Brown will be hard to replace

Today <I></I> begins a preview of this year's Bama baseball squad, starting with the catchers. <br><br>Alabama coach Jim Wells knows he lost a great one in Jeremy Brown.

After all, Brown was a First Team All-SEC selection and a first-round draft pick by the Oakland A's.

"You don't replace Brown," Wells said. "I've seen teams that won that didn't always have the best catcher in the league. We've been blessed to have the best catchers in the league every year."

But Wells isn't too worried. The Tide has always produced good catchers under Wells, starting from Dax Norris and extending through Matt Frick, Kelley Gulledge, and Brown.

This year, there are three top candidates, with another one slowly but steadily emerging into the mix. Wells said that for the season opener, Burns would be the starter.

"Right now it's Burns," Wells said. "But John Marshall is there too."

Burns is a 6-0, 190-pound junior transfer from Dixie State College in Herriman, Utah. Like pitcher Jeffrey Norris, Burns also spent two years on a Mormon mission. Marshall, a senior, started three games last season as the backup to Brown. He hit .429 with four runs scored, two doubles, and five runs batted in.

Last year's starting catcher, Jeremy Brown, was a major contributor for Alabama throughout his career, finishing up All-SEC his final season.

Nathan Meiners, a junior college transfer from Delgado Community College in Baton Rouge, La., has also gotten a look at catcher. Right now, Meiners is backing up the catching positions while also getting work at first and in the outfield. Nicknamed "Dutch" by his teammates because of similarities to former Philly catcher Darren Daulton, Meiners should eventually work his way into the lineup somewhere. He is considered a better hitter than Burns, but Burns is the best defensive catcher of the bunch and also possesses the best arm.

Another player listed at catcher is UAB transfer Al Hecklinski, but due to arm problems (with his catching arm) he will not play that position, but has moved to the outfield. He will be counted on as a power source this season.

Charlie Lyons, a true freshman from Tuscaloosa County High School in Northport, was expected to redshirt, but Wells has liked what he has seen of Lyons lately and he now has a chance to see action this season.

"Lyons has improved to the point where we are considering the option of playing him rather than redshirting him," Wells told the Tuscaloosa News.

Lyons batted .387 and compiled a .987 fielding percentage for the Wildcats his senior year. He was a two-year starter.

Another name on the roster is Bo Hannah, a redshirt freshman from Tuscaloosa Academy. He is not expected to contribute this season.

Overall, the position won't produce anyone with the caliber of Brown. This could be the worst year in the catching position in terms of offensive production, but shouldn't falter much defensively. Burns has the tools defensively, and if he can put up decent numbers at the plate, the position could be considered a success this year.

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