At 4 p.m. Monday, Will Bryant and Keira Fitzgerald were in gymnasiums separated by nearly 25 miles. Bryant is a baseball pitcher at Greely High. Fitzgerald is a softball catcher at Thornton Academy.

Their seasons had officially begun.

“I look forward to this day every year,” Bryant said. “A month in advance, I’m counting down the days.”

So what if it was 30 degrees and their diamonds are still blanketed by snow. The calendar said it was the first day of practice for high school pitchers and catchers. Position players will report next Monday.

“It does feel like softball season, at least in the heart, because I’m ready for it,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s been a long time to be away from all the girls on the team and I’m excited to get going.”

Originally created as a means for pitchers to gradually build arm strength in hopes of avoiding injury, pitchers-and-catchers week is now more about fine-tuning and mental preparedness.


“It gives us an extra week of preparation,” Thornton softball coach John Provost said. “The majority of these kids are doing something in the offseason to get ready. Everyone’s a little different, but for the kids who throw all winter, they’ll throw 100 percent.”

Greely baseball coach Derek Soule said he sees visual proof of how offseason training opportunities have changed the opening week of practice since his first experience as a sophomore at Greely in 1989.

“There were a lot more balls flying into the bleachers when I was a player,” Soule said.

Thornton senior Bailey Tremblay already looked sharp Monday with her assortment of pitches. The top returning pitcher in the SMAA, Tremblay has posted a 25-7 regular-season record the past two seasons. She added three regional tournament wins last year, including a 2-1 three-hitter against Scarborough as Thornton captured its first Western Class A title.

“I throw every day (during the offseason), about 45 minutes,” she said. “This is more about getting back into things, throwing full motion, working with my coaches, getting used to that mental part. It’s more of a mental week than anything.”

Still, building a strong pitching staff is worth an extra week of work. Greely proved that last season.


The Rangers’ deep staff finished the 2014 season with 40 consecutive scoreless innings, capped by Connor Russell’s 1-0 win in the Class B state championship game.

But five of the top six pitchers have graduated. Bailey Train is playing at the University of Massachusetts, Russell has already made three appearances for Bates, and Michael McDevitt now plays basketball at Franklin Pierce.

That leaves Bryant as the ace. Considering he went 5-1 last year with a 0.71 ERA and 55 strikeouts in 391/3 innings – including a 20-strikeout game against Freeport – he is up for the task.

“I think I’m ready,” Bryant said. “The guys ahead of me the last couple years have prepared me. The guys behind me are ready to step up. They’ve been waiting their turn and developing their stuff.”

Soule, beginning his 16th season as the varsity coach, expects Bryant to increase his workload.

“I think I’m ready mechanically,” the 6-foot-2 right-hander said. “I just need to get ready mentally to take on the workload and lead the team and throw as many innings as I can.”

That doesn’t mean the preseason routine will change for him or any of Greely’s pitchers. The focus will be on warming up properly, working on what Soule termed “form throwing,” and developing proper mechanics.

The week isn’t only about pitchers, pointed out Greely sophomore catcher Dylan Fried, who got some varsity experience as a freshman.

“I’ve worked with a bunch of these guys before, so I know a lot of their tendencies,” Fried said. “I can work on the small things, things like my glove work, framing it to make each pitch look like a strike.”

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