Wells Encouraged by Practice

Jim Wells has impeccable timing. Timing and longevity. The 12th year Alabama baseball coach will become the winningest baseball coach at Alabama with just 10 wins this year.

Is he excited?

"I'm excited that I'm here today with you guys," Wells dead-panned Saturday afternoon, at a uneventful press gathering before Alabama's basketball game against Mississippi State. "It's a longevity deal. Some A.D.s have allowed me to stay here. I'm happy to be at Alabama and proud to be in that position, but when you have to play 56 to 70 games it's not something you think about. You're trying to get your team better and get ready to play against Winthrop."

Wintrhop is a stout season-opener for Alabama. They are ranked 26th by the National Baseball Writers of America after an NCAA-appearance and 44-22 overall record last year.

Winthrop heads up a non-conference schedule that includes three-game series with Kent State, Florida International, Appalachian state and Nebraska. The season opener is scheduled for February 10.

"All those teams are pretty good," Wells said. "Winthrop is ranked. A little tougher schedule than in years past, but it's a good thing. One of my assistants came in and goes, ‘Do you realize how difficult the pre-conference schedule is?,' and I said,'Yes, thanks for reminding me of that. See you this afternoon.' It's a nice schedule."

The Tide's wildly popular preseason baseball barbecue, hosted by the Alabama GrandSlammers, is on Sunday, Feb. 5 from 1-2:30 p.m. in the Scholarship Room at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The cost is $10 per person. Wells and the UA baseball team will be on hand for photograph and autograph opportunities. There will be door prizes, schedule cards and posters available at the event. A limited number of GrandSlammer merchandise will be available for purchase, including t-shirts, golf shirts, pullovers and caps. There will also be a silent auction.

Wells said he has been surprised by the strength of what were some presumed weaknesses on this year's squad, namely, Greg Paiml's play at shortstop filling the spot left open by Cale Iorg [who left the team after his freshman year on a Mormon mission].

"We got in our fifth scrimmage today. For the most part I think this team has improved daily better than a lot of teams have here," Wells said. "Paiml is really improved. He's elevated his game. He's not the same player he's been the past two years. You don't replace Iorg. He's real good. A first rounder and covered a lot of ground. But Paiml has made about 99 percent of the plays and is good enough to play in this league."

Last year Alabama finished third in the SEC Western Division, and fifth overall in the league. Wells handicapped Florida as the frontrunner to win the league this year, but says he hasn't paid much attention to the other teams.

"I really don't know," he siad. "I watch the World Series and see where Florida had seven or eight returning position players, so you gotta think they are going to be pretty good. Other than that I don't know. The focus is really always on us. But you can bet there will be a lot of good teams."

For a team that played over its head for much of last year and won a lot of close games and lost its best hitter, the returning players probably won't be projected to win the West or the SEC, but Wells has been pleased with the progress he has seen.

"The leadership's getting good," he said. "Some points early in the year where people thought we might not be strong are coming around. At this point things are good."

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