Groton baseball has started to find success after an extended period of struggling teams. The Indians have reached the Section IV playoffs three years in a row since Cody Cosbey took control of the program. Prior to his arrival as head coach, Groton had missed the playoffs for 15 straight years.
The team was primed for another postseason play with seven returning players, five of which were seniors. That’s a very optimal situation for a head coach.
“We’ve had fairly young teams, but we had several returning seniors and then just most of the team was returning,” Cosbey said. “Actually, my whole infield was the same from last year. We had a bunch of young freshmen that were going to be probably starting and playing quite a few games.”
For those returning players, they are used to the varsity level. However, Groton does not have a junior varsity baseball team, meaning the rest of the team is filled by athletes making the sizable jump from modified to varsity. With that in mind, Cosbey’s goals for the team focus on leadership and other positive qualities rather than strictly wins and losses.
“Be leaders,” Cosbey said of the team’s goals. “Show the guys what’s expected and how to play. Be there for them. Guide them because it’s different.”
Not having a junior varsity team lands Cosbey with some challenges heading into each year.
“[It’s a challenge] trying to figure out who’s going to play where because freshmen can play on modified or varsity,” Cosbey said. “It’s just trying to figure out if they’re going to play up or continue to play on modified because I’d rather have them get playing time obviously rather than just coming up on varsity and practicing and not getting any game experience. That’s really the biggest challenge.”
After spending the offseason hitting the weight room and attending open gyms, Groton baseball spent just one day together on the field before the season came to an end. The team was ready to prepare for the first game of the season once school resumed, but it never did. A year of high expectations was washed away quickly.
“Everyone works incredibly hard, even during the offseason just to be able to reach that point,” Cosbey said. “We were taking it step by step, trying to get the division and then worry about sectionals. But we just try to keep everybody focused and with those seniors returning, they’ve been in the sectionals a few times now, so they expected it.”
Cosbey, who also coaches for the Cortland Crush summer collegiate team, has tried to maintain a positive attitude on the team during this process while allowing baseball to take a back seat and encouraging his players to focus on academics. He recalled what he first told his team after the cancellation.
“I sent out a group message to the team as a whole letting them know what’s going on,” Cosbey said. “Keep working hard. Don’t just sit there and be stagnant. Get out and do something, like catch. Appreciate everything, just trying to keep everybody positive because a group of them are going to be able to come back next year and play for a few more years.”
He also singled out his seniors and sent out a separate message to the five players who won’t be able to have a true final season for the Indians.
“I sent out a little text message just to the seniors because I’ve worked with them a lot for several years, even being a teacher at the school,” Cosbey said. “I told them I appreciate everything they’ve done. Their hard work hasn’t gone overlooked. I couldn’t have asked for a better group.”
The five seniors are Shane Smith, Mason Reynolds, Brystal Neff, Cameron Hamilton and Kaleb Goodwin. Neff has been on the varsity team since being called up for sectionals as an eighth-grader and made a big impact on the program.
“My shortstop (Neff) has been there the longest,” Cosbey said. “He’s continued to grow every year. Being in the position he is with the experience he has, he could definitely help out those freshmen and just kind of talk to them about not only the journey he’s gone through developing skills but just the mental journeys that he’s gone through being an eighth-grader and playing at this level.”
Considering Cosbey won’t be able to coach the Crush this summer either, he’ll be starving for baseball come next year. He’s maintaining positive energy despite missing out on the finale of five seniors and is looking forward to when he can be with his team again.
“I’m always excited [for next season],” Cosbey said. “I look forward to it. I know the players definitely look forward to it. I’m eager to get back into school, hopefully in the fall and just touch base with them, make sure everything’s good.”
It will be a tough adjustment for Groton when they take the field next year without those five seniors. However, Cosbey is hoping that his program can continue reaching the postseason no matter the circumstance.
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