John Muller and Mark Roldan have a lot in common.
Muller is the first-year baseball coach at Mount Saint Vincent. Roldan is the fourth-year softball coach at The Mount. Both are passionate about their programs, driven to build consistent winners.
But they also have one more thing in common — neither has ever played a home game in their coaching careers.
Mount Saint Vincent, you see, has never had a field to call home. So every game day, the Dolphins baseball and softball teams rush from class, pack their bags, load up the team buses, and head to parts all over the tri-state area in order to play games.
Between the two programs this season, there have been “home” games played at Randall’s Island, Westchester Community College, Fordham University, Silver Lake Park in Harrison, and Preller Field in Queens. Not to mention a working arrangement where the Dolphins are sometimes designated the “home” team while playing on their opponent’s home field.
At The Mount, it’s just as important to have a good GPS system as it is to have bats and balls.
“It can wear on you,” junior baseball player Michael Kochen said. “But at the end of the day, when you get to go to a ball field and play the game you love, you’ll do anything.”
Muller and Roldan have similar philosophies about their road warrior status. Muller, a former star player and coach at St. Thomas Aquinas College, or STAC, spent a large portion of his career on the road. Ditto for Roldan, who could make the drive to Randall’s Island in his sleep.
“Last season at STAC, our home was Provident Bank Park, home of the Rockland Boulders,” Muller said of the minor league team. “But still our first 30 games were on the road. So it’s not difficult for me to do it because I’ve done it. But I think it’s difficult for the players because they’re travelling all over the place, and they are the ones going to class all day.”
“From Day One we never had a home field, so that’s all we’ve ever known,” Roldan said. “Maybe next year when we have a home field we’ll find out what it’s really like to have a home field advantage and have a crowd there. That will be great.”
Well, Roldan just ruined the surprise ending. Yes, for the first time in school history, Mount Saint Vincent’s baseball and softball programs actually will play home games on Fay Field, which is adjacent to The Mount’s campus.
The Dolphins’ new digs will boast gleaming new dugouts, pristine bullpens, a sparkling new scoreboard, and a 40-foot wall in left field which, according to Muller, is similar to the Green Monster in Boston’s Fenway Park.
“We’re really excited that things are going to change next season,” Roldan said. “Having the field right next to campus will help out so much by not having to add in all that travel time every game.”
Aside from the benefits of playing half your season at home, the new fields also will enhance both practice sessions as well as serve as a boost for recruiting.
“I think it will be a huge positive next year because we’ll be able to be outside every day,” said Muller, whose team is forced to practice in the school gym most days. “There’s only so much you can do in a gym. And the morale boost of playing a home game is huge.
“Obviously recruiting-wise it will help, too. Our recruiting class coming in next year is excellent. It’s hard to recruit when you don’t have a baseball field. So there is nothing but major positives with us having a field next year. It will be tremendous.”
Muller said his players often have eyeballed the plans for the field he keeps in his office. But he might be as excited as his players.
“The school is committed to investing the money and resources to help build the program, which was one of the reasons I was so excited to take this position,” Muller said.
It’s still almost a full year away, but Kochen already is daydreaming about the Dolphins’ new pad.
“Having a field we can walk to will be such a huge factor because it does get tiring when you always have to run out of class, and if you can’t make the bus you have to drive to a game,” Kochen said. “It’s going to be so much easier to be able to just walk across campus and go to our new field.
“We’re so looking forward to next year.”