The boys of summer - 'round the clock sports
If Grif Case had to wake up 6 a.m. every morning to play baseball, it probably would not be his favorite sport.
As is, he wakes up at 6 most weekdays to lift weights with football teammates. After an hour of lifting, they hit the field for another hour, running sprints on Mondays and Thursdays. On Tuesdays and Fridays, he, and other aspiring wide receivers and corners run routes without pads.
After a half hour break, Case and other Marion High School seniors head to Marion Sports and Aquatic Center for two hours of basketball drills and scrimmages. Thankfully for Case and senior teammate, Zach Robson, not much running is involved.
Case then goes home and takes a lengthy nap, unless he has a mowing job. Robson is more apt to do yard work or landscaping around his home.
At about 4:30 p.m., both are likely to be on a baseball diamond, whether for a game or for practice with the Marion recreation team.
Both Case and Robson are competing in summer leagues for their preferred sport. Sports is an all consuming passion for them in the summer.
Case also plays for a traveling baseball team out of Hutchinson. This past week he played in a weekend tournament in Enid, Okla. and a Thursday doubleheader in Salina. On June 11, he played a doubleheader in Lyons. Some weeks during the summer, he can play as many as eight games, pitching at least twice.
“Your arm is pretty tired after a week like that,” Case said.
With the Marion Rec team, Case will travel as far as Columbus, Kan., if the team makes the state tournament. With the Hutch travel team, he’ll go as far away as Oklahoma City.
Improvement is his goal.
“That’s what summer is basically for,” Case said.
On the mound, Case uses his change-up more often. Even though it is his third best pitch, the lower stakes environment provides a proving ground — not every game is as important as the high school season. Case’s coach with Hutch, Steve Williams, is also encourages him to pitch more inside. Both of these strategies seem counter intuitive with the level of hitter Case is facing in these tournaments. Case lives with the fact that some pitches will be hit hard.
“The teams we’ve been playing are pretty good,” Case said. “Most are big-city guys.”
Although Case has established himself as Marion’s best pitcher, he also has improved as a hitter, working his way up to third in the batting order at the end of this past season. Summer games give him a chance to hit the ball more squarely and drive pitches to the opposite field — right field for the right-hander.
Case still loves baseball, but his parents, Casey and Nicki, worry about burnout.
“If he wants to be done, that’s his choice,” Nicki said.
Constant traveling, with Casey coaching the Marion rec team, wears on the Case family. Family support has been key to Grif’s development, he said.
“It costs a lot; It’s hard on the wallet,” Nicki said. “But, you live for your kids.”
While Robson is playing baseball this summer, basketball is his favorite sport, and his focus for improvement. With a few of his MHS teammates, Robson is playing in summer-league games, one or two a week.
Last high school season, Robson rotated in and out of the starting lineup as one of Marion’s wing players. His greatest contributions were playing passing lanes on defense, crashing the offensive glass, and knocking down spot up 3-pointers.
With about 40 points a game having graduated in May in the form of Jordan Hett and Jacob Harper, Robson wants to do more to help his team. He has worked to improve his dribbling to be a secondary ball handler and lead fast breaks.
He has also worked on his post game and jumping ability, doing box jumps and calf raises in addition to weight-lifting sessions in the morning. The 6-foot-4 Robson has received good-spirited prodding from his sisiter, Bailey, that he needs to be able to dunk by the beginning of basketball season.
“She thinks because I’m so tall I should be able to,” he said.