Cold practice or long practice, the question was the same: "Where would you guys rather be?" Wes Brooks asked his players.
For a time, the answer was, "Nowhere."
That changed at midseason, when senior Judd Edwards thought of a place he'd rather be: "Montgomery in May."
That became the refrain, and Oxford played follow the leader to Montgomery in May for the first time as a 6A team.
Now that leaders like Edwards and his six classmates have left the program as state runner-up in Alabama's top classification, younger players must come to bat with a clear signal: move the runner.
That's where Oxford's program stands after a 28-14 finish, which included victories in four best-of-3 playoff series.
This season's team confirmed what's possible for a program with considerable financial and instructional resources. Now, it's about becoming a deep-playoff regular and winning a state title.
To that end, Brooks got encouragement from AHSAA executive director Steve Savarese and assistant director Greg Brewer before the Yellow Jackets' title series against Auburn last week.
"They talked about how it was the first time for both teams to make it to the finals since they've had it in Montgomery as 6A teams," Brooks said. "He (Savarese) talked about, 'Believe it or not, the teams that make it here for the first time usually, within the next two or three years, they're back again and back again.
"It's kind of like Hartselle's run, Cullman and Russell County for two or three years there, and that's big for our program."
Such results might not come immediately. Brooks has a lot of seniors to replace, including four college signees.
There'll be no more Trey Pilkington. He'll pitch for Alabama next season … if not a professional organization.
There'll be no more Edwards or Brandon Roberts or Ricky Guzman. Say goodbye to Kyle O'Dell and John Juricich.
Oxford's run of 18 wins in 21 games before the Auburn series owes to a lineup change that placed seniors in the top six spots of the batting order. Seniors also accounted for two of three pitchers in the series rotation and the top reliever.
The Yellow Jackets lost quantity and quality, but the seniors left behind a lot of reasons for to expect big things down the road.
They left a talented freshman class. The seven that dressed out for the final series includes pitcher/first baseman/power hitter Tucker Simpson, this season's No. 2 starter on the mound. There's starting right fielder Mathew Goodson, who put Oxford in the title series with a home run against Vestavia Hills.
The seniors also left younger teammates with deep playoff experience, an element Oxford lacked coming into this season. The Yellow Jackets won 29 games in 2008, but a loss to Gadsden City cost them a playoff berth.
The lack of deep playoff experience caught up with Oxford in this year's title series. The Yellow Jackets committed five errors in a 4-1 loss in Game 1.
"We had a great team last year; all these guys started," Brooks said. "I kind of wish we would have made a deep run: third round, fourth round, maybe even finals. Then this year's team would have been like, we've been here before."
As of this past weekend, Oxford has been there, and that marks the seniors' greatest legacy. They raised already high expectations.
The Oxford program has abundant financial resources and outside instructional help. Brooks said many of his current players have benefited from the Oxford-based Excel Baseball Academy, which opened in 2003.
Such resources are rare for smaller towns, though Triple Play Academy in Cullman has impacted the local high school program.
Brooks said he and Excel's instructors keep an open line of communication.
"As far as where I have to focus on the fundamentals and the small things individually, those guys can take care of for me," Brooks said. "Now, I can almost turn into being a manager. How to I manage a team and keep them in those winning streaks and keep that pitcher throwing strikes and keep our hitters hitting well.
"You can kind of sit back and coach from the side instead of being hands-on, only coaching one guy during a two-and-a-half-hour practice."
Abundant travel teams in the area, including Excel's, also help. AHSAA rules limit the number of players from one prep team that can play for the same travel team.
"We're fortunate to have four or five travel ball teams around this area for every one of our guys to go and jump on, because only five can play on one team," Brooks said. "We need about four or five to get everybody on a team."
Now, add results. Oxford players and fans just saw the Yellow Jackets win the North Alabama championship against no less than Vestavia Hills on McCarty Field. They saw a blessed program play its way into the 6A title series.
Then they saw Montgomery in May.
"Now, the expectations are a little higher," Brooks said. "… Whereas before we hoped to win, now we'll go out there and expect to win."