Jan. 28, 2005
Tallahassee, FL – The 18th-ranked FSU baseball team opens its 2005 campaign at Dick Howser Stadium Friday at 3:30 p.m. and much has been made of the youth of the team. Over 70% of the roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores and only two players are starting in the same position from opening day 2004. When the Tribe takes the field versus Charleston Southern this weekend fans will most likely see four starters in the field who have never played an inning for FSU, three of which have never played an inning of college baseball.
“A team this young creates an atmosphere of patience with the coaching staff,” said head coach Mike Martin who enters his 26th season leading the Seminole baseball program. “You can’t expect young guys to go out and perform to the level of some of the teams we had in the past. We are not going to do that early in the year but when we get into April we aren’t young anymore. We will have played 40 ballgames and we will expect them to perform like Florida State clubs of the past. Early in the year you have to just be confident in their ability and your ability as a teacher and a coach that it is going to work.”
“Last year I played at community college and everyone I played with was a freshman or sophomore so having so many young guys on this team doesn’t feel strange at all,” said sophomore Bryan Henry who will start his first game ever for FSU at third base. “We know we (the young players) just need to come out and play to our capabilities. Age doesn’t matter. There are 18-year olds playing in the big leagues.”
Young player will be called upon to play big roles for Florida State in 2005 and on a club with 13 freshmen and 11 sophomores, second-year players like Brian Schultz, Shane Robinson and Ryne Malone will be called upon to provide veteran leadership despite just one season under their belts. Malone will start at first after making 51 starts as a freshman All-American in 2004. The Gainesville, FL native is a Brooks Wallace National Player of the Year candidate and will be counted on to replace some of the power FSU lost due to the graduation of All-Americans Stephen Drew and Eddy Martinez-Esteve.
“I am being counted on to produce and that’s a lot of fun,” said Malone. “I look forward to filling that role throughout the season. There are expectations but that isn’t going to affect me. There are so many good players on this team that can step up on any given day.”
Martin expects this club to play differently than the 2004 squad that ended up in a Super Regional for the sixth consecutive year. With the club losing a group of players that produced 54 home runs and 263 RBIs, the Seminoles’ head coach knows this team will have to find new ways to win.
“This team isn’t going to go for a big inning,” said Martin. “Without guys like Stephen Drew and (Eddy) Martinez-Esteve coming to the plate with runners on first and second and nobody out, we’ll bunt. This club is going to bunt in that situation. We have to take advantage of every possible chance we get and then rely on the pitchers. This team has the ability to score some runs but as a teacher and a coach you can’t go out early in the year and say let’s go for the big inning because freshman get anxious in that situation and it could end an opportunity to score real quick.”
Martin will rely on an FSU pitching staff is deep and experienced. The Seminole staff has a combined 281 games of experience and this year’s pitchers posted a 28-13 record in their last seasons on the mound. Veteran right-hander Mark Sauls will set the tone as he enters 2005 as the No. 1 pitcher on the staff. He will start a game opening weekend for the first time in his three-year career when he takes the hill Friday.
“I am going to take it like any other game,” said Sauls. “I have started games here before so it is just another game to me. If I approach it like that, I don’t get too high or too low. Starting on opening day does mean something to me though. It is what I have worked for. I worked hard to start opening day and to be the Friday starter for this team. I am going to try and go out and do what I have done and hopefully this year it all comes together.”
Young pitchers like Michael Hyde, Barret Browning and Ryan Strauss will be counted on as well. While the group is talented and deep, Martin knows there are a few questions that need to be answered for the 2005 staff to take FSU where it wants to go.
“We have some question marks on the pitching staff,” said Martin. “We need to get Hunter Jones and Brian Schultz throwing like they are capable of throwing because they were two guys who contributed last year. Mark Sauls is throwing fine right now. We have some young guys we have been impressed with also.”
“I think we have a strong pitching staff,” said Sauls. “We have a lot of people returning that pitched a lot of innings and were a big part of this team. Staying healthy was a problem in the fall but if we are healthy I think we can be great.”
Seniors like reliever Kevin Lynch and starting catcher Aaron Cheesman, who have played in a combined 237 games, will be asked to carry a bigger load in the early part of the season. They are the only two seniors who have played their entire careers at Florida State. For Cheesman, Friday’s opening day will be special but he can still identify with what his young teammates will be going through that first game.
“This opening day does feel a little different,” said Cheesman. “This is going to be a different year for me. Going out and knowing this is the last year you are going to put that uniform on, every time you put it on you think about that but it is going to be a lot of fun.
“I think the excitement is building and there are a lot of butterflies going around. Once you step on the field that all goes away and you are ready to play and compete. I have been very pleased with this team and I think we are coming off our best week of practice since the fall. Everyone is starting to realize how close we are and it’s crunch time now. The guys have really picked it up. I think we are all getting pretty excited.”
The three-game series with the Buccaneers continues Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and will conclude Sunday at 1:00 p.m. All three games will be available via Game Tracker. Fans in Tallahassee can listen to the first radio broadcast of Steve Melewski’s FSU career on WFLA 1270. Every game this season will also be available via an exclusive Internet radio broadcast available only at the official athletic website for Florida State seminoles.com.