FEATURE from Cougar Tracks Magazine: Overcoming the GRIND

Houston Baseball excels on and off the field

June 17, 2013

Houston Baseball continues to excel on and off the field
by: Allison McClain

It’s 9 a.m. and his alarm sounds to the playing of his walkup song “Texas Kind of Way” by Cody Johnson Band.

A deep breath and a sigh of relief as another day is here, sophomore accounting major Ryan Vruggink prepares for his typical in-season non-gameday as a student-athlete.

9 a.m.
Wakeup Call

10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Accounting Class

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Lunch Break

12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Proactive meetings with the coaching or academic support staffs

1:30 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Homework/Study session before practice in clubhouse

2:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Baseball practice & weights session

6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Dinner with his teammates

8 p.m. – 11:30 p.m.
Homework/Study at apartment; sleep
Everyday is different, but everyday has a purpose when you are a collegiate student-athlete. A typical non-gameday quickly rolls into GAMEDAY at COUGAR FIELD for he Houston native.
9 a.m.
Wakeup Call

10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Business Stats Class

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Lunch Break

1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Intro to Marketing Class

2:45 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
Fungo Golf or hacky sack with pitching teammates at Cougar Field

3:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Pregame meal in clubhouse



4:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.

11 p.m.
Leaves stadium following the win; heads home

It begins with motivation and it continues with the desire to make the most out of your student-athlete experience. Finding a way to overcome the inevitable obstacle of a long season, while maintaining motivation in the classroom becomes an important part of the daily plan.

College Baseball. You are guaranteed 55 games a season over the course of a five-month span, which doesn’t even include the G.R.I.N.D. of the offseason and the hopes for a magical run in the postseason. The New Year begins as soon as the last pitch is thrown the previous season and that is what makes this game so exciting.

It began back in June for Houston Baseball when voluntary workouts were offered. The wear and tear both mentally and physically continued during the fall as Houston Baseball players began their quest to make the most out of their student-athlete experience.

From practices to workouts to study hall to mental training sessions, the Cougars exemplified the meaning behind what it takes to be successful both on and off the diamond.

“It’s all about balancing your time at this level,” sophomore pitcher Vruggink said. “We are given the resources and provided the best opportunities to become the best student-athletes we can be. Our days are long and sometimes tiring, but to know, we get to wake back up, work at earning a degree and play baseball, the game we all love, makes it all worth it in the end.”  

When third-year head coach Todd Whitting took over the program three years ago, he had goals in mind. As a leader, he immediately instilled the importance of growing in the classroom and becoming more competitive on the baseball field for his student-athletes.  

The Cougars once again faced the G.R.I.N.D. in the classroom as they notched their fifth straight semester with a 3.0 team-GPA or better since Whitting took over the program prior to the 2011 season.

Adding to that feat was the program-best 3.17 GPA during the 2012 fall semester with 27 Cougars honored with a 3.0 grade-point average or better. 10 were named to the Dean’s List with a 3.5 or higher and sophomores Ryan Vruggink and Logan Piper recorded a 4.0.

"I am extremely proud of the continued academic success of our team,” Whitting said. “Both the players and staff continue to raise the bar both on and off the field for Houston Baseball and I appreciate the hard work put in by all involved. We recruit committed student-athletes, who seek excellence in everything they do.”

The team accomplishments continued into the spring semester when Houston Baseball notched its best 25-game start since 1989 when the Cougars opened with a 21-4 record and broke into the Top 25 national rankings for the first time since 2006.

Whitting and his staff of Trip Couch, Frank Anderson and Ryan Shotzberger did this with a lineup that featured at least four to seven freshmen each game. The team continued its success down the stretch—notching win No. 30 for the first time since 2008 following a road series win at Tulane. The season continued and it didn’t stop there.

From day one when these Cougars stepped on campus, Assistant ACE Director Lori Selzer and the academic support staff provided the team with the necessary resources and guidance to build on the academic mission of the program.

“The open line communication our staff has with the baseball coaching staff is a luxury and makes my job so much easier,” Selzer said. “Coach Frank Anderson, who is responsible for academics with me, is available at any time of the day to help with academic issues as they arise. What ultimately leads to the success of the baseball program is the follow through and the commitment towards achieving not only athletically, but academically as well.”

In late April, Houston student-athletes were named to the C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll. Of the 162 honored, Houston Baseball led the way with 25 student-athletes recognized.

Junior catcher Caleb Barker and freshman first baseman Justin Montemayor went on to earn C-USA Academic Medal honors, which recognizes those student-athletes who possess a 3.75 GPA or higher during the 2012-13 academic year. Among the successes, senior Austin Pruitt walked the stage in May to receive his undergraduate degree from the University of Houston.

With another academic year down and one to look forward too, Vruggink and his teammates close the classroom books, take one look at each other and say, “It’s time to GRIND – Get.Ready.It’s.A.New.Day.”

(written late May; published in June issue of Cougar Tracks)


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