USF BASEBALL FIGHTS CANCER ON THE FIELD

For the second straight year, the USF Baseball team partnered up with the V.S. Cancer Foundation to shave their heads in order to raise money in support of the fight against childhood cancer.

“It’s such a great thing to do. Hopefully we make a small dent in conquering this disease someday,” said Mark Kingston, head coach of the USF Baseball team. “We’ll always want to do our part.”

It takes a lot of passion and a lot of drive to make it to the division one level, let alone be successful. The Bulls channel that same energy to give back and help others.

“We have it so good,” Kingston said. “To be able to give back to children that are battling terrible diseases like this, it’s important to gain that perspective.”

This event hits especially close to home for pitching coach Billy Mohl, who lost his wife to cancer in 2013.

“I promised my wife when she passed away that I would do something in terms of raising money for cancer research,” Mohl said. “I can think of no better way to do it than on a baseball field with all these guys.”

There were 74 other schools around the country who participated in this year’s V.S. Cancer fundraiser. The Bulls raised more than $11,000, the eighth most out of any school.

The proceeds will be split between the V.S. Cancer Foundation and Tampa General Hospital.

Baseball league creates lasting friendships for special needs children

Baseball can be more than just a sport. America’s pastime has this unique ability to bring people from all different walks of life together. This is especially true for Buddy Baseball commissioner Russ Oberbroeckling.

“My sister has a league in Illinois,” Oberbroeckling said. “ Once I saw how well that league was going up there I figured we should have this here in Tampa. We started in the fall of 2009 and we have two seasons a year, we’re just finishing up our fourteenth season.”

Based in Temple Terrace, Buddy Baseball is a non-competitive league for boys and girls with special needs. The players are each paired with a buddy that they will spend the entirety of the season with.

“For typical kids, they don’t have a lot of chances to interact with kids with special needs,” Oberbroeckling said. “But now they do. They want to volunteer their time and get to know these kids. Not only that, but when they see them out in the general public, they are a little more receptive to them.”

Thanks to Buddy Baseball, players like Zach Mueller have been given the opportunity to break down social barriers.

“I like to play baseball with my focus kids,” Mueller said.

Mueller has been involved with Buddy Baseball for its entire existence. His mother, Kim, has seen the effect the league has had on her son and his teammates.

“Once the buddies come out here, I think they see that life isn’t always about being able to run the bases like an average kid can,” she said. “I’m hoping that if at least just one buddy of the hundreds that have come through in the last 14 seasons, take away from it that life isn’t always so simple.”

This league isn’t about the results. Simply put, it’s about the memories and the experiences that will last forever.

“No matter what, win or lose,  we are baseball winners,” Mueller said.

Technology implementation helps Bulls batters to improve their performance

Hitting a round ball with a round bat might be the single most difficult thing to do in sports. Baseball players of the University of South Florida spend a lot of time in the film room before they step inside the batters box.

“We’re able to look at guys swings in practice, in games, and in intersquads,” Bulls Head Coach Mark Kingston said. “How we like to use video the most is get a good library of when a guy is really swinging it well, and when he may be struggling, and then what we can do is put those videos next to each other, and you see what the differences are.”

Assistant Coach Mike Current is the czar of the film room and helps to mold his players into complete hitters.

“I think video is a big part of the instruction process. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain something to a guy and him listen to what you’re saying and understand how to translate it into action,” Current said. “But when he can actually see what’s going on and see what you’re talking about it’s a lot easier to make adjustments.”

Technological advances have ensured that players like freshman Garrett Zech have advantages that generation before his did not.

“The work we do in the film with Coach Current has definitely helped my mechanics and ability to compete at this level,” Zech said.

When Kingston played baseball professionally, the ability to watch video was not as easy as it is today.

“They’d sometimes bring out a camera, and you could watch it or you’d see the highlights on the news that night and tape it,” Kingston said. “These days guys can get instant feedback. I think the instant feedback is really the key to how video is used these days.”

Getting social with the USF brand

Social media has never been more prevalent in college and professional sports than it is today. At the University of South Florida, Mike Farrell is the man behind the computer screen.

“A lot of it is one, developing a voice for our social channels and then two creating content that’s going to engage our fanbase,” Farrell said.

As the Director of Digital Content, Farrell is in charge of churning out vines, tweets, pictures and more across all of USF Athletics’ social media platforms every day.

“One of the things we want to do and want to push is to create stuff that is engaging, stuff that people want to consume, share, retweet and help spread the brand,” Farrell said.

One of the most important days for any athletic department each year is National Signing Day. Student athletes from all over the country officially sign with the school of their choosing. The content created by Farrell and his team made waves on a national level, including an appearance on Yahoo! Sports Dr. Saturday blog.

“This year in particular we had a couple national organizations, blogs, write about some of the things that we did,” Farrell said. “It was a lot of hard work, a lot of people put in a lot, a lot of hours for what’s really just a glorified morning. But I do think that it pays dividends in the end.”

The work Farrell puts in on a daily basis is critical to the growing online presence that is USF Athletics.

“For a large subset of our fans, if you don’t have that presence, you’re irrelevant,” Senior Associate Director of Athletics Andrew Goodrich said.

Even though Farrell is fully focused on the day-to-day task of enhancing USF Athletics’ presence online, he doesn’t lose sight of the big picture.

“When one person leaves, somebody else can come in and there’s no drop,” Farrell said. “That’s the USF brand. That’s the USF Athletics brand. That’s the USF football brand. There’s no change. That needs to be a constant.”