Local athletes drawn to UM program

Freshman sam abrams, sophomore Zach Robinson, junior Miranda, senior Michel Rudman, junior S. Robinson and freshman Julian Santos make up the six Killian High School graduates who currently play on the UMiami baseball team. Brittney Bomnin // Art Director

The University of Miami baseball team lost its second midweek game of the year on Tuesday to USF, 4-2, two days after beating the Florida Marlins in an exhibition game.

Though fans may be getting concerned, the season is young and so is the team.

The primarily homegrown squad boasts 13 newcomers, 12 of whom are freshmen. Of the first-year players, five call Miami their hometown. The trend is clear across the Hurricanes’ roster.

“I would say 75-80 percent of our players came up from Miami and Broward County,” head coach Jim Morris said.

Talk about talent in your own backyard.

“They grew up in our ballpark and thank goodness they want to play here,” said Morris, who is recovering from surgery to remove his gall bladder at University of Miami Hospital.

With the large talent pool that the Miami area has to offer, there’s no question that the Hurricanes have an advantage over other schools in recruiting.

Local athletes are drawn to the appeal of playing on the big stage, under the lights at Alex Rodriguez Park at Mark Light Field.

“It’s tradition. Most of us grew up around here. I remember growing up running around this stadium,” sophomore pitcher E.J. Encinosa said. “It’s just that feeling… that any other university just wouldn’t be the same.”

Killian Senior High School alone has six alumni on the Miami roster, including five pitchers.

“It’s just a great program over there. [Coach Herrera] is a great head coach,” junior pitcher Sam Robinson said. “If you want to go to school he’s the guy to go to. It’s a great program to play for. I was lucky I got into the program.”

Nevertheless, Miami is just like any other Division I program when it comes to losing talent to the professional level.

Offensively, the Hurricanes have struggled with the loss of former star catcher Yasmani Grandal, who was taken 12th overall by the Cincinnati Reds in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft.

“You don’t replace Yasmani. Everyone else has to get better… you can’t say you’re going to replace Yasmani, someone who was the best player in the country,” Morris said.

The effect of Grandal’s absence has been exacerbated by the debut of the new NCAA regulation aluminum bats, which are designed to limit offensive production.

Miami has scored five runs or fewer in five of their first eight games.

Miami and its fans will find out what the 2011 Hurricanes are truly made of this weekend when the squad takes on the No. 1- ranked Florida Gators in Gainesville.

Adam Berger may be contacted at aberger@themiamihurricane.com.