HARTLAND — Long before dawn broke Tuesday, the Hartland baseball team was back to work.
Tuesday was the first day of four-player workouts for the Eagles as they set about the business of preparing to defend their state baseball title in the auxiliary gym at Hartland High School.
Despite outdoor temperatures in the single digits, coach Brian Morrison was in shorts and, coffee in hand, looking forward to the process.
“You show up and work hard at 6 a.m. and you hope it pays off when the season starts because of the work and time you’ve put into it,” he said. “These kids are great. They work hard and put the time into it. hopefully they get rewarded with having a nice season.”
Players arrived, four at a time, for hitting inside the cages at the gym.
“We’re just getting the cobwebs out the first couple weeks,” Morrison said, “and then fine-tuning things people might need to work on. Giving them the time to do that.”
For Thomas Rivet, whose single in the 10th set up the winning run in last June’s championship game, the workouts marked a milestone in his recovery from a knee injury he sustained two weeks after winning the title.
“I want to get stronger, get my legs back in shape, get back to where I was,” he said.
Still, he admitted, the predawn alarm was a jolt.
“I was not ready for that,” he said, grinning.
Jack Slavin, who played center field most of last season, had no such qualms.
“When I heard it, I was actually pretty happy to get to come in and hit some baseballs before I go to school,” he said. “I look forward to baseball season all year long, and it’s finally here.”
While Morrison shut down his team’s four-man workouts in October, Slavin went back to baseball the week after the Hartland football season ended.
“It’s been about a week,” he said, asked about the last time he swung a bat. “I’ve been going to baseball camps down south. It’s good to be back.”
Morrison and his coaches will be busy before dawn for the next two months, when full team workouts begin. On Tuesday, he was wearing his state championship ring, a statement of what his team accomplished and what is possible for a team that lost only four seniors, two of them starters.
“We won the championship in 2015, and it’s 2016,” he said. “Anything we did in 2015 isn’t going to help us now, so we have to get to work.”
That said, the memories from last June are still fresh.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to it this year,” Rivet said.
“It would be nice to do what we did last year,” Slavin said, “but we have to start fresh and work harder to get to that point.”
Morrison, who has joked that 2015 was both his best and his worst season (16 losses) as a coach at Hartland, was in midseason form Tuesday morning.
“We’re going to try not to lose as much this year,” he said, then smiled and walked over to another part of the gym, next season already under way.