Simple pleasures and solace get Kansas baseball player Conner VanCleave through the day.
A sophomore from Holcomb, VanCleave views his gameday routine as an integral key to on-field success.
VanCleave, who splits time between starting pitcher and first base, said his gameday mornings tend to be fairly mundane.
“Depending on what's going on school wise, I’ll go to class or one of the tutoring sessions,” VanCleave said. “If I have a little time, I’ll go get in some swinging in the cages before.”
While many college students neglect breakfast, VanCleave makes sure that he fuels his body properly. His favorite dish on gameday is biscuits and gravy.
“We all talk about the biscuits and gravy, the eggs,” VanCleave said. “They have chicken sandwiches [at the DeBruce Center], just kind of depends on what you’re feeling that day.”
VanCleave’s reliance on habit helps him prepare for each game in the same fashion. He said that repetition keeps him disciplined for his busy schedule, which can include up to six games a week.
VanCleave has started 24 of Kansas' 39 games this season, recording 17 hits in 76 at bats. The sophomore has also hit two home runs out of those 17 hits, as well one double and one triple.
For a player who plays as often as VanCleave does — especially as only a sophomore — one would think he has a superstition or two ahead of games.
Some players wear the same pair of socks every game; others need to eat the same meal. Before every game VanCleave prefers to keep it simple.
“I think [my routine is] more of just getting up at a decent time and getting ready," VanCleave said. "I like to get my morning started and get ready to go.”
VanCleave said that staying on track academically can be a challenge given the time commitment that it takes to play Division I baseball.
“Everybody has to put in time with their sport, with going to the weight room, practice, extra time in the cages for us baseball players, extra time throwing, getting yourself prepared," VanCleave said. "But school is a big thing that we worry about with our school's GPA, but also just the team’s GPA. School's a big thing that we look at.”
Once all that is in the rear-view mirror, all that’s left is to play the game. Sitting behind first base at Hoglund Ballpark is a staple for VanCleave.
“The atmosphere, just being around the people that love the game as much as you do,” VanCleave said. “Coming from a small town not everyone enjoyed the sport that I loved growing up and being in a locker room or facility that enjoys the sport as much as me, if not more, is just a great opportunity. Love of the game from everyone is just fun to be around.”