Mud Hens infielder Mike Cervenak, center, participates in the first day of training camp with the Walleye on Monday. Cervenak, 37, played in hockey travel teams as a youth in Michigan.
BLADE/JETTA FRASER Enlarge
BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH Enlarge
At age 37, the days of youth travel hockey are well in the review mirror for Mud Hens third baseman Mike Cervenak.
But that didn’t stop him from lacing up the skates at the Huntington Center on Monday, after earning an invitation to participate in the Toledo Walleye’s training camp.
PHOTO GALLERY: First day of training camp for Walleye
“I thought I’d love to just get out on the ice and skate with professional hockey players just to see what it’s like,” he said after the morning skate with 28 veterans and prospects.
He quickly found out.
“I felt way behind,” Cervenak said. “The skill those guys have with the way they move the puck and how quick they are, it’s nearly impossible for me to keep up. Everything just happens so fast.”
He said after the baseball season he started skating three or four times a week to prepare.
“But it was nowhere near this,” he said.
Cervenak said he approached Kyle Bergman, the Mud Hens’ strength and conditioning coach, about setting up the tryout.
Walleye coach Nick Vitucci said Cervenak had the right attitude going into the experiment.
“It’s tough for him at this high level of pace,” Vitucci said. “But the one thing I’m most impressed with Mike Cervenak is that he is a good person. Mike gets it. He’s a high-level pro athlete, but you wouldn’t know it. He’s very humble. It was a nice experience.”
Cervenak, a native of Trenton, Mich., hit .291 in 81 games during the 2013 season with the Mud Hens.
Cervenak said he played hockey and baseball for travel teams while growing up in Michigan. He said had to choose between the sports when he entered high school.
“I knew in baseball I would have a better opportunity to advance,” he said.
Cervenak said he plays in a men’s league during the offseason.
“It was organized,” he said. “I enjoyed playing hockey a lot, so I would go to open skates and stuff.”
Cervenak said he was concerned about being a distraction during the Walleye’s first day of camp.
“I was worried about slowing people down out there more than anything,” Cervenak said. “Everyone was really good to me.”
Cervenak said if the tables were turned and a Walleye player were to participate in spring training, he said the results might be surprising.
“They all have such good hand-eye coordination,” he said. “I’m sure they would be able pick up baseball relatively quick. It’s all about timing.”
Vitucci said he wasn’t so sure, especially about his ability to hit a baseball.
“I couldn’t. I know it wouldn’t be good at all,” he said.
Camp continues on Tuesday, and Toledo plays its first preseason game at Kalamazoo on Wednesday. The Walleye then host the K-Wings for their only home preseason contest on Saturday.
SIGNINGS: The team signed forwards Aaron Bogosian and Scott Arnold along with defenseman Jason Lepine on Monday.
Bogosian, 26, played in 11 games with the Walleye last season and had five points (2 goals, 3 assists). Arnold, 24, split his first professional season between Gwinnett in the ECHL and Portland of the American Hockey League.
Lepine, 28, is among eight defensemen in camp. Lepine returns to Toledo after spending the last two years in Europe. He skated in 47 games with the Walleye in 2010-11, with eight goals and 26 assists.
Guidelines: Please keep your comments smart and civil. Don't attack other readers personally, and keep your language decent. Comments that violate these standards, or our privacy statement or visitor's agreement, are subject to being removed and commenters are subject to being banned. To post comments, you must be a registered user on toledoblade.com. To find out more, please visit the FAQ.