Soldier Run Provides Bonding Experience for Baseball

Sept. 22, 2012

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Members of the San Diego State baseball team gathered before sunrise Saturday morning in a Mission Bay parking lot for a five-mile run to the top of Mount Soledad. It was dubbed the "Soldier Run," in honor of the veterans memorial located atop the San Diego landmark.

"It's a team-building activity," said SDSU assistant coach Mark Martinez. "It's a get-together to do something physical early in the morning and create some mental toughness and camaraderie, accomplishing something together that's difficult."

Setting out in the darkness amid the morning mist, the players sang the school fight song as they made their way around a portion of Mission Bay before heading north, across Grand and Garnet avenues and then making a right turn at Soledad Mountain Road, which provided a steady uphill grade that challenged the players for the majority of the 51-minute run.

"It meant a lot for the team to get out together," said senior Jake Romanski. "We've barely started (the school year) and we're already doing team stuff, getting the team together. Just getting through it as a team and coming together as a unit is important.

"It's absolutely a mental deal when you're coming up the hill. You've got guys that are struggling. You've got to help them out. Once again, it just comes down to being a team, pushing through it, making it happen and finishing up."

The early-morning sun rose from the horizon and tried to peek out from the clouds as the Aztecs reached the summit at Mount Soledad Natural Park and climbed the steps to the cross, which was first placed on this spot 99 years ago and has since become one of the city most recognizable landmarks.

"It was good for the team, good for the guys individually," said sophomore Greg Allen. "We had a couple of miles to bond while we were coming up. The biggest challenge was just staying together. Guys were going faster or slower, so the hardest part was just trying to keep the guys together and keep it as a team thing, instead of letting guys go off or guys straggle.

"It's good to have something this early to build team chemistry, build team morale. Getting to the top was a great feeling, seeing the coaches there, getting high-fives and coming up the steps was something special."

SDSU pitching Coach Eric Valenzuela brought the idea for this event with him when he arrived on campus three years ago.

"Doing it as a team from start to finish, it's a pretty sweet deal," said Valenzuela. "You get to the top, see the sun rise. They're excited that they've accomplished something. It brings them together for that moment and, hopefully, it will lead to other things that they accomplish together. . . . It's a good start for this group."

The Aztecs begin fall practice in three weeks. The 2013 season opens in mid-February with a three-game series against cross-town rival USD.