By Jarrod Harris
Times West Virginian
East Fairmont High School’s baseball and softball teams are set to toe the line as their seasons begin.
The Bees’ softball team will head to Braxton while the baseball team has hopes of starting the season off with a win against Lincoln.
“I’m really excited to play (today),” East Fairmont’s senior captain and starting center fielder Cutter Atha said. “I hope it doesn’t snow as much as it’s saying. I don’t want to play in the snow or have the game canceled, so I’m just hoping that the weather cooperates.”
Although the weather may play a factor in today’s game at 4:30 p.m. — yes, it’s been changed to earlier — Atha has a lot to prove in his senior season.
You see, Atha was somewhat overshadowed during his first three years with the Bees.
The sure-handed outfielder and speedy hitter has played second fiddle to previous Bees seniors in Joseph Casalinuova and Seth Corwin.
But this year, it’s Atha’s turn to shine.
“This year, I want to bat as high of an average as I can,” Atha said. “I’ve been hitting at Pro Performance throughout the winter. I’m trying to perfect my swing.”
Last year, Atha hit .375., earning a spot on the Honorable Mention Class AAA All-State ballot.
This year, Atha’s dropping a division and increasing his goals.
“I want to get somewhere .450 — that’s a goal of mine,” Atha said. “I just have to keep my head into it and not get too mental while thinking about everything that could go wrong.”
Last year, Atha began the season on a terror. He was hitting line drives into gaps and hitting shots into the power-alleys, which allowed him to showcase his speed.
Then the ultimate “no-no” happened. Everyone who’s played baseball gets into a funk. He was hitting line drives at in-fielders, and it started getting in his head.
Because of the lack of luck, Atha ended the season with a reputable .375 season.
“In high school ball, it’s tough to keep your rhythm because you have games every day,” Atha said. “You don’t get to go and hit on your days off as much. You don’t get as much time to perfect everything, but you just have to keep a positive attitude and keep everything right.”
Although baseball is a 90 percent mental game, Atha and the rest of the Bees will have to overcome a wintry mix that will lead to wind, slippery footing (both offensively and defensively) and a whopping 45 degrees.
“If the wind’s blowing, you don’t know where the ball’s going to go as well if it wasn’t blowing. When the wind’s blowing, it burns your eyes so it’s harder to see as well,” Atha said.
This is where senior leadership comes into play.
Freshmen and even sophomores need guidance on the field, and that is where Atha plans on improving his game the most.
“I try to teach the freshmen little things that I’ve learned throughout my four years here,” Atha said. “If they don’t know how to do something, I try to show them how. From when I was little, my dad played for Marrietta and won a national championship. He’s been able to show me everything that I know, so I just want to pass that on.”
That is exactly what his mission is today. He hopes to get a pair of hits, helping pass the torch to the younger Bees for many years to come.
As the first pitch is thrown, both he and the rest of his coaches have one thing on their mind — to win a Big 10 championship.
Throw out all the statistics and honors; that’s the No. 1 agenda for anyone who plays baseball on the high school level.
“We’re going to try to make a run at the Big 10 title,” Atha said. “We have a new coach this year — coach Tony Veltri. I really like him and I think all of our coaches are doing a fine job this season. I’d like to thank them and hope we have a good season.”
Email Jarrod Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JarrodHarrisTWV.