Miami baseball Head Coach Jim Morris has heard it before.
“The team has lost too much.”
“They are too young.”
The 1999 version of the Miami Hurricanes lost Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff and Jason Michaels, among others, to the Major League draft, but they came back to win the College World Series that year.
Morris said he expects the same this year.
“I wasn’t very happy with the lack of respect,” Morris said. “We have a real young team, but even though we had 10 pros signed, we have a lot to prove people wrong about.”
The lack of respect Morris speaks of comes from the Baseball America poll that did not have Miami ranked in the top 25 and picked the Hurricanes to finish fifth in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Miami brings in a talented young group, many of whom will see significant action in their first year. UM will feature Jemile Weeks starting at second base, Blake Tekotte in centerfield and Yonder Alonso starting at first base, all as freshmen.
“Weeks is the highest recruit,” Morris said. “But we feel very good about the freshmen class as a whole.”
While Miami does not have Cesar Carrillo to anchor the pitching rotation or Ryan Braun to be the big bat in the middle of the order, it does have leaders like Jon Jay, Eddy Rodriguez and Danny Valencia.
“Eddy is the leader of this team behind the plate,” Morris said. “Jay is becoming more vocal and it is players like them, along with Valencia and Andrew Lane, who understand what it takes to get back to Omaha.”
Jay will help anchor the outfield in centerfield. Valencia will move to third base this year to play alongside Roger Tomas at shortstop. The pitching staff will be anchored by two sophomores: Carlos Gutierrez and Manny Miguelez. Both men will be asked to step up in featured roles and take on the opposing team’s top pitchers.
Jay is already gathering preseason recognition, along with Chris Perez. Both played for the USA National Team last summer and have been placed on the Brooks Wallace watch list, which is presented to the national player of the year. Jay has also been named by Baseball America as a second-team All-American.
The other topic on everyone’s mind is stadium construction. Changes have already been made to eliminate night games until Feb. 15 due to lights not being put up yet. All home games up to that point have been moved to the day time, except for the alumni game, which was cancelled this year.
“[The stadium] has really come together this week,” Morris said. “They were finishing up a lot of painting and overall I think the fans will really like it.”
While Morris is excited about the young talent, he maintains that the team has one goal.
“We want to go to Omaha and win it all,” Morris said. “That is our goal every year.”
Denis Brown can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.