As the calendar approaches the middle of February and the weather begins to clear up, it only means one thing for Hurricane fans.
Valentines Day? Perhaps, but it also means that baseball season is on the verge of starting.
The University of Miami baseball team held its fifth annual FanFest on Saturday afternoon, kicking off its unofficial start to the season. The event, which took place at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field, was filled with students and local fans looking to get some autographs and enjoy some early baseball.
“It’s fun giving back to the fans, said sophomore pitcher EJ Encinosa as he was signing memorabilia. “I remember walking up these same lines a bunch of times when I was growing up.”
Most of the team has been through their fair share of FanFest events already, either as players or as fans growing up in Miami. For the new players on the team, however, it was an experience they weren’t quite used to.
“It’s so much fun, I can’t believe the turnout,” said newcomer Cade Kreuter, who is a transfer from California. “This never happened at USC, nowhere else is like this.”
FanFest kicked off at 3 pm, where fans started to line up for autographs and get their turn at the batting cages. The real games began later on in the evening however, when former catcher Yasmani Grandal won for the second year in a row, beating out notable alumni like Yonder Alonso, Danny Valencia, and Gaby Sanchez.
The evening was capped off with the annual alumni game, where the 2011 squad got to test their abilities against Hurricane players of old. The alumni got off to a 4-1 lead but the 2011 squad was able to score seven unanswered runs to come away with an 8-4 win.
Sophomore Eric Whaley got the start for the current Canes, going three hitless innings and striking out one. For the alumni, current UM pitching coach J.D. Arteaga tossed two innings, giving up two hits and striking out one.
Offensively, junior Nathan Melendres led the 2011 squad, going 3-4 with two RBI. He was one of the players that current Cincinnati Red Yonder Alonso pointed out as someone to keep an eye on.
“I think he’s going to be good player,” he said. “Overall, I think the team is going to good. Coach always gets them ready, J.D. always gets them ready, they’re always going to be ready.
Although FanFest is a fun experience for the current team to get together and play a game together, they know that starting on Friday night, the wins and loses will start to count.
Miami will kick off the season on Friday night, welcoming the Rutgers Scarlett Knights to Alex Rodriguez Park. Every game this season can be heard live on 90.5 FM or wvum.org.
Ernesto Suarez may be contacted at email@example.com