BASEBALL: Talks Continue With Horne, Yankees

The New York Yankees pitching woes have given rise to a twist on the phrase "Bronx Bombers." That fact isn't lost on Florida pitcher Alan Horne, who was selected by the Yankees in the eleventh round in the Major League Baseball Draft. Contract talks between Horne and the Yankees are continuing at this time.

"We went down there (Tampa) this past Monday and met with some of the guys at their minor league complex, but nothing has been worked out," Horne said. "We talked to them for a little while and everything went well. We'll talk to them later on in the week. We'll find out then if we have to go back down there late in the week.

"They're starting to really move some and there is some definite interest there," he continued. "Talks are going well. They're very positive. They want to get me signed, but again, by no means have we come to an agreement. They're a very class organization and they're very professional. The first thing they said was that it was 'a business thing. We have a ton of respect for you and your college program' … Coach McMahon is very good friends with a lot of their guys on up… 'Regardless of what happens, we know that you're going to be very successful and wish the best to you next year.' We've started working on everything and hopefully we'll know something by the end of the week. At least we'll know which way it's going to go and we'll be able to tell Coach Mac and the guys at Florida what the deal will be."

Classes at the University of Florida begin on August 24. The clock is ticking for a agreement between the parties to be signed. Once Horne steps into his first class, the potential for wearing pinstripes is removed for an outfit splashed with Orange and Blue.

      "Talks are going well. They're very positive. They want to get me signed, but again, by no means have we come to an agreement. They're a very classy organization and they're very professional."

Failure to reach an agreement between the two sides certainly won't hurt the feelings of Florida fans. Imagine Coach Pat McMahon leading the Gators into a weekend series with a starting rotation consisting of Horne, Bryan Ball, and Stephen Locke, not to mention a lineup loaded with talent. That too isn't lost on the hard throwing Horne, who went 10-2 in his first season for the Gators, including a sparkling 6-1 record in Southeastern Conference play.

"That's unbelievable," he said. "That team is going to be a really very special team, as last year's team was. There wasn't a guy on our side that when the season was over this past year that felt like the right team was holding up the trophy. We just felt like we were better than those guys. They outplayed us those two games. They didn't blow us out in any game or anything like that. We just really felt like the wrong team was out there holding it up.

"We're returning a ton of experience there," Horne pointed out. "Myself, if I'm back and Bryan Ball is back, who had an outstanding year --- he had a problem with the arm but he came back and played hard all year. You can count on Bryan. And of course, Locke, who got a lot of experience this year and threw very well in some big games. There's a ton of prospects out there. A lot of the younger guys threw pretty well throughout the year. We're also returning the core of the bullpen in Darren O'Day and Stephen Porter. You've definitely got a strong pitching base going into this year.

"Offensively, the team speaks for itself. Pretty much everybody is back. Losing Corso (Jeff Corsaletti) hurts. He's a force at the top of the lineup, and that's very hard to replace I hear they're bringing in a lot of top recruits. A few of them should be able to step in and have an immediate impact. There's really no ceiling for this team next year. I really believe that you can expect from the git-go that there is a national title hunt going on."

Once the Yankees drafted Horne, they too followed the College World Series hoping to see their guy perform on the big stage. They had to be impressed with his numbers during NCAA play. Horne was a perfect 3-0, including eight strikeouts against a strong offensive Tennessee squad in the Gators CWS opener.

      We're returning a ton of experience…There's really no ceiling for this team next year. I really believe that you can expect from the get-go that there is a national title hunt going on."

"We talked some early (in the process)," he recalled. "Obviously, there was concern with the hamstring. All of their guys (Yankees) were watching us (the Gators) on TV, and they wanted to make sure that it wasn't a knee, it wasn't an ankle. I came out on TV and had a big knee brace on, so that threw them for a loop, and that was just something that we had on for protection, so that nobody ran into my leg. We talked a good bit early and met with the local scout around here, when we got back from Omaha. He introduced us to the guys in their organization and told us a bit about how they work. We probably talked for three or four weeks after we had been back from Omaha, but then we went through that down period, which we really didn't take that as a negative thing. There's no point in rushing things, because it wasn't as though I was going to throw this summer anyway. They're obviously a very big organization trying to compete for a playoff spot, and that's usually not something the Yankees have to worry about.

"We went through a time when we didn't speak to them for awhile, but their big league team is in turmoil right now," Horne said. "Between the injury at the end of the year and how much I threw last year, I'm one of those guys that they weren't too anxious to see getting out and throwing this summer. So, I wasn't one of those lead guys that they wanted to see get done (signed), so that I could get right out there throwing."

He remained in Gainesville, where he took a class during the summer C semester. Horne said that he knew that it was time to rest his arm. Since the Gators played in the CWS during the latter part of June, taking the summer off basically meant less than two months.

"I didn't do any throwing at all," he stated. "Actually, yesterday was the first time that I picked up a baseball since Omaha. We got our throwing program in from Coach (Ross) Jones to start getting ready, so I started it yesterday. I was supposed to start it Monday, but we were in Tampa. It wasn't a lot yesterday. Everything felt great and I had no problems. I'm ready to get in shape for either fall practice at Florida or any fall program with the Yankees.

New York needs pitching prospects. On Tuesday night, Yankees' reliever Alan Embree gave up a double to Tampa Bay speedster Carl Crawford. Manger Joe Torre went to the pen, bringing in Scott Proctor, who promptly walked three consecutive batters, including Johnny Gomes, on four straight pitches for the winning run. The struggles on the mound have played out like a really bad used car commercial in the Bronx.

"They have a lot of team meetings going on right now and their big league team is in Tampa playing the Devil Rays, so they have a full plate right now, he said. "So, we're just letting them pace a lot of it. I feel that I'm ready for professional baseball. I do hope that it will get done. We'll see though. The talks have been positive. If not, I know that I've got a great place to go play, and it won't be a let down by any means.

"Lately, I've been hanging around here (Marianna) because a friend is in the hospital batting cancer," he said. "Things are not looking good there, but we're hoping for the best. He is suffering, and that makes for a really tough situation."

      "The talks have been positive. If not, I know that I've got a great place to go play, and it won't be a let down by any means."

Horne is seemingly well equipped in one area to comfort his friend. While he thankfully hasn't battled a disease as intense or horrible as cancer, he has had to go through painful elements of rehabilitation following Tommy John surgery. Rehabilitation requires the inner strength it takes to push through and the wisdom to follow the advice of medical professionals and rest, when it's called for.

Hopefully, Alan Horne will be of some comfort to his friend, while at the same time comforted with either a Yankees offer or a warm welcome back by Florida fans everywhere.

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