Jeter is going to have to wait a little while longer.
This Jeter is not the famous Yankee shortstop but rather a yellow Labrador belonging to Southern New Hampshire University third baseman Bryan Toland. The Wildwood Catholic graduate finished up his freshman year final exams about three weeks ago but the Penmen baseball club is headed to the Division II College World Series in Cary, North Carolina.
The eight-team, double- elimination event begins Sat., May 26, and concludes June 2. Southern New Hampshire produced a 38-12 record with newcomer Toland manning the hot corner and doing whatever he could to help the Penmen win ballgames.
“I’m a surfer kid and I haven’t been home since Christmas break and I miss the beach and my family and friends,” said Toland. “I miss my dog, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”
Toland, a sports management major at the Manchester school, had never experienced the types of workouts and practices that he endured in his first college season.
“It’s really like a job,” he said. “We balance our academics with weight training, practices and agility drills four to five times a week and that’s in the offseason.”
The 6-4, 220-pounder arrived at the competitive Northeast Conference 10 school only to find a half-dozen players holding gloves and hanging around third base.
“I came in not expecting anything,” said Toland. “I had a scholarship and a spot on the team but I had to prove myself.”
Toland admitted, “the first semester was tough.” He started his daily routine with 8 a.m. class and, except for short meal breaks, finished up late in the day with baseball practice.
“I got the hang of it in the second semester,” he said. “I’ve never worked so hard at baseball in my life. We were up early for weight lifting. We did indoor work and even took ground balls on the turf soccer field in 20-degree weather. But we needed that to get where we are now.”
The conference is so tough that
the Penmen didn’t qualify for the Northeast 10 tournament. Their overall record vaulted them into the east regionals.
Toland said the hours of repetition have made him a better player. “I was recruited for my bat because I was never the greatest fielder,” he said. “But we worked hard every day in every drill. We gave 100 percent while taking hundreds of swings and taking hundreds of ground balls every day.”
Toland credits his coach and teammates with helping him make the adjustments necessary for college and athletic success, especially a current sophomore who held the Penmen third base job a year ago.
“I got help from my teammates,” he said. “The guy who had the job last year showed me the ropes. He helped me with setting my feet and things like that. That’s how strong our team is as a unit.”
Despite all of the hours of hard work Toland is having the time of his baseball life for one basic reason. “We’re winning,” he said. “They say winning isn’t everything but when you’re winning everything is more enjoyable. We didn’t have much team success in high school.”
Toland and his teammates “are pumped up” for their plane trip on Thursday to North Carolina. “No one here has experienced this,” said Toland. “We’re the talk of Manchester. We’re the talk of New Hampshire. But once we get on that airplane it’ll be all focus on what we need to do.”
Toland said the three weeks since exams ended have served as a great bonding experience for the squad. “We’re basically the only people on campus,” he said. “It’s more relaxing to focus on baseball without distractions and everyone really gets to know each other.”
In early June Toland will continue his baseball education in New York’s prestigious Hamptons College League. His teammates and opponents will include Division I players.
“I’m very happy because I did all right and I know that the more experience I get the better I’ll be,” said Toland. “I did my best this year and I contributed to the team’s success.”
Reach Rossi at email@example.com