COLUMBIA — Tolton Catholic baseball players might be getting more than they bargained for during the school’s first varsity baseball season.
That’s because every player will pitch for the Trailblazers, who currently have only 12 members on their roster.
"Everyone will throw," coach Mike Johnson said. "I can't imagine everyone not pitching at least once this year."
Last year, two Tolton students played on a team with Calvary Lutheran in Jefferson City.
"It's been a great partnership," said athletic director Chad Masters of Tolton's cooperative team with Calvary. "We wanted to use the co-op to springboard into both of our programs."
A lack of players restricted Tolton from fielding their own baseball team last season. This year they have enough players to fill every spot on the diamond – barely.
Only one player on the Calvary-Tolton team last season, sophomore infielder Jon Steinmetz, will be able to play for Tolton in the foreseeable future. Junior outfielder Lane Reddick is out indefinitely after having shoulder surgery two weeks ago.
"Lane could have been one of our best outfielders," Johnson said. "We're really lacking outfielders."
While the Trailblazers’ small numbers will force Johnson into juggling his roster, he says neither he nor his players are shying away from challenges the long season may pose.
"They're not afraid," Johnson said. "We'll have freshmen and sophomores going up against upperclassmen pitchers that throw over 80 [mph]. It'll be tough, but they won't be afraid."
Johnson estimates that fewer than half of his players have significant experience pitching. They will soon, though.
"It's cool," Johnson said. "For kids that maybe played in pee-wee and stopped in fifth grade but have a good arm, they can say, 'I pitched in high school.' Maybe it's only for one inning, and maybe they can't hit the broad side of a barn, but they can give it a shot."
In addition, Johnson says at least two of his players will be splitting the spring sports season between baseball and track. This could leave the Trailblazers baseball squad with only 10 players during some games. Despite this possibility, Johnson fully endorses his players participating in other sports.
"I don't ever want to tell a kid that he has to choose between baseball and track," Johnson said. "That's counterproductive to building athletes."
Tolton Catholic opens the season March 15 at the Old Settlement tournament in Ste. Genevieve.