Simpson Drawn to O'Sullivan's Reputation

For high school baseball players with their eyes on playing pro ball down the road, a college coach's track record means a lot. It's a big reason Tucker Simpson decided to sign with Florida. The 6-7, 220-pound right-hander watched closely as Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan has handled his pitching staffs with care over his career.

"As an 18-year-old kid who will play college and pro baseball down the road, not messing your arm up is a big thing," Tucker Simpson said. "(O'Sullivan) telling you that he's going to do his best to protect our arms is definitely important. He knows the ins and outs about pitching from a mechanics standpoint as good as anybody in the country, if not better. He has a reputation of not throwing guys out there multiple times a week or wearing down a guy's arm."

The track record goes back over recent years, but the way O'Sullivan handled his deep pitching staff in 2011 was important. After Karsten Whitson turned down $2.1 million to come to Gainesville instead of signing with the San Diego Padres as the No. 9 overall pick, the Florida coaches were careful with him all season. Just two Florida pitchers threw over 100 pitches all season.

O'Sullivan's awareness of pitch counts helped the Gators land Simpson. The Gators had a deep pitching staff in 2011, and the number of trusted arms allowed the coaches to be careful with pitch counts and not overwork any of the arms on the team.

"He showed that with Karsten (Whitson) last year," Simpson said. "He was on a pitch count around 80 every time he was out there."

The decision to attend Florida wasn't always easy. Simpson, who was a Perfect Game All-American, originally committed to Georgia Tech before changing his mind and committing to the Gators on August 20, 2011. Simpson liked what the Yellow Jackets had to offer, but he felt like Gainesville was a better fit.

"It was nothing whatsoever against Georgia Tech," Simpson said. "I just wanted to be in the SEC, and I didn't want to be in a metropolitan city like Atlanta.

"When I started looking at other places, as a pitcher, there was no better place for me to be than Florida with Coach O'Sullivan."

The city of Gainesville actually played a big role in his decision to sign with Florida. "It's a small town that isn't down in the middle of the city," Simpson said. "I'm from a small town in Alabama with about 25,000 people, so it's a place that's out in the middle of the country like I was looking for. When I was on my visit, everybody around campus was just like one big family."

Simpson came back to Gainesville for his official visit the weekend of October 1 when the football team hosted Alabama. Despite the outcome of the football game, Simpson enjoyed the weekend while also getting to see the baseball team practice. Freshman right-hander John Magliozzi hosted him, but they also spent time with freshmen Josh Tobias and Justin Shafer.

The only remaining hurdle before Simpson gets to campus is the MLB Draft. Simpson said he was unsure what round he might be taken in.

"I really like the University of Florida," Simpson said. "It really just depends on the kind of offers I have. I would say it's probably 50/50."

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