The last couple of months have been an unprecedented time for everybody with the spread of COVID-19, and in our case it has been especially trying for our players who have had their spring baseball season taken away from them, school moved to an online format, and their social lives as teenagers drastically altered. We were interested in hearing from a handful of our guys on how they have spent their time at home, lessons they have learned through the process, and their thoughts on some of pieces of pop culture that have given us all some sort of entertainment.
Radek Birkholz is a special player and person, who on any given (non mid-pandemic) day can be seen in the facility for many hours on end, enthusiastically working through his throwing program and bullpen work, busting out every single rep in the weight room, and then walking the floor talking with fellow athletes, coaches and anybody else who is available to chat. Radek’s success on the baseball field is truly a testament to how much he really loves the grind, and treats every piece of the player development puzzle with care and intensity. The Notre Dame commit has had a great high high school career so far, notably taking a no hitter into the 7th inning of the 4A State Championship game as a freshman and eventually getting the 5-1 complete game win for Valor Christian. Radek and the Eagles (sounds like a sweet band name) were poised for a run this spring in their second year at the 5A level, but unfortunately it will have to wait until 2021. Here is what Radek has been up to in the meantime.
Rogue: What has been your daily routine since you’ve been at home?
Radek: The first part of my morning is always to have a good, healthy breakfast. The order of my days varies, but the components of them are almost always the same. Online school, throwing, lifting, hitting, fielding, homework. Even if the order of my daily events changes, it is essential to keep a similar schedule, that has structure, to continue to be productive.
Rogue: What baseball goals, if any, did you set for yourself as a player at the beginning of the quarantine?
Radek: The main thing I have focused on is getting at least 1% better every day. I’m a firm believer that every day you either get better or worse, you don’t stay the same. This is very motivating to accomplish various tasks throughout the day. This period of quarantine has been a fantastic opportunity to develop, rather than playing the games we would be right now. It has been great to seize the opportunity to get bigger, stronger, and to develop my skills as a player.
Rogue: How do you feel you have done achieving those goals?
Radek: I feel great about these goals, and I believe that I have accomplished getting at least 1% better every day during quarantine.
Rogue: What has been the most frustrating thing in the last couple of months?
Radek: There have been two main frustrations during this time. First, not being able to throw off a mound has been tough. Due to the restrictions put in place by the government, I have not been able to go to a mound, let alone the mound at my high school. While there can still be work done off of flat ground, having a mound is a real luxury that moving forward, I’ll never take for granted. Second, it has been hard not having access to a full gym. Having put in much work in the weight room leading up to the spring season, it is tough to not continue to grow upon those gains. Work can still be done to improve, but it is such a blessing during regular times to have access to such nice gyms.
Rogue: What has this whole experience taught you that you can take into the future?
Radek: While this time has been tough, it has been great to sit back and reflect on all of the amazing things in our lives that we take for granted. I’ve learned that there are so many great things in our lives that we didn’t realize were so special until they got taken away. Whether it’s going to dinner with your family, going to a movie, having a long practice, or even having a tough class at school, I would give so much to bring those things back during this time. I know moving forward, I will gain a greater level of gratitude than I had before, and I believe, as a whole, the world will come back stronger than ever out of this mess.
Rogue: Have you played more video games, watched more TV, or read more books? Which ones?
Radek: During this time, I definitely have watched more TV/Youtube than the other two. I have found a good balance between watching shows and videos that give me a good laugh, and videos and shows that have been beneficial towards my future. Some of my favorite shows are Shark Tank and Impractical Jokers. Both never fail to bring me a good laugh and/or just a good time. On the other hand, for all you aspiring scientists out there, I found a Youtube channel titled “Med School Insiders” where Dr. Kevin Jubbal takes you through the ins and outs of Medical School as well as teaching you how to study and maximize your time. Whether you have aspirations to be a scientist or do anything else with your life, this channel is worth your time to check out.
Rogue: What are your plans for baseball this summer, assuming things get back to some sort of normal?
Radek: This summer I will be living down in Georgia and playing for the East Cobb Astros. From Georgia, we will travel to various tournaments in places such as North Carolina and Alabama. Heading down there will be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get down there and play against some of the best competition in the country.