Around the Horn

Baseball season is right around the corner for the Florida State Seminoles, who are gearing up for their opener Jan. 31 against VMI. Of course, this FSU team is unlike any other in recent years -- the roster features 21 sophomores and freshmen. While veterans such as <B>Stephen Drew </b>and <b>Bryan Zech</b> must make an immediate impact, FSU will also look to first-year players such as <b>Shane Robinson</b> and <b>Ryne Malone</b> to contribute was well.

You must feel good to get back out on the field. How has it been going thus far?

"It's going well. We have a lot to teach and guys have an awful lot to learn. We are obviously doing a lot of defensive stuff right now, trying to make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to do. Pickoffs and relays, bunt defenses, first-and-third, the bunting game. We are trying to set the fundamental right now."

Do you feel like you accomplished what you wanted to during fall practice, and has the team carried that momentum into practice?

"Yes. We had a good fall. We felt like we got a lot accomplished, but we still have a long way to go. Our motto is ‘We are going to learn and grow together all the way through the year.' It's going to take time. We are going to be very young. We do feel like we will be there like we always are at the end. It might be a different sort of year in that we possibly might not start out great. But we are going to grind through it and we will be fine."

Obviously this is a year where you aren't peeking ahead to your opener.

"No (laughing). It's one day at a time. We have so much to do -- we can't be looking ahead. The older guys are stepping up and showing some leadership, which obviously is a good thing. We are getting great effort out of the guys. The energy and enthusiasm out there has been very, very good. We are working hard."

Speaking of your older guys, have Stephen Drew, Bryan Zech and others stepped up in terms of displaying more leadership?

"There's no question they have to. They have to lead by example -- they are not used to that, especially when you had guys like Tony Richie and Matt Lynch and those type of guys who knew what leadership was about. They have to watch their step. Everything they do, they have to understand that some young guys are watching every move they make. That's crucial for us to be successful for them to lead by example. And they've done that and we are very pleased with the leadership out of the older guys."

In terms of your younger players, how much more comfortable do they appear after having fall practice under their belt?

"There's no question. Those first two weeks of the fall were rather humorous. It's gets to where it doesn't even look like a practice. It looks like a fire drill, people running every where (laughing). But people know what's expected out of them, and how technique-wise they are supposed to go about doing that. We just have to keep them together, keep everybody focused and get guys to know their roles. That's often overlooked. -- guys not knowing their roles could really be detrimental to the team."

Goals of this program will never change. But, like you said, this might be a year where your start is a tad rough. Still, do the younger kids realize what's expected of them?

"Sure. That will never change, not as long as the big man (Mike Martin) is here, regardless of how young, how old -- whatever you want to call it -- we have the same focus every year. That's to get there (College World Series) and to win it. We haven't been there in three years. I think we have driven them pretty good on it. Although we are young and the expectations might be low with the public, it doesn't change with us. We will do everything we can to get the maximum out of this team."

Who are some of the players who have caught your eye?

"Shane Robinson is playing well, our center fielder. We've moved Sauls to left. Shane Robinson has been very impressive so far. He's a leadoff hitter with great speed and throws very well. He plays hard. He's a dirt bag type of player. Derrick Smith is a guy people don't realize can swing the bat. He had a broken bone in his hand -- probably out of 115 of his at-bats, 80 of them were with a broken bone in his hand. They haven't seen what he can bring to the table. Ryne Malone is playing well. Gibbs Chapman is playing well, the junior-college transfer from Indian River. There's a few of them who will be thrown straight into the fire, right off the get-go. Brant Peacher is another one that's has been very impressive. We are excited. Our pitching staff, (coach) Jamey (Shouppe) deserves a lot out of them. There's a learning curve for them as well. As far as the new guys who are going to be in the mix, I think… we have a lot of depth. It's unproven depth but we are going to do everything we can to get their feet wet early in the year. It's going to be more of a pro style (approach) in terms of rotation, meaning using a lot of guys throughout the game. Our starting rotation will be three familiar names (Rhett James, Mark Suals, Hunter Jones) but the guys coming out of the bullpen to get their feet wet will be abundant."


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