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By Tommy Mumau │ Utica Blue Sox Media Relations Assistant
The world is currently facing unprecedented times in all aspects of life, including professional sports. In March, Major League Baseball made the decision to suspend play, and during the hiatus, players continued to prepare for the 2020 season. Former Blue Sox players Louie Varland and Mitch Calandra have been working over the past three months to ensure that they are in baseball shape when the sport returns.
Louie Varland is a pitcher in the Minnesota Twins organization, and he is currently assigned to the Rookie Advanced level Elizabethton Twins. Prior to being drafted in 2019, the right-hander was a member of the 2017 Utica Blue Sox. Varland had a successful opening stint in professional baseball, posting a 2.08 ERA in his first three contests.
Entering his second professional season in 2020, Varland was in the midst of his first spring training when Major League Baseball made the decision to suspend play. The hurler felt that he was progressing well through camp, particularly noting his high velocity. Varland and his club were about to begin scrimmaging when the postponement was announced.
While it was difficult to have his first spring training cut short, Varland still had an enjoyable experience at Twins camp. The right-hander had the opportunity to talk shop with a couple of big-league pitchers, in the Twins’ Devin Smeltzer and Randy Dobnak. Dobnak was the Twins starting pitcher in game two of the 2019 ALDS, when he faced the New York Yankees.
Since the season was delayed, Varland has been working to keep himself in baseball shape by throwing, as well as performing conditioning drills. Varland’s routine consists of two 35-pitch bullpen sessions each week, as well as live batting practice to hitters. Along with keeping his arm in shape, he also regularly lifts weights and runs sprints. Varland has been maintaining this routine since the shutdown, to ensure that he is prepared to pitch when Minor League Baseball gets the nod to return.
“I am still trying to get my work in and improve, and I just want to be ready when I get the call that the season will start,” Varland said. “I want to be as prepared as I can for the start of the season.”
Another former Blue Sox player that has been preparing for this upcoming season is catcher Mitch Calandra. Calandra was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2019, and he is currently assigned to the Rookie Advanced level Danville Braves.
Calandra also had his first spring training interrupted in March, when Major League Baseball suspended play. The backstop enjoyed his time in camp and feels that he benefited from the experience despite it being cut short.
“The environment was great. We got a lot of work done,” Calandra said. “I feel like I learned a lot, even in just three weeks. I’m excited to go back to another spring training.”
After the suspension of the season, Calandra took advantage of the time off by spending time with friends and family. He has also taken the time to continue to work on his craft, while ensuring that he was ready to play, whenever the sport made the decision to return. His routine consists of throwing, hitting, lifting weights and running sprints. Calandra says that his specific routine varies from day-to-day, based on what he feels is necessary to stay in shape. The catcher says that he is preparing to play whenever the season resumes.
“I’ve been treating it as if they called me today, I’d be ready to play in a game tomorrow. I’ve been trying to stay in the mindset of — tomorrow I have a game,” Calandra said.
While Major League Baseball has announced a plan to return in late July, the league cancelled Minor League Baseball in 2020.