Every player on the Rock Bridge baseball team had gone home Tuesday after practice except Ben Martin.
This isn’t unusual for Martin, a sophomore pitcher.
For 30 to 40 minutes after practice, Martin attends to his own agenda, which includes throwing extra pitches, cleaning up the bullpen or running extra laps between the foul poles.
“You always see the pro guys running poles and if they’re running, it’s obviously something that you need to do,” Martin said. “You have to have strong legs and endurance to pitch so that’s something that maintains it during the season.”
Martin is not only the last to leave, but is commonly the first player done with sprints and drills.
“He’s leading by his work ethic,” Rock Bridge coach Terry Whitney said. “As a sophomore, it’s kind of hard to really step up and vocally be a leader, but the other stuff he’s doing, he’s showing everybody that he wants the ball and that he’ll be ready to pitch when it’s his turn.”
Martin’s dedication has paid dividends in his two seasons with Rock Bridge (4-1).
Last year as a freshman, Whitney gave Martin the ball in two varsity games.
Even though he didn’t pitch as well as he would have liked, Martin quickly became a student of the game.
“I learned a lot from my first appearance against Blue Springs South,” Martin said. “They hit me pretty hard. I learned that you have to keep the ball down and you have to make pitches, hit your spots and throw breaking pitches for strikes.
“That was a big learning experience and I think that it really helped me coming into this year because I knew all that stuff already.”
Martin’s devotion carried into an intense offseason regimen that included working out with a trainer at William Woods, lifting weights and running.
“Ben wants to be a pitcher,” Whitney said. “That’s what he wants to do. He wants to pitch. I think that he has goals about pitching in college. He works at it.”
When opening day rolled around this season, Whitney named Martin the starting pitcher.
Martin has made two starts this season, the first an 11-1 win against Harrisburg and the other a 17-5 loss to Warrensburg.
“I think he needs to learn to control his emotions and energy,” Whitney said. “Sometimes it takes the best of him. He pitched really well one game and not so well the other game. I think it’s going to come with the more time he plays and the older he gets. He’s got to learn to be a pitcher and he’s doing a better job at it.”
The loss versus Warrensburg left Martin with a sour taste in his mouth.
“It was another one of those learning experiences,” Martin said. “I felt very good that game and I felt that I had all of my pitches but yet I didn’t work to the umpire. I worked to what I thought was a strike. It took a not very good outing to learn that, but I would rather learn now than when it comes to district time.”
Martin says there are still more lessons to learn and improvements to be made.
“(I need to work on) throwing my breaking balls for strikes and putting them where I want to,” Martin said.
The longer that Martin stayed to run Tuesday afternoon, the clouds turned dark and rain began to fall.
That didn’t stop him. He continued to run more laps.
“I think it will pay off,” Martin said. “I can already see it paying off. It’s made me faster, it’s made me stronger. It’s even made me throw a little harder. If it does that, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”