Tobias Excited for the Big Stage

With Florida in the College World Series championship last year, the current freshmen on the team were grouped together in their dorms in Gainesville. The group hadn't been on campus long but was trying to get adjusted to college life. This year, they'll be experiencing it for themselves. Freshman third baseman Josh Tobias has spent the year waiting for this moment.

"I was in my dorm room was the College World Series games with the other freshman," Josh Tobias said on Tuesday. "Now, a year later, I'm actually going to it to play. It's mind blowing. It's not going to hit me until I get there."

Tobias joined up with Casey Turgeon, Justin Shafer, Corey Stump, Ryan Harris, John Magliozzi and other freshmen in a dorm room to watch their future team play for the title. After game two came to an end and South Carolina started their celebration dogpile on the field, talks of next year started with the group.

"We were talking about how awesome it was that they were playing, and that we'd be playing with them next year," Tobias said.

The team finished up its final home practice at McKethan Stadium on Tuesday afternoon and began preparations for the journey to Omaha that begins when the team flies out on Wednesday.

It's a stage that usually takes freshmen some time getting used to. The two freshmen likely to be in the lineup for the Gators with Tobias—left fielder Justin Shafer and second baseman Casey Turgeon—will have to get used to the setting and big crowds early in the trip.

"You're playing the best competition every day, and you're going to be on the biggest stage besides the Major Leagues," Tobias said. "That's one of the reasons why I chose this school."

There was a point in the season when Tobias didn't know if the trip would happen. He fractured his hamate bone on March 23 during the trip at South Carolina and missed five weeks of conference action. It took his bat some time to get going, but Tobias had a double to start the ninth inning on Sunday and later drove in the winning run on an RBI single in the tenth.

The injury actually played a part in helping Tobias regroup during a long freshman season.

"When I got hurt, I felt like I was getting really comfortable in the box," Tobias said. "I don't call it a setback. I think it actually helped me when I got hurt. I got to sit back and look at thigns, take a bigger picture of what I'd been doing. It helped me to get a good frame of mind coming back."

While the bat has been streaky, the glove has been consistent. Tobias played middle infield in high school and has the range to stay there if the Gators need him at one of the two positions. Instead, his above average range shines at third base.

His instincts when the ball is hit give him a good jump, especially on balls hit to his left. Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan estimated that Tobias saved three or four hits over the weekend because of his quick feet to the left.

It came from plenty of time spent with his dad. The two would go to the field when he was growing up in Greensoboro, N.C, and work on ground balls like most fathers and sons do. However, they did it differently.

Tobias' dad didn't hit him many routine ground balls. He tried to stretch his son's ability by hitting balls he couldn't get to, making him increase his range every day.

"I actually practice tough plays," he said. "When I'm with my dad back home, we practice making the plays that you don't make every day. When it happens, I'm just used to it."

Even in his spare time, Tobias would throw a baseball up against a wall to create an angle he thought was impossible to get to. Through stretching the angle further and further, his range grew to where it is today.

His teammates saw the range in preseason practices and early in the season, but Tobias has taken another step since recovering from the hamate injury.

"Tobias has continued to amaze me at third with the plays he's making and the balls that he's getting to," Florida catcher Mike Zunino said. "Now his bat is coming around better than I've ever seen it."

The challenge for Tobias now becomes enjoying the next few days as the Gators leave for Omaha on Wednesday but still remaining in a business-like attitude. The benefit for him is having a team full of veterans making their third straight trip to Omaha.

The older players have already instilled the mindset into Tobias that they want to leave Omaha with the national championship trophy.

"I've heard it's amazing," Tobias said. "They said you're going to have your mind blown. But we expect to win it, too. We got there last year, but I expect to win the whole thing this year."

Fightin Gators Top Stories