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Henry County’s best using each other to stay in baseball shape
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Henry County’s best using each other to stay in baseball shape

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The best baseball players in Henry County have spent the spring at Southside Park in Martinsville.

And sometimes in the batting cages at Carlisle School. A few times at Hooker Field, though they were run off there once.

If there’s a baseball field, some batting cages, or a home gym around they’ve been there. After the coronavirus pandemic shut down sports, there were no games to play or organized practices with their teams. It’s been months of doing whatever they can to be ready whenever baseball returns.

The group of players centers around Bassett graduate Nate Perry, now playing in the Houston Astros organization, fellow Bengal and PHCC graduate Christian Easley, and Trey Carter, a recent Carlisle graduate and incoming freshman at Liberty University. Other local college and high school players will often join as well. Carter’s dad, Terry, a former Minor League Baseball player himself, usually runs the practices and throws batting practice.

“It’s been really fun,” Easley said. “We have all types of conversations while being able to get better in the time we’re allowed.”

Even though the players can’t play real games, they’ve done everything they can to get better at the game. They’re usually in the cage just about every day, they sprinkle in live at-bats with Trey Carter pitching, some defensive work, and even yoga a few times a week.

Perry has stayed in daily contact with his catching and hitting coordinators with the Astros, and said the organization’s strength coaches have been good about texting every week with workouts he should be doing as well.

Perry went to Florida for spring training at the beginning of March, but was there just eight days before being given a travel itinerary to come back home while the season was shut down due to the virus.

“They told us to be by our phones, stay in shape, and be ready to come back in the next couple weeks,” he said. “They were thinking it would just kind of boil over and we would come back to playing, but as you know we’ve been home for several months now.”

In addition to meeting with the same group of guys, Perry’s been going to his uncle’s home gym working out and trying to social distance himself there.

“They just want us to continue working out, staying in shape, and use this time to better ourselves,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty good idea of what they want us working on and what to do while we’re here.”

Perry said he doesn’t worry about missing a year of play, because after spending three years in the minors he’s got a good idea of weaknesses that need his focus and what he needs to work on.

He’s thankful, too, that there are so many quality ball players in the area he can work with.

“For me it’s been good, especially in the times we do live at-bats, getting to hit off of Trey,” he said. “That’s really good because that’s the closest thing around here to what I’m going to see when I go back to playing… And when I get to catch him, same thing, I get to work on my defense.”

Carter is set to report to Liberty on Friday, and will start working with the team on Monday, bringing back a bit of normalcy after a weird spring and summer.

After missing his entire senior season of high school baseball, the two-way player said initially he was worried about missing time on the field to get better before making the leap to college baseball. But with the work he has been able to put in this summer he’s no longer too worried.

“I was definitely sad because it was my last year playing high school baseball and the competition jump from high school to college is difficult for everybody so I thought that that last season would help me in my game,” Carter said. “I was definitely sad and mad about the season getting canceled… I still workout, I hit once a day, I still do my lifting and everything. I keep my body in shape and my swing good so I think I’ll be good in the transition.”

As a member of the Martinsville Mustangs, Easley is the only one of the group who’s been able to play games this year. He admits, after three months away, there was a little rust and it took time to get back up to the tempo and speed of the game, and he got a little sore after the first night.

There were aspects of the game that took time to get used to again.

“Just coming in from live at-bats, you get a hit and you turn back and walk to the dugout. In this you have to actually run and you’ve got to use your head on what you want to do. I think that was the biggest thing,” Easley said.

All three of Easley, Perry, and Carter said the biggest frustration from the last few months has been the not knowing. Major League Baseball announced last week that there would be no minor league season in 2020, and Perry said he has no idea when he’ll be called back to work out with the Astros. Carter will be in Lynchburg starting this week, but with schools already cancelling fall sports seasons, everything regarding the NCAA for the next year is still up in the air.

Easley will be transferring to University of Maryland-Baltimore County this fall, but he also said he’s not sure exactly when he’ll be going.

If anything, though, the players will have each other and batting cages all over town to stay in as good a baseball shape as possible.

“Just not being able to know what’s going to happen in the fall is a huge cliffhanger,” Easley said. “Nobody knows exactly. College is still up in the air for returning so hopefully just being able to get as much work in as I can here, and if I have to stay I’ll just do the same thing, just being able to work with Terry and all them.”

“We’ve got a lot of quality work in this time and I can work on my stuff as much as I want to because I have nothing else to do while I’m here,” Perry said. “So it’s been a good time for me to perfect my craft.”

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

Cara Cooper is the sports editor of the Martinsville Bulletin. You can reach her at (276)638-8801 ext. 241.

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