Big Hitter Ready For Comeback Season

Big hitter Karl Amonite is looking for a big season after missing last year with an injury as the Tigers open the baseball season on Friday.

Auburn, Ala.–-For Auburn's slugging first baseman Karl Amonite, the last year has been a disaster. Entering his promising senior season in 2004 looking to become one of the top players in the country, Amonite instead watched from the sidelines with a season-ending injury as the Tigers failed to make the postseason.

The program is under new direction in 2005 with Coach Tommy Slater on board and Amonite is ready for a fresh start as well as the Tigers open the season Friday at 4 p.m. in the first of three games against Hofstra over the weekend. Looking like his old self in preseason practices and intra-squad games, the 6-5 left-handed hitter appears ready to pick up where he left off two seasons ago.

"It feels great," Amonite said. "It was a blow to me when I had to sit there and watch everybody last year struggling a little bit. Halfway through the season I felt a sense of urgency and I wanted to get out there. I took the right precautions and right steps with the rehab and finally I'm back out there 100 percent.

"We're trying to erase what happened last year and continue on with a winning season this year. We're going to take it game-by-game, day-by-day and pitch-by-pitch. Our ultimate goal is to win the world series, but what's on our mind right now is that first game."

Amonite has worked hard to improve his defense heading into this year.

Auburn opens up its season this Friday when Hofstra comes to town for a three-game series at Plainsman Park. When the Tigers take the field Amonite is expected to play a big part in things for the offense in the clean-up role behind second baseman Tyler Johnstone, outfielder Clete Thomas and catcher Josh Bell. Slater said that having Amonite's bat back in the lineup is a big boost for the Tigers this season.

"We're very excited that Karl Amonite is healthy this year," Slater said. "When you talk about Karl Amonite it's not about just power, but a very good hitter as well. There's not a lot of guys you can say have as good of raw power as Karl Amonite and also can hit .350 or .360. Karl can do that. He's a very gifted hitter."

Second on the team in batting average, home runs and RBI in 2003, Amonite has already shown the ability to hit on the SEC level after transferring to Auburn out of a junior college. This season his offense may take off even more under the tutelage of Slater. A hitter's coach, Slater has the team hitting every day in practice and working on drills to improve at-bats. Amonite said those things have him excited about his approach going into the new season.

"It's muscle memory is what it is," Amonite said. "You go out there and take a bunch of good hacks. It just helps you to remember how to hit much better. Just being out there promotes that aggressive approach during batting practice from an offensive standpoint. Whenever we're in hitter's counts we're going to be a aggressive and if we get our pitch we're going to hit it. It's not just about swinging at first pitches. If the pitch is over our heads we're not going to swing and be that aggressive. It's selective aggressive. You see your pitch and hit it.

"You try to make practices as real as you can to a real life game situation," Amonite added. "I think Coach Slater has really done that well. We have a lot of hit-and-run counts. We have opposite field, up counts, and a lot of different things like that where you're trying to drive the runner in. I think that has helped me tremendously."

The trio in the middle of the Auburn order will be the extent of Auburn's veterans in the expected opening day lineup for the Tigers as newcomers in the outfield and three infield positions won jobs in the fall and spring. Because of that and the amount of young players expected to see action this season, Amonite said that having a new coach brings a new attitude to the team.

"It's a fresh start," Amonite said. "This is the way we're going to be doing it. It's Coach Slater's way. That's the way we're going to abide by and that's the way we like it. All of the freshmen coming in, as a fifth-year senior I try to be a mentor on and off the field. I try to push them along the way with me, Clete and Josh Bell. What we're trying to do is leave it all to the field everyday and leave it on the field. When they see that hopefully it will rub off on them."

Coach Tom Slater

The season opener is Friday at 4 p.m. as Auburn opens the year with Hofstra at Plainsman Park. Pitching matchups for the series are senior Arnold Hughey Friday for the Tigers against sophomore Charlie Frago for the Pride. Saturday has former Auburn quarterback Josh Sullivan on the hill against junior David Huth. Sunday's mound matchup is sophomore lefty Mike Felix for the Tigers against fellow sophomore Ryan Dunn for Hofstra.

Amonite said that when fans come to the park this season they're going to see a team that approaches the game a little different than in past years and he thinks it's going to be something people will like.

"They're going to see base stealing, hitting and running, aggressive approaches, diving, everything," Amonite said. "We're going to be an aggressive, all-out, balls to the wall baseball team. That's the way it's going to be."

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