team with great players and strategies to get the job done correctly. The man that was chosen to follow Coach Cameron, Coach Phil Kraska, has been coaching at the Mount for 10 years, assisting the varsity team as well as previously serving as the head coach for the JV team. Before that, Kraska won an MIAA Championship as a player as part of the 2004 Varsity team.
Coach Kraska has big plans for this season. He hopes to turn the program around and bring it back to its winning ways through rigorous offseason training and dedication. “We are doing a strength training program, trying to get our athletes stronger,” said Coach Kraska, “so that when we get to tryouts in February everyone is in shape and ready for the season.” Another issue that has plagued the Gaels are injuries, and this is something that Kraska hopes will be reduced, if not eliminated, through this offseason training.
Coach Kraska is very well-suited for the job as head coach, because he played for three fantastic coaches while attending the Mount. “I’ve played for Mr. Norton, Mr. Harris, and Mr. Cameron. They helped me while I was a player, and have helped me form my own coaching style,” he reminisced. All three of these coaches did great things at Mount Saint Joseph, and there is much to look forward to if Coach Kraska will be modeling his style from the experiences he had with his former coaches.
Another positive for the team this year is the incoming talent. Many of the rising juniors hope to make a great difference to the team. One of the names to watch out for is Matt McManus, who was dominant on the mound last season for JV, even throwing a no-hitter against McDonogh. Another player that could drastically change the game is Michael Marsh, a clutch player at the plate who led the JV team in home runs last season. Many of the players returning to the varsity team, including Justin Looney and Connor Rudel, will be the driving force of the offense.
When asked if there were any schools in particular that he would be looking forward to facing, Coach Kraska said, “Everyone! People will have a picture of what we were last year in their minds. We are going to come out and take them by surprise.” This is another great insight into how this team will be playing this year. With a new coach and new talent, there is a definite excitement for the upcoming season.
There are many new elements in the baseball program this season, and they could turn out to be extremely beneficial. Although the team did not perform to their full potential last year, there is much room to grow and a whole lot to build off of. Coach Cameron left Coach Kraska in a very good place to start for next year. Coach Kraska, as well as the whole school, hopes all of the offseason work and preparation translates into success on the field when March rolls around.