It’s been a strange, familiar and welcome experience for Washington State shortstop Kodie Kolden and Boise State pitcher Stu Flesland.
Kolden, a former Lake City High standout, roped liners this week to a full infield and outfield.
Flesland, a former Mt. Spokane standout, hurled fastballs to live batters.
The longest seventh-inning stretch of their careers – a college season halted in March by the coronavirus pandemic – has ended.
But resuming baseball came with a few caveats for the two Inland Northwest products, particularly a 2,000-mile trip.
Kolden and Flesland are in Bryan, Texas, as part of the three-day, four-team Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational, a tournament broadcast on ESPN and pay-per-view which concludes Sunday night.
The first college-level baseball games played since March featured players representing more than 70 NCAA Division I schools, many hoping to get in front of more professional scouts before this month’s MLB draft.
“It’s been super fun playing with the guys,” said Kolden, who started 12 games as a sophomore in WSU’s short season, “and actually get to play with other people.”
No fans will be allowed to attend the games, a measure to help slow the spread of disease. Texas state mandates allow games to be played under a series of social distancing and testing guidelines.
Each player, coach and staff member who arrived to the tournament location Monday was required to undergo a series of tests to detect potential coronavirus infections and antibodies, including a nasal swab and blood test.
They were all required to wait 24 hours – isolated – in their hotels until the test results were finished.
“I was able to pitch to friends back home in Spokane, to keep my arm in shape, but no team activities,” said Flesland, who experience a shortened freshman season. “So this tournament is definitely exciting.
“There are high-level coaches here, and I hope to learn a lot.
Kolden is a member of Team Unity, managed by former MLB veteran pitcher and coach LaTroy Hawkins.
Flesland’s Team Independence is led by Jorge Hernandez, a manager in the Miami Marlins’ farm system.
The tournament’s other two teams – Team Liberty and Team Freedom – are managed, respectively, by Seattle Mariners performance coach Steve Hecht and former MLB veteran Drew Sutton.
Kolden was approached in May about the possibility pf playing in the tournament. He reached out to the school’s compliance office to see if he would be allowed to play without affecting his eligibility, considering the newness of the event and circumstances that ultimately created it.
“(WSU) told me yes and no, because they weren’t really sure about what was going on,” Kolden said. “I recently got the full go-ahead to play and headed down here.”
The two-year starting infielder posted a .256 batting average in 13 games this season with six RBIs, a stolen base and two runs.
Under first-year WSU coach Brian Green, Kolden, who helped Lake City win a state title in 2016, believes his team was on its way to a monumental one-year turnaround.
In 2019, the Cougars finished 11-42-1. Before the 2020 season was canceled, they were 9-7.
“That definitely sucked. It was tough only playing 16 games, especially when we were off to a good start,” Kolden said.
Flesland said a Boise State coach told him about the tournament last month. He decided two weeks ago to make the Texas trip once he was cleared by BSU’s compliance office.
“I was bored at home, so I was ready to go,” Flesland said.
After posting a 0.19 ERA at Mt. Spokane in an all-state 2019 season, the 6-foot-4 Flesland was an immediate contributor at BSU, appearing in four games with two starts. He went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA.
Boise State, a first-year baseball program, started 9-5 before the season was canceled.
“It was rough,” Flesland said. “We started to come really together as a team before the season ended.”
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