June 27, 2007
The life of a designated player is a seven-innings roller coaster ride of emotions. Last season Florida State junior Whitney Buckmon road that ride for 50 games about as well as anyone in the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ups and downs of the season are nothing new to the Stone Mountain, Ga. native, but with a starting spot in the outfield secure Buckmon had the best season of her career.
Perhaps the most consistent hitter on the team throughout the entire season, Buckmon garnered the first postseason awards of her collegiate career as she was named NFCA/Louisville Slugger Second-Team All-Southeast Region and Second Team All-ACC. She finished the year second on the team and tenth in the league with a career-high .364 batting average. In addition, Buckmon was third in the ACC with three triples and seventh at 17 stolen bases.
With numerous all-state and all-regional honors coming out of Chamblee High School, Buckmon was highly-recruited and off to a great start to her first year. She was seeing plenty of starting time between center field, right field and designated player and giving the Seminoles a solid bat in the line-up. Everything was great until the start of April when she came down with mononucleosis.
An 0-for-2 game against Virginia Tech on April 2 was her last game until a pinch running appearance at Florida on May 3. It was still another two weeks before she was able to fully contribute as she collected a pair of hits against Baylor in the NCAA Regional. Those four games gave her a boost of confidence and propelled her into her sophomore season.
Unfortunately for Buckmon she was unable to step back into the starting role in center field but she was called upon the be the Seminoles’ everyday designated player. What made this request a little unusual is that most designated players are power hitters, while Buckmon is a slapper who relies on her blazing speed to get on base.
While she would have rather contributed to the team for all seven innings instead of once every three, Buckmon made the most of it as she raised her average by nearly 40 points from her freshman year. One area where she made a big improvement was on the base paths where she finished second on the team and sixth in the ACC with 19 stolen base. Buckmon was also the ideal number two hitter, leading the team with 18 sacrifices.
“It’s very difficult because you have to really really keep yourself pumped,” Buckmon said of being the dp. “After you have your at-bat you have to sit there and watch and wait until your next at-bat. It was kind of difficult but by the end of the year it became better for me. It helped me transition to this year because I had to focus so much last year, it’s helped my focus this year.”
Going into her junior season Buckmon seemed to be a lock for a starting spot in the outfield as the Seminoles lost a pair of senior starters. However, FSU brought in two talented freshmen and a transfer so starting spots were not going to be handed out, they were going to be earned.
Never one to back down from a challenge, Buckmon came out swinging to start this year and has never looked back. Her average has never dipped below .300 all season and after her ninth multi-hit game against Florida A&M she climbed up to seventh in the league with a .364 average. Against Cal State Fullerton she set a career-high with three RBIs and tied another with a trio of hits.
“It makes you feel like you’re more an intricate part of the line-up,” Buckmon said. “You feel like you’re a complete player, you fee like you’re more with your team and you’re more active in the success and the failures of the team. It makes me feel more obligated to be a better player because I’m out there with them everyday.”
Now that she’s got a starting spot in the outfield Buckmon doesn’t plan on letting go of it and if she continues her play she can help take FSU a long way.