One Of Nation's Best Players Chooses Tigers

Coach Tommy Slater and his staff continue to pile up an impressive recruiting class.

Richmond, Va.–-The win over LSU a few weeks ago was big for more than just the football team as Coach Tommy Slater used the atmosphere surrounding the game to close the deal on several top baseball prospects for the Tigers.

Perhaps the most impressive of those is 6-4, 215 shortstop/pitcher Justin Bristow from Mills Godwin High. Considered one of the nation's top prospects for next season and a possible first-round selection in next spring's Major League Baseball Draft, Bristow was being courted by many of the top programs in the country before deciding to become a Tiger.

"I made my decision when I was on my visit a few weekends ago," Bristow tells Inside The Auburn Tigers. "It was actually that Saturday when I got there. I was sitting in the office with Coach Slater and I felt like my decision had been made for a while. I just felt like it was the right time.

"The football game was just icing on the cake," Bristow adds. "I liked the coaches, the facilities all the people there before I even went on that visit. I had been down a couple of times before on unofficial visits and liked everything about it. That was just icing on the cake."

Unlike many top baseball players, Bristow has given his college choice a lot of thought and put time and effort into his decision. After taking unofficial visits to Clemson, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and even Auburn for the Alabama game last season, Bristow says he was unsure of what he was going to do until a coaching change led him in Auburn's direction.

"I had planned on making a decision early and actually came to Auburn for the Alabama game last year on an unofficial visit," Bristow says. "Coach (Steve) Renfroe was there and he said they would love to recruit me, but being a high profile guy they couldn't afford to recruit me. Things kind of worked out because I waited until the summer to make a commitment. I guess that was a real good choice because of the coaching changes. Coach Finwood (Chris Finwood) called me immediately after that and told me they were going to recruit me. I started looking at Auburn real seriously after that."

A member of Team Florida USA, a summer baseball team that plays all over the country, Bristow had a chance to visit Auburn's campus over the summer to play in a tournament on the Plains. With a chance to become more familiar with the atmosphere and feeling you have while in Auburn, Bristow says that it's going to take a whole lot for him to give that up for professional baseball next spring.

"I'm really excited to come to Auburn," Bristow says. "I'm excited about everything, about being there for three or four years. It's going to take a lot for me to get away from that feeling. I think they've gotten close to 10 commitments now and I've played with or against most of them. That makes it fun."

Expected to get a shot at both shortstop and pitcher, Bristow is considered top-flight at both positions by Major League scouts. With a fastball in the mid-90s and outstanding pop at the plate, Bristow says he's ready to try his hand at both on the collegiate level.

"I've always been a two-way guy," Bristow says. "I've never made a choice to go one way or another. I've just always played both."

Bristow hit .490 with seven home runs as a junior despite being pitched around much of the year. He was intentionally walked 23 times in just 20 regular season games last season. On the mound he was 9-1 last season with an ERA of just 0.80. For his career he's 22-2 on the mound with 12 career home runs.

Also a standout quarterback, Bristow has led his team to a 2-1 record this season and lost a 36-35 heartbreaker two Fridays ago. Opposing running back Victor Harris ran for over 330 yards in the game. For the season Bristow has completed 60 percent of his passes for over 600 yards with five touchdowns. He says that he had a chance to play football, but baseball is where his heart lies.

"Virginia wanted me to play both," Bristow says. "Virginia Tech was talking to me a little bit. Tennessee talked to me as well. I didn't have the interest to do it myself so I didn't give it much thought."

The Tigers have also added two stellar commitments in pitcher Will Inman from Tunstall High in Dry Fork, Va., and utility player Bryan Woodall from Central High in Phenix City. Inman already owns the school record for strikeouts with over 330 and has struck out 18 in a game. Woodall was a first team All-State selection as a junior last season for the Red Devils.

Joining Bristow in Auburn's recruiting class is 6-2, 180 infielder/pitcher Luke Greinke from Orlando, Fla. Greinke's older brother Zack Greinke is a starting pitcher for the Kansas City Royals and was a first-round selection out of high school two years ago. Other recent commitments are 6-2, 185 infielder Zack Martin from Columbus (Ga.) High, 6-1, 180 pitcher Peter Wiggins from Gulf Coast Community College in Mississippi.

They join earlier commitments Mike Bianucci from W.T. Woodson High in Richmond, Va., pitcher/outfielder Colby Rasmus from Russell County High, infielder Brandon Monk from LaGrange, Ga. High and pitcher Evan Crawford from Prattville.

Rasmus, Monk, Martin and Woodall were all members of the 1999 Little League World Series team from Phenix City that lost in the final game to Osaka, Japan.

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