By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
In his fourth year at Lamar University, former Amsterdam Mohawks outfielder Jude Vidrine is finally able to kick back and relax a bit.
In the classroom, that is.
With a major in mechanical engineering, Vidrine -- a redshirt junior who turns 22 years old in a couple of weeks -- spent his first few years at Lamar front-loading his academic schedule and made substantial progress in achieving a degree in his major.
"I took a big course load right off the bat," Vidrine says.
Now in his third season of playing baseball for the Cardinals -- the 2011 Mohawk sat out the 2010 season for Lamar -- Vidrine is reaping the benefits of challenging himself during his first few years of college. With most of his required classes for his ultra-tough major out of the way, Vidrine is taking a lighter course load this semester of 12 credits, full of general-education selections like history and political science. The move has allowed Vidrine to grant more time to baseball-related activities than he had been able to in past years.
"I wanted to give myself a lot more time to focus on baseball," says Vidrine. "It gives me a lot more time to get to practice early, hit before practice and stay in the weight room longer. When I was taking a lot of engineering classes, I'd have class all morning, practice in the afternoon and then I'd get supper and go to the library all night -- and, then, get up and do it all again."
The switch to spending more time on baseball has helped bring Vidrine a strong start to the season. Through 13 games for the 11-2 Cardinals, Vidrine is hitting .362 with eight RBIs and five extra-base hits. Traditionally a slow starter in his collegiate seasons, Vidrine's early success is helping the Cardinals rebound from a disappointing 2012 season in which the club finished 22-30 and Vidrine hit .271.
"We're already halfway to our win total from last year," Vidrine says.
The extra victories for Lamar and the added points on his batting average come at a good time for the former Mohawk. Vidrine says he entered the 2013 season hoping to play well enough to warrant a selection in June's Major League Baseball draft.
"I'm trying to give myself an opportunity to chase my dream," Vidrine says.
Vidrine and the Cardinals next play Friday night against the University of Massachusetts.
Chris Carbone, a 2012 Amsterdam High School graduate, and the Union College baseball team will play its first games of the season in the next few days. In Orlando, Union and Carbone will start their season Thursday against Clark University. Local products joining Carbone on the Union squad are Canajoharie's Dane O'Neil and Fonda-Fultonville's Albert Fiorenza. ... Marist College's Zach Shank (2011 Mohawks) is off to a hot start. The infielder is hitting .419 through the Red Foxes' first seven games. ... So is New Jersey Institute of Technology's Ed Charlton (2012 Mohawks), who is hitting .355 through his first 31 at-bats.
"Around the Bases" is a weekly column that catches area baseball fans up with local products still playing in college and former members of the Amsterdam Mohawks. To reach the writer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.