Auburn Kicks Off Baseball In 2009

Auburn, Ala.--The 2009 Auburn baseball season doesn't officially get underway until Feb. 20 when the Tigers play host to Elon to open the season, but Saturday night was a kickoff of sorts as the team, coaching staff and support personnel were introduced at a banquet sponsored by the Auburn Diamond Club.

With over 300 people in attendance at the Auburn University Hotel and Conference Center, the ADC put on a first-rate night for everyone in attendance as first-year head coach John Pawlowski spoke a little about the season before every player and coach introduced themselves to the crowd.

The highlight of the night came from featured speaker Brett Butler. The former MLB standout that enjoyed stints with Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Butler delivered a dynamic message to everyone in attendance and talked of his road to the big leagues, dealing with medical problems, and his faith that saw him through.

Bret Butler

Also on the night Auburn introduced the team captains for the 2009 season. As voted on by the team following fall practice, senior catcher Ryan Jenkins, fellow senior pitcher Paul Burnside and sophomore utility man Kevin Patterson were picked as the Tigers' captains for the year. Pawlowski says based on what he's seen in his first year the team picked the right guys.

"We decided we wanted to build this team from inside out," Pawlowski says. "You've got to have good leaders and people that can direct our team from within the clubhouse. The players voted on it and we've got three tremendous leaders on the field and in the classroom and in the community.

"You're talking about guys like senior catcher Ryan Jenkins and senior Paul Burnside and sophomore Kevin Patterson," he adds. "You're got three quality student-athletes that are going to represent our program in a first-class manner. Our team decided those were the best three guys and they picked three quality student-athletes."

The banquet is the kickoff for the season as the Tigers will begin full team practices on Sunday. Finishing last season without an SEC Tournament berth for the fifth-straight year, Pawlowski says he sees a team anxious to get the year started and he's ready to see what unfolds.

"Feb. 1 is the first day you can actually start team practices," Pawlowski says. "With the condensed practices that we're allowed before getting on the field Feb. 20, we've got to jump right in. We'll have a 12:30 scrimmage (Sunday) that is open to the public. We'll get out there and get after it. We'll get our arms ready and the guys have to see pitches. There is definitely a lot of excitement within the Auburn baseball family and certainly within our team."

Auburn opens the regular season with a three-game series on Feb. 20 -22 against Elon at Plainsman Park.

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