Auburn, Ala.--Coming off a 23-33 season a year ago in his first back with the Auburn Tigers in charge of the baseball program, Coach Butch Thompson said he believes that he is finally ready to get his program on solid footing and that begins with fall practices.
Hired following Auburn’s practices last fall when he replaced Sunny Golloway, Thompson and his staff didn’t have the opportunity to see the team in action until the preseason workouts. Now with a full roster and a full fall to see what his 2017 team is all about, Thompson said it’s an exciting time for the program.
“Just being here from day one has been great for our staff. Everybody kind of walking around every day knowing we've got to get better. With everybody focused on our fall sports and us having a semester to basically go into a garage, close the door and try to get better. That's been kind of what we're doing every day.”
One of the things that makes this fall even bigger for Auburn is having star pitcher Keegan Thompson back on the mound after missing last season coming off Tommy John surgery. Now back to full strength and ready to go, Butch Thompson said he’s excited to see Keegan Thompson get back to work with his team.
“We want him to be a normal pitcher,” the coach said. “Now that we're 17 months out of Tommy John surgery, we're treating him like a normal pitcher. He deserves to be there just because of the protocol and the status of where he's at. We know he's healthy and has confidence. With what he has done with his body and how hard he has worked, he needs to be rewarded for that so we're probably going to allow him to have the first pitch of the fall, which he's earned, instead of been something that's been given to him.”
Expected to be one of the leaders for this team, Keegan Thompson said one of the things he has been trying to do is become more vocal on and off the field. Having been around for three years and seen what it takes to succeed in the SEC, he realizes how important this fall is to the development of the Tigers and he’s ready to go.
“It’s huge,” the redshirt junior said. “Today is a big day for us. Everybody is excited for the first day of practice. Everybody is excited to get going.”
At the plate the Tigers lost their top four hitters from a year ago with Anfernee Grier and Josh Palacios playing professionally along with Jordan Ebert and Niko Buentello. With veteran catcher Blake Logan back along with dual-role Daniel Robert and utility players such as Kyler Deese and Damon Haecker in the infield, Auburn has a few familiar names, but it’s the newcomers who will be the players to watch this fall.
Daniel Robert will be counted on to provide some punch on offense as well as fill a role on the mound
A dynamic hitter, junior college transfer, Joshua Anthony comes in with a lot of promise after putting up eye-popping numbers the last two years. Thompson said the Tigers are going to be counting on the slugger to deliver at the plate, but first he has to show it on the field this fall.
“I think any team in our league would want him on their team and want him in the middle of their lineup,” Thompson said of Anthony. “With that said, it's really hard and there's still some guesswork that we're going into. I thought our team was further along last year than once we got to the season just going off of the skill set of everybody.
“Also, I know he's a threat, but until we get out here and do some things, I guess more will be revealed. I'm thankful he's here. He's played third base. We're going to do everything we can to allow him to stay on our infield. He's working really hard at that.”
The Tigers opened practice on Thursday and have scrimmages set for Friday at 4 p.m. CDT, Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.