The baseball team faces an arduous schedule to start out 2019.
The squad kicks off its season Feb. 15 on the road against Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Over the next 10 days, the Mavericks will play nine games.
The Mavericks’ first 25 games of the season feature 17 matchups away from home. That stretch includes long trips to face Seattle University in Seattle and Georgia State University in Atlanta.
“Guys are gonna figure out very early, you gotta get in, you gotta go to sleep because it’s a long, long season,” junior infielder Josh Minjarez said. “If you’re not prepared for it, you’ll be tired by April. It can wear you down.”
The San Angelo native is familiar with the routine of college baseball. Minjarez is set to start his fourth season at UTA. It will be his third as the team’s starting shortstop, the three seasons separated by his redshirted 2017 season.
Minjarez and the Mavericks will fly to Seattle and Atlanta, along with a flight later in the season to Boone, North Carolina, to face conference foe Appalachian State University.
The team will also fly to the Sun Belt Conference tournament in Conway, South Carolina.
The Mavericks will bus to all other road games, the furthest of which are in Monroe, Louisiana, and Jonesboro, Arkansas.
The task of planning the team’s schedule falls upon the coaching staff. Head coach Darin Thomas is in charge of reaching out to opposing programs and hammering out a schedule that works for both sides. The flight schedule is put together by volunteer coach Joel Bocchi.
And just as the coaches have duties outside the lines, the players have student life to keep up with.
“It takes some planning, and it takes our guys communicating with instructors, getting ahead in the classroom before they leave,” Thomas said.
On a team with nine freshmen, the presence of upperclassmen in the clubhouse will help to get younger players ready for the grind that is the college baseball season.
“I’m trying to show them the ropes, show them how to do the right things, how to work hard, practice and games,” Minjarez said. “It’s not just on the field, it’s communicating with guys off the field. Making them feel involved.”
Minjarez enters 2019 second on the Mavericks’ active roster in games played at 118 games. First on that list is senior catcher Will Olson with 124 games played.
Olson will also be looked upon to help steer the Mavericks through the first few weeks of the season.
While the travel schedule can be rigorous and the games can be a battle, both Minjarez and Olson agree that life on the road can often be one of the most enjoyable parts of baseball.
“To me, traveling’s the best part,” Olson said about the road trips. “That’s when you really get that bond as a team.”
The Mavericks’ schedule does even out in the back half of the season, with a lengthy stay between March 26 and April 9 where the team doesn’t have to leave the Metroplex. Opening night at Clay Gould Ballpark is Feb. 20 against the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
After that, the team will host the 2019 UTA Classic tournament on the weekend of Feb. 22 before the road schedule ramps up heading into March.
But it’s not all bad. Minjarez says the bus rides provide a good time for the team.
“People will be quiet when it’s time to be quiet and get focused on the game,” he said. “But the long bus trips on travel days, it’s a good time to just hang out, talk to your buddies, get closer to somebody you’re not usually being close with.”