The shine is gone on Emerald Ridge High baseball a year after second-year coach Larry Marshall took over the program.
Gone is the get-to-know-you stage as players are now required more than ever to put to test an offseason of work and make a run at dethroning Puyallup High from the SPSL South’s perch.
It’s time for the Jaguars to go to phase 2.
“This year, we’re entering phase 2 of what we wanted to do for Emerald Ridge as a program,” Marshall said. “We are going to implement the second — and really the third — phases of our program this season.”
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The second phase has already taken shape at Emerald Ridge practices. It’s seen with the effort put forward in getting the little details right, the ability to not rest on the skills already developed. It’s about creating a competitive team year-round.
This year is different than past seasons — there’s more focus from the junior varsity to the big squad. There’s a new, positive attitude taking hold.
“It’s definitely different coming into this season than in year’s past,” captain Chad Gideon said. “The practices are more focused, everyone is always working on improving … it’s great to see younger players look up to you and ask you questions on how they can get better. It’s definitely moving us in the right direction.”
Phase 1 for Emerald Ridge was simple: Create a new environment while pushing Emerald Ridge baseball harder than it has pushed before.
That was only the first step in a three-step process for Marshall, who began his career coaching at Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma back in 1976. With 40 years of coaching under his belt, Marshall knows how to turn a program around.
“When I first came here, I wanted the leadership to come from the top,” Marshall said. “We had to establish trust that we know what we’re talking about that we have the player’s best interest in mind.”
This season, Marshall stepped down from that leadership role and established captains for the first time with juniors Chad Gideon and Nate Packard and senior Griffin Meyers.
After a season of coaching these three players, Marshall is sure he’s put the team in the right hands.
“It’s the first time I chose captains for a team … I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think they weren’t up for it,” he said.
“(Right now) we’re trying to get the best out of the players in and out of the classroom,” Packard said. “If you take care and get outs, the game will take care of itself. Just play to the best of your abilities and the game will take care of itself.”
Stuck in the middle
No player on Emerald Ridge has more responsibility than Meyers as he’s the lone senior set to see significant action out in the field.
Not only is his leadership required as a captain and senior, it’s going to be needed during games as Meyers will be plugged in between sophomores at second and third base.
“As long as I communicate with them, I’m sure they’ll be fine once the games start,” Meyers said. “They look good from what I’ve seen so far.”
Looking good is what both sophomores DaShawn Johnson (third base) and Matt Benjamin have done, making the tough plays on defense. Those are the plays that should have Meyers getting a good night’s sleep.
“Defensively, they look good and are coming along nicely,” Marshall said. “It’s good that we have Griffin there to kind of guide them a little bit. We’re hoping after his season playing quarterback that he’ll take that and continue being a leader for this team.”
Always one of the hardest workers on any team he’s been a part of, Meyers will lead by example and with a young Emerald Ridge team. Good impressions are hard not to emulate.
“I see a lot of hungry players out here,” Meyers said. “It’s good to see that. I believe we can have a great season.”