Copeland braces for new season

Just like new speakers in a teenager's truck, things are sounding pretty good for minor league baseball player Nathan Copeland.
   The former Elizabethton High and ETSU standout is looking to move up after spending his first summer of minor league baseball in Danville, Va., the Atlanta Braves' Appalachian League affiliate.
   The outfielder hit .270 in Danville, and has nothing but pleasant memories about last summer.
   "My first season went pretty well," Copeland said. "It took a couple of weeks for me to get comfortable. I had to adjust to the wooden bat, but I would consider it a success. I wasn't an every day player, but I think I had a pretty good year.
   Copeland found out just how much talent there really is in minor league baseball. Copeland was one of the best players in the Southern Conference during his senior season at ETSU, but surprisingly wasn't taken in the 2001 Major League Draft.
   Copeland signed with the Braves organization as a free-agent, but Danville already several outfielders there when he joined mini-cap in June.
   With all that happening, it didn't surprise Copeland that he wasn't playing everyday.
   "When I was sent to Danville they already had four or five outfielders there," Copeland said. "It was slow starting out, but the Braves organization has plans for all its players. But I made the most of my opportunity. I was fine with it."
   When the summer was over, Copeland began working on making that next step. His quest to move up to single-A ball began in the fall when we went back to ETSU to workout, and he took full advantage of the first-class facilities that the Buccaneer athletic programs have there.
   "I started working out when I got back from Danville," Copeland said. "I was mostly lifting weights, and trying to stay in strength shape. Then right before Christmas I started hitting and throwing more. I want to be in the best shape as possible when I go to spring training in March."
   Strength has been a big emphasis in Copeland's workouts. Though not receiving personal attention from ETSU strength coach Lee Morrow, Copeland and former ETSU player Andy Baxter gladly accepted Morrow's invitation to use ETSU's weight facilities.
   "I'm usually there about four days a week," Copeland said. "I'm trying to get some weight on my body. Coach Morrow is there, and it's great that he lets us use his facilities."
   While Copeland has been gearing up for spring training since September, the biggest month of his life is now upon him.
   Copeland is looking forward to going to Florida, and facing the challenge head on.
   "I'm real excited," Copeland said. "It's a big step and a big opportunity. All the clubs, including the major league club, will be down there. I'm going to do the best I can, and hopefully make a single-A club. I'm a little nervous, but I'm going to hit the weight room, and hit and throw a lot these last three or four weeks. Hopefully, I'll be ready when I go down there."
   Copeland seems to be ready for Florida, and he knows what he has to do to be successful.
   "I need to show some power," Copeland said. "I also want to bring my average to around .300, but I need to spray more extra-base hits and hit a couple of homers here and there. I think getting the extra weight will make an impression, but I just have to perform.
   Copeland's work ethic has really made an impression among his former teammates at ETSU. He was recently featured on WJHL-TV for his working out with the team, and for how he was setting an example to the players.
   Copeland says those players, and the people in the community, have been real supportive of his efforts to make the major leagues.
   "All the guys over at ETSU have been real supportive," Copeland said. Andy Baxter and I have been real fortunate. It's been a real good situation."