By Mandy Bell, GoPSUSports.com
student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - After picking up their first two wins of the season last weekend, the Nittany Lions are preparing for a stretch of seven games in The Golden State.
With baseball season opening in February, Penn State typically begins each season on the road traveling to warmer climates. After traveling to Texas and North Carolina the past two weekends, the Nittany Lions have battled the common downfalls of being away from home.
"It sure is a lot to travel so much," sophomore Conlin Hughes said. "We just have to make sure we take care of our bodies. Get ourselves some fuel during the short weeks that we have so during the long weekends won't be so bad."
"Traveling so much is something I am going to have to get used to," freshman Joe Weisenseel said. "It's also really fun to be able to travel and go around the country. I am looking forward to it, but it is a little bit hard to kind of just adjust to having to do school work on the road and then coming back and only having a few days of class."
Although the constant travel and living out of a suitcase may not seem appealing to some, the Nittany Lions have expressed that traveling is one of the highlights of the season, especially a week-long trip over spring break.
"First of all, if they aren't excited to go play, there's something wrong," Penn State head coach Rob Cooper said. "When you spend all fall and early January and February indoor practicing, you get tired of practicing and playing the game against each other. That right there is motivation alone. Second, if you look at spring break, that's a week like the rest of the students. They don't have to worry about class. They can just be baseball players for a week."
The players agree that traveling is what brings everyone together. On the bus and plane trips, the team likes to talk, sleep and download movies to watch together. Also, sharing rooms at hotels and eating together before and after games allows the team to spend all of their time together and get closer than what they would being at home.
"The thing I found a lot is that a lot growth happens within our program," Cooper said. "The guys are together for a week and when guys are together for an entire week, they bond and get closer. I am excited about that part of it."
Last year, the Nittany Lions traveled to North Carolina for spring break to play three games at UNC-Wilmington and one game at Duke. In the team's spare time, Hughes remembers having a few hours at the beach with his teammates as the highlight of his trip off the field.
This year, Penn State will be playing seven games in eight days in both Stockton, Davis and Sacramento, California, meeting Pacific, UC Davis and Sacramento State.
"I've never been this far across the country so we will see what happens," Hughes said. "It'll be busy, but hopefully we do something fun like last year. We are hoping the weather will be nice. That is what I am most looking forward to about California."
With 11 freshmen on the team, the upperclassmen have had to mentally prepare the young class as to what to expect when traveling on the road.
"I think senior Nick Riotto and fifth-year senior Christian Helsel have really shown me the ropes and taught me how we work as a program," Weisenseel said. "They have also told me things I have to look forward to on road trips like spring break and they also tell me what I need to work on as well. They have been a big help to me."
After spring break, the Nittany Lions will have kicked off the 2017 season with 14-straight games on the road. Penn State returning to Happy Valley for the home-opener just five days after arriving from California. Although the away games can build chemistry between the team, there is nothing like playing at home.
"The excitement to play in front of the 'Cooperstown Kids' in Medlar Park and play at home in front of our fans, that is something that is exciting all the time. It really is," Cooper said. "I think any time you get a chance to play at home, you know the weather is just a little bit closer to breaking. It's fun to play here. We have a true home field advantage and our guys look forward to it."
The Nittany Lions will travel to California Saturday to start a week-long stretch beginning with a three-game series against Pacific.