Baseball season starts Friday night, and I for one could not be happier.
This Miami Hurricanes squad has a lot of potential. They come into the season ranked as high as No. 2, according to rivals.com. They are led by a core of All-American players, and a crop of newcomers looks like it will help patch the holes exposed by last season’s disappointment.
However, beyond all that, I am happy because this team provides a glimmer of hope. Football season was agony this year, and the basketball version of the Canes looks like it is going to be on the outside looking in come March Madness.
That leaves baseball, and this team looks up to the challenge.
Juniors Yonder Alonso, Jemile Weeks, Dennis Raben and Blake Tekotte lead a team that has gone from critically young to experienced in one offseason. This quartet, along with sophomores Mark Sobolewski and Eric Erickson, form the core of a team that should not only score a lot of runs, but also limit the opponents.
Last season’s struggles helped a number of young players, including all of those listed above, to gain valuable experience. While the team went through growing pains last year and frustrated many a fan, the payoff should come this year.
Alonso might be the best hitter in the nation. Raben might be the most powerful. Weeks is amongst the most dynamic. Tekotte is in the argument when it comes to the nation’s top leadoff men. Erickson and Sobolewski look to follow up freshman All-American campaigns. This is certainly a talented edition of Canes baseball.
However, the key to this season will be translating talent into wins. Most of this talent was around last season, but the team struggled mightily in the powerful ACC.
Catcher and middle relief pitching were the glaring weaknesses, and both seem to have been addressed this offseason.
Yasmani Grandal was the top ranked high school catcher in the nation, and it seemed a foregone conclusion that he would sign with a major league team. However, when he was unable to agree to terms with the Boston Red Sox, he enrolled at Miami, and reports from the fall and spring practices are that he is the catcher this team needed last season. He will be relied upon to handle a talented – if young – pitching staff.
The relief corps will receive a boost from a number of sophomores who gained experience last season and do not fit into the starting rotation, as well as from a new crop of talented freshmen.
All in all, this looks like the strongest team head coach Jim Morris has fielded since the beginning of the decade.
While a No. 2 ranking might be a little much, it is certainly nice to be excited about one of this school’s teams again.
Dan Stein may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.