BASEBALL: Home Run Derby this Saturday

The countdown has begun as the UF baseball program and the Gator Dugout Club will host the Fourth Annual Children's Miracle Network Home Run Derby on Saturday at noon. All proceeds from the event held at McKethan Stadium will benefit the Children's Miracle Network at Shands Children's Hospital. A "Meet the Players" autograph session with the 2005 Gators will also be held in conjunction with the competition. Several UF players and members of the staff will be visiting Shands on Friday.

"We decided to change the event from the fall to a week before we open as a kickoff to the season," head coach Pat McMahon said. "It is a special day in that the players can learn to give back to the community for a worthy cause to people in need. Hopefully we can hit a lot of home runs."

Fans may pledge a certain amount of money to the Children's Miracle Network for each homer hit by the Gators during the day. Each player will have nine outs to hit as many home runs as possible (an out consists of anything that does not leave the ballpark in fair territory). For a pledge card, please call the Children's Miracle Network at (352) 265-7953.

"We will begin the day by scrimmaging from 9 a.m. until the Home Run Derby festivities begin around noon," McMahon continued. "We are letting all of the pitchers hit so they are anxiously awaiting their turns at the plate."

Florida is continuing preparations for its 2005 opener next Friday, Feb. 11, when Charleston Southern visits for a three-game weekend series.

"Practice is going well for us," first-year assistant coach Tim Parenton said. "We are to the point now where we are ready to play someone in another uniform besides the Gator Orange and Blue.

"Everyone fought through a flu-bug that affected the team last week so hopefully that's behind us. The recent weather has enabled us to get our pitchers on the mound and gives our hitters a chance at live pitching. Batting practice can only go so far, game situations provide the best teaching opportunity. Although the weather has been inconsistent, it has helped us to prepare for the different types of conditions we will face during the season."

"There have not been many surprises from what happened during the fall workouts. We have a solid nucleus of offensive players and pitchers we will rely upon during the season. We are excited about the attitude and enthusiasm shown by our players. Now that other teams have started their seasons, most of the guys are seeing the scores and getting excited for us to begin."

UF finished 43-22 overall in '04, capped by a trip to the NCAA Super Regional held in Coral Gables, Fla. The 40-man roster features just four seniors, Tommy Boss (Dunnellon, Fla.), Jeff Corsaletti (Port Charlotte, Fla.), Connor Falkenbach (Parkland, Fla.) and Mike Pete (Brandon, Fla.), and boasts 19 newcomers. Six position starters highlight the 18 returning lettermen.

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