In baseball, there’s an unwritten rule — not so much a rule, but a mantra players live by.
It’s a cliché really, but every athlete spouts the same words.
“There’s always room for improvement.”
That’s the core belief Emerald Ridge High starter Nate Packard clings to as he ventures into the summer club baseball season. The Jaguar ace is using his time now with the 18U Puyallup Knights to hone, craft, polish and tweak his game all in an effort to get better.
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It’s a determination built from not letting small setbacks overtake the progression of moving forward.
Take for example the loss he suffered June 18 when his team fell to the Rush, 6-4, at Minnitti Field in Tacoma.
“The little things really show in games like that,” Packard said at the Tacoma Community College Tournament. “The little things are what make things go right for a (pitcher) … you have to think like that, that there’s always room to improve.”
In that start, Packard couldn’t get his off-speed pitches over consistently and forced his fastball to be his primary weapon. He knew before the game that something wasn’t right.
But being a competitor, it’s about going out there and doing what you can for your team.
“I use the bullpen (sessions) to see what’s working at the time,” Packard said. “I didn’t have the feel on my (breaking ball) and my fastball didn’t have the movement I wanted. It came down to me falling behind guys and giving them something to hit.”
The spring and summer seasons have been tough for Packard. It’s been a trying time finding some consistency for the Emerald Ridge ace. It’s been a problem coach Larry Marshall has been trying to fix.
“The thing about Nate is that he hasn’t had a consistent schedule to go off of since (spring),” Marshall said. “He’s had start with 12 to 14 days of rest between starts. That hurts a player when you don’t see game action in that long (of a period).”
The hope Marshall had for his starter is to find himself out on the mound, and the best way to do that is to get Packard out there as often he can. It’s a desire Packard shares as well.
“Hopefully we can finish strong,” Packard said. “Getting better (overall) and better as a team — that’s the goal I want.”
That desire has helped produce results as the Knights won the San Diego 18U Fourth of July Baseball Classic on Sunday.
Packard was tough on the mound in the finals of the tournament. He only needed 111 pitches to finish with eight innings, seven strikeouts and two earned runs with one walk. Packard also had the walk-off hit in the semifinals that sent the Knights to the championship.
“All I care about is to be the best player I can be,” Packard said.
Long in the ways of looking ahead, short in the ones looking at what’s in the rear. It’s about getting to where Packard wants to go.
After all, there’s always room for improvement.