New look for Bull­dogs in 2018 base­ball sea­son

Westside Eagle-Observer - - SPORTS - MIKE ECKELS meck­

DE­CATUR — It is of­ten called “The Na­tional Pas­time.” And soon pro­fes­sional, col­lege, high school, lit­tle league, and T-ball ath­letes from across the coun­try will take to the di­a­mond to par­tic­i­pate in the game of base­ball. Join­ing their fel­low base­ball play­ers will be the De­catur Bull­dogs, who will con­tinue the rich tra­di­tion of De­catur base­ball that dates back more than 50 years.

Coach Ja­son Porter spent much of the off-sea­son re­cruit­ing new play­ers and hon­ing his vet­eran play­ers’ base­ball skills. He ad­mits that this year is go­ing to be tough with the loss of sev­eral of his key play­ers, like Ryan Shaf­fer, Leng Lee and Jay Porter.

Jay was not only the top pitcher for the Bull­dog pro­gram but also the team leader.

“I will ad­mit that los­ing Jay to grad­u­a­tion last May was a hard thing to deal with for both me and the team,” said Porter. “But we are work­ing through it, and the amaz­ing part is that there are a few guys that are step­ping into Jay’s role and will be the driv­ing force be­hind our suc­cess this sea­son.”

One player that Porter will de­pend on is Adam Gar­cia who took over as the Bull­dogs’ third base­man last sea­son as a fresh­man. Porter is look­ing to Gar­cia to take over the lead­er­ship role where Jay left off.

“Adam is go­ing to have to be a true leader in ev­ery sense of the word,” Porter said. “He will have to lead us on the field, as well as mak­ing de­ci­sions under pressure, and also help the younger play­ers un­der­stand the game. As far as the team find­ing its iden­tity, Adam will have a piv­otal role in this area.”

The Bull­dogs will be a young team with four sopho­mores and six fresh­men, most of whom have never played the game.

“The fresh­men I have this year will be thrown into the fire, so to speak,” said Porter. “They are go­ing to have to fig­ure it out (the game) in a hurry and a lot of them have al­ready. They showed up for off-sea­son prac­tices, getting in there and swing­ing the bat and run­ning down the ball and ev­ery­thing they need to do to play this game.”

The two se­niors, Tay­lor Hais­man and Alex Lee, along with ju­niors Austin Hamil­ton and Jimmy Men­doza, make up the re­main­ing spots on the ros­ter this sea­son. They will be called upon to use their ath­letic skills and abil­i­ties to make quick de­ci­sions on the fly to help pro­pel the team forward.

On the mound, the Bull­dogs will have four pitch­ers, Adam Gar­cia, Bryan Ward, Austin Hamil­ton and Keven Gar­cia, all with strong arms.

“Adam, Bryan, Austin and Kevin will all throw for us this year,” Porter said. “Bryan pitched for us last sea­son and he and Adam prob­a­bly have the strong­est arms of the four. But as Austin and Kevin get more time on the mound, I feel their abil­i­ties will grow, giv­ing a stronger pitch­ing staff in the com­ing years.”

The Bull­dogs will host the 1A North­west Dis­trict tour­na­ment at Ed­mis­ton Park on April 26. The last time the Bull­dogs hosted a base­ball dis­trict tour­na­ment was in the early 1980s.

“Host­ing the tour­na­ment is kind of a big deal for our com­mu­nity,” said Porter. “A lot of things have to be done to the ball field to get it ready for the tour­na­ment. For­tu­nately, we have Mayor Bob Tharp and the city’s main­te­nance crew who have pledged their sup­port for this project. This will be a big boost for the town’s lo­cal econ­omy as well as all the base­ball pro­grams in the De­catur area, and we ap­pre­ci­ate any help from the com­mu­nity.”

The Bull­dogs opened their sea­son at Watts, Okla., on March 5.

For a com­plete De­catur base­ball sched­ule, go to de­­letic/ base­ball.

West­side Ea­gle Ob­server/MIKE ECKELS

Adam Gar­cia tries to pick off an Omaha run­ner at third base dur­ing the April 7, 2017, De­catur-Omaha game in De­catur. Gar­cia will take over as team leader this sea­son from Jay Porter, who grad­u­ated last year.

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