Kaleb Shuman

Caleb Turrentine / The Herald Stanhope Elmore coach Kaleb Shuman gives instructions to a player during hitting drills at practice.

The sudden ending to the last year’s spring season will not be forgotten any time soon but some of those programs took a big step on the road to recovery Monday as the Alabama High School Athletics Association officially started its throwing period for baseball and softball teams.

“It’s a good feeling,” Tallassee softball coach Pat Love said. “They are ready especially after the way we got shut down. They are excited so they really got after it (Monday). The girls we had last year that are back are taking this as unfinished business. They are ready.”

While the activities didn’t look too different from what happens in the offseason, coaches were looking for a mentality shift from their players and they delivered. The start of the throwing period brought plenty of excitement and gave coaches a look at their new rosters getting together as a team for the first time.

“During the offseason, all the throwing program is them doing it on their own,” Stanhope Elmore baseball coach Kaleb Shuman said. “I couldn’t be out there with them. Today is the first time I will get to be around them so that’s the biggest thing I’m looking forward to. We get to be a team again even if it is just a throwing-only period.”

The workouts were nothing new to the players but there was still plenty to do to get everybody ready for the first official practices in three weeks.

Tallassee ended last season at No. 1 in Class 5A but now the Tigers have to work on replacing seven seniors from that squad. The talent alone will be tough to replace but the coaching staff is looking for players to start stepping up right away.

“The only thing softball wise we can do right now is just long toss,” Love said. “But we stretch together and they get into our lines and run around the field like we do. We can start to get that team mentality. This is where you start to build some leadership.”

While the fielding drills and batting practice sessions will come closer to the end of the month, the biggest difference brought on by Monday’s changes will be for pitchers. The throwing period is for all players but the biggest reason for having a throwing period is for pitchers to start getting their arms in shape so they will be ready to pitch full games by the time the regular season begins.

Teams will now be allowed to have full bullpen sessions while using an actual pitching mound instead of just throwing from flat ground. The extra three weeks can go a long way in evaluating pitchers and seeing how they much they have improved during the offseason workouts.

“That’s a big part of why I keep the numbers and post it to social media every now and then,” Shuman said. “We keep charts in the clubhouse so they can see firsthand what they are doing and how it makes a difference. Sometimes kids get burned out when they can’t see results. It just adds a little bit more motivation.”

At the end of the day, the throwing period mostly signifies the return of spring sports after the longest and most unique offseason any of these teams have ever dealt with.

“This is the longest period of time I have gone without real baseball in my life,” Shuman said. “These kids know exactly what happened. They ask me questions all the time about if we’re going to get to play or what will happen to our season this time but worrying about it isn’t going to change it one way or another so we just have to prepare like we’re going to play.”

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.