Payne Waldman spent his spring helping pitch the Highland baseball Bulldogs deep into the IHSA Class 3A playoffs.
Waldman, thanks to a mid-season turnaround, finished the season with a 5-3 record and helped the Bulldogs post a 23-14 record and advance to the Class 3 sectionals semifinals in late May.
Over the past five weeks, the recent Highland graduate has been able to relax a bit and also begin preparing for the next phase of his baseball career.
“It’s been a good and relaxing summer so far,” Waldman said. “I have not been playing as much and have been able to rest a bit.”
Otherwise, Waldman has been pitching occasionally for the Illinois Lumberyard club team and working out.
The summer season has been a nice change of pace for Waldman. Illinois Lumberyard is a local and regional travel team that plays weekend games in the southern Illinois area and other parts of the Midwest.
Waldman has opted to stay in town for weekend games, in order to keep himself a little fresher over the summer.
“I have been pitching like one game a weekend for them when they have been in town,” Waldman said. “I did not want to do the traveling, so I’ve been playing when we’re in town on weekends.”
The team has done well.
“We’ve been playing really well and beating up on area teams and it’s been a lot of fun,” Waldman said.
Waldman has excelled, going 4-0 with an eye-popping 1.00 ERA in 30 innings.
“The big part (for me) is my velocity has jumped up quite a bit and then with that, my slider has been been a lot sharper and all of my off-speed (pitches) have been a lot sharper,” Waldman said.
Being more aggressive with his fastball early in the count has also made the 6-foot, 200-pound lefthander significantly more intimidating on the mound.
Waldman said that approach came about during the middle of his senior season at Highland.
“I went from pitching around kids in the spring to where kids knew I was throwing off-speed pitches early to switching that around in the middle to the end of the (high school) season to where I was working on locating my fastball early and throwing it until they hit it and then working my slider in from there,” Waldman said.
Overall, Waldman’s summer workout regiment has been arduous.
“I’m doing the driveline weighted baseball program for my arm, then I have a weightlifting plan that I was sent by the head coach from Danville that I’ve been doing and I’ve got a pretty loaded schedule,” Waldman said. “I lift four days a week and I run six days a week and then I do throwing six days a week.”
Danville coach Mike Bunton has definite plans for Waldman and looks for him to make an early impact during the fall exhibition season.
“They were telling me that they want me to be an immediate impact on the field on the team going into the fall season,” Waldman said. “They want me up there ready, which is why I’m doing all this (work) this summer because I don’t want to get up there and then be on the bench because I’m behind. So I’m doing everything I can to basically tell them that I can pitch and hopefully it will work out.”