BASEBALL: Boss just wants to go to Omaha

By Mark McLeod Pitcher Tommy Boss took a major step in determining his worth to the Florida baseball team in 2004. The 6-3 righty tallied more innings of work last season (76.1) than he did as a freshman and sophomore combined. Boss finished with a 4-5 record against some very impressive competition, and his role should expand in 2005.

The Gators have a stable of inexperienced arms to ride through the rough and tumble Southeastern Conference. Coach Pat McMahon is looking to his experienced senior pitcher to be a leader on the Gators pitching staff.

The two-time former first team All-State star from Dunnellon took a few minutes to wrap-up 2004, talk about his preparation for the upcoming campaign, and a little about the pitching outlook as practice gets underway.

Mark McLeod: You were able to piece together some impressive starts at the end of the season including making the All-Regional Team in Oklahoma City. Did you feel as though you were getting into a rhythm? And did it end too fast?

Tommy Boss: "Yeah, I suppose so. I was starting to get into a groove. I had just pitched two complete games. You always want to keep building. It was frustrating because I just wanted an opportunity to get the ball in my hands in Coral Gables. I can't explain the feeling of losing to them (Miami) down there again like that. We obviously wanted to keep it going so that we could get to Omaha."

Mark McLeod: You went head-to-head against some pretty good competition in Alabama's Wade LeBlanc, Vandy's Jeremy Sowers and Ryan Mullins, and Ole Miss' Mark Holliman just to name a few. Does it motivate you when you find out you're going up against their ace or does that even interest you?

Tommy Boss: "I'm competitive, so yeah, I'd rather go up against their guy than just anybody. I have to prepare the same so from that standpoint it really doesn't matter. There is no added pressure but it is definitely more gratifying when you can beat their best. Most teams throw their ace on Friday night, hoping to get that first win in the series, leaving them with two games to win the series. We've used a different philosophy in that we will throw our ace on Saturday. If we've gotten the win on Friday night and our ace comes through, we have a chance to sweep. Personally, it really doesn't matter to me when I pitch. I just want the ball in my hand".

Mark McLeod: What have you done this off-season that you feel could push you personally and perhaps the Gators toward an SEC East Title? Leadership?

Tommy Boss: "I didn't play summer ball. I felt as though I really need to rest my arm, and I did that. I worked out and lost some weight. (He's now 6-3, 225) I feel better than I did when I was heavier. I really rested the arm. I still have a little weight that I want to lose before the season begins. As for leadership, I'm not really a vocal guy. I've had several leadership conversations with Coach McMahon. He understands that I try to lead by example. I told him that I'll try to lead a little more vocally but it's really not me. I'm better than I used to be at it, but it's really not my personality. Jeff Corsaletti and Jason Tordi are our vocal leaders. They do a good job of getting everybody's attention."

Mark McLeod: Talk about your repertoire of pitches for 2005?

Tommy Boss: "Last year, I worked on a changeup. I had some success with it. This year, I'm working on a slider. It's working pretty well in practice but I don't think it's ready for a game yet. My curveball is not a strikeout pitch. It's pretty good for getting groundouts. Obviously, I want something that I can throw for a strike when they're not expecting it."

Mark McLeod: Will the competition among for starting pitching slots be greater as opposed to the past three years?

Tommy Boss: "Yeah! This is definitely the best pitching staff in terms of overall talent and depth, top to bottom, since I've been here. There are a lot of good arms out there. I'm not even sure if I have a spot yet. I have to earn my way as a starter or a reliever. One thing is that I think, I hope it will be more spread out. Last years we had Jason who threw around 130 innings. I think that we'll be better off in that respect. I'd be surprised if anybody had 130 innings pitched this year."

Mark McLeod: You guys actually get to play a three-game series against Miami in Gainesville. Is that a sign that the Apocalypse is near?

Tommy Boss: (laughs) "Yeah, we haven't had them in here in what two years or so. Maybe it is. It seems like we're always going down there. I'm ready for them to come play for a series in here. I'm not really sure what they have coming back but it should be fun. Having a game like that early we'll see who has the edge."

Mark McLeod: You guys play your first 21 games at home. With such a large group of inexperienced arms how much does that help having some time to adjust at home?

Tommy Boss: "Definitely, the 21 games will help. You always hope that those young guys are on their game the first time out, because you never know what it might do to their confidence. Like I said, we have the talent. I just hope that we're able to jump off to a fast start and take care of business this year."

Mark McLeod: As a guy that's been through those wars, what can you tell a young guy who is going through the growing pains out there?

Tommy Boss: (laughs) "That's a great question. If I knew the answer to that, we'd have been in Omaha. It's my senior year, and I just want to get to Omaha."

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