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    Hear It From a Student - Baseball Practice Begins

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    The calendar read Jan. 27, but the weather resembled that of a mild April day as Notre Dame held its first baseball practice in preparation for the 2012 season. Beneath sunny South Bend skies and temperatures surpassing 40 degrees with no snow on the ground, the Irish held part of their practice outside of the Loftus Indoor Sports Complex.

    The outfielders used the field-turf surface of the football practice fields to shag fly balls and perform other drills.

    Meanwhile, the majority of the practice occurred inside Loftus, where the Irish will prepare for their season once the South Bend winter returns. Notre Dame opens its season with the Big Ten/Big East Challenge against Illinois on Feb.17 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

    "The biggest challenge [of practicing in Loftus] is using your imagination to project where a ball would have been hit," second-year Irish coach Mik Aoki said. "It's a big adjustment for our outfielders but doesn't really make a difference for our infielders and pitchers."

    Despite the disadvantages that come with practicing indoors, Aoki believes the Notre Dame baseball program possesses the resources to adapt to and succeed in the South Bend climate.

    "To succeed in a northern climate, [your program] needs strong indoor facilities, which we have in Loftus and our indoor batting cages," Aoki said.

    He also described how Notre Dame baseball has key financial backing to travel south for a month of games early in the season. In addition, Aoki stressed the importance of Notre Dame's support personnel who help the baseball student-athletes develop both physically and mentally.

    The Irish look to improve on a 23-29-1 record from the 2011 season, which ended with two losses to Big East regular-season champion and NCAA Super Regional qualifier Connecticut in the conference tournament.

    However, the team enters this season with much youth on its roster, as 13 out of the 32 players are freshmen.

    Yet, Aoki has been encouraged by the team's approach to this upcoming season as he believes they have brought a strong focus and all understand expectations.

    "The energy we bring to practice and lifting along with the tempo at which we work is much improved compared to the start of last season," Aoki said.

    - Matt Unger ('14)

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