Playing a schedule that features games against Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, South Alabama and others in addition to the always-tough SEC schedule, this spring is a very important one for Auburn. Sophomore shortstop Chuck Jeroloman says that getting practice off to a good start is imperative for his team.
"They are huge because we missed some time in the fall," Jeroloman says of the preseason practices. "We just need to get back into things. Something was taken away from us but we've come back here and been working hard every day since we've been back. It's been good."
Junior center fielder Javon Moran agrees with Jeroloman. A true freshman contributor himself, the speedster knows exactly what to expect your first season and says that it's up to the older guys to get the freshmen like right fielder Clete Thomas and catcher/third baseman Josh Bell ready to play in the SEC.
"It's going to be very important because we have a lot of incoming freshmen that might play," Moran says. "We have to get them ready just like we have to get ourselves ready to play."
Ranked 21st in the country heading into the season, Auburn brings back seven position starters and nine pitchers off last season's 34-26 squad that lost to Alabama in the final game of the 2002 season. Hoping to build off the depth built last season and the influx of nine newcomers, Jeroloman says he can't wait to get the season underway.
"It's exciting," Jeroloman says. "I've been waiting for it since we lost regionals last year. This is what we built up for. This summer me, Tug (Hulett) and (Scott) Schade played together and worked on getting back here and doing better than we did last year. That's going to pay off a lot. We've been in the most hostile crowd you can possibly be in at the regionals at Alabama. The experience is huge."
While Jeroloman, Hulett and Schade were busy playing ball this summer in the Carolinas, Moran says he spent his time trying to get bigger. A tiny player each of his first two seasons, he says that he's ready to show everyone the new-and-improved version of Javon Moran this spring.
"In the offseason I just worked out and did some spring techniques with our new sprint trainer," Moran says. "That was about it, I was just lifting and eating. I'm about eight or nine pounds heavier this season. I can feel it's different now because the balls go a little bit further when I hit with wood now. I can feel the change and how much the body weight has improved everything. It's a totally different feeling when you're not as skinny."
The Tigers will open the season Friday Feb. 7 when they host perennial NCAA Regional team Virginia Commonwealth at 3 p.m. inside Plainsman Park. The two teams will play a three-game series with Saturday set for 3 p.m. and Sunday a 1 p.m. start. Moran says this team is hoping to get the Auburn program back to the level it deserves, playing for championships.
"I feel like we have a better chance of going further this year," Moran notes. "We have most of our people back. Everybody is ready to get out and go play and go win."