By Ben Fink, Reporter
October is king in the world of Major League Baseball, but high schoolers don’t have the luxury to spend the season in the stands either. They also have to be out on the baseball field. Autumn can be the most influential time in the life of high school baseball players as they prepare for the upcoming season and potential college playing opportunities.
For juniors Gage Juhlin and Noah Miranda, the fall ball season is spent practicing every day. The school baseball program is currently out of season until March so some of these players gear up while the trees are turning color. The school coaches have no affiliation with the fall ball programs offered around the state.
Juhlin plays on the Nebraska Prospects team as a catcher for a primary position, and 3rd base for a backup position.
“I love being the catcher because you can pretty much control the game. Pitch calling, play calling, and defense. They are all in your hands,” Juhlin said.
Catcher is a very tough position that requires a lot of skill and physical wear and tear.
“I like catcher better because I’ve caught since I started playing baseball and I get more action in that position,” Miranda said.
Coincidentally, Miranda also plays the same position as Juhlin. These two competitors don’t play on the same team. Occasionally they see each other at tournaments but have never matched up against one another.
However, neither of these players are guaranteed these positions. Not only are they competing with other players for highly contended spots, but they are also competing against their friends.
The competition is 50/50 because it is a select team where players have to make the team, but everyone also has to pay to be able to play.
“Usually the competition is very equal, but often times the better players do get to play more which I feel is what should happen,” Juhlin said.
Juhlin plays with one of his best friends from the high school team junior Tanner Black. This is the second year the two have been on the same team.
Miranda also plays with one of his close friends junior Jack Gernandt, but they don’t go to the same school. Gernandt attends D.C. West High School. Even though the two are best friends, when on the baseball field, they are very competitive.
“Its is a lot more fun competing with one of my best friends because so many more lasting memories are made, and sometimes we can even joke around with one another about an error one of us had made in the past,” Miranda said.
Sometimes being close friends with teammates makes things difficult for Miranda, Gernandt,and even the rest of the team after a long weekend of baseball or a loss.
“Tempers can run high and an argument may even break out, but at the end of the day we always realize we are all just friends who care about each other,” Miranda said.
Both Juhlin and Miranda have tournaments every weekend and a game or two every week during the fall season.
“It is a lot of baseball in a short period of time, but it helps me stay in shape, and it helps my mind always be mentally prepared for the situations that arise,” Juhlin said.
“Playing this amount of baseball has made me a way better player because I am always getting work in. The more you play, the better you get,” Miranda said. “It also exposes me to college pitching which will help me tremendously for the future.”
Miranda, who hopes to someday play at Iowa Western, doesn’t just play fall ball to get better and have fun.
Playing fall ball exposes players like Miranda and Juhlin to college scouts all throughout the nation. This includes D3, D2, and even D1 college baseball scouts. This is a huge benefit because this is really the only time that both Juhlin and Miranda get in front of college scouts. When the two are playing school baseball, college scouts rarely make an appearance. This is because that all of the games and tournaments are played in Nebraska. If scouts wanted to take a look at one of these players during the school season, they would have to travel here.
Juhlin and Miranda don’t mind the fact that college scouts don’t typically come to their high school baseball games though. This takes a lot of pressure off of them to perform their best.
“When you see all the scouts in the stands, it can sometimes make me a little nervous, but usually I think that someday I could be playing for them which motivates me to play my best ball,” Juhlin said.
In October at the 2017 WWBA World Championship in Fort Myers Florida, there were as many as 16 D1 scouts in the stands watching Juhlin play.
“It was pretty cool to get the opportunity to play in front of them,” Juhlin said, “Maybe I can make one of their college teams some day.”