Saluting LaPorta

One of the worst things about the Gator Baseball Team coming up short of the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons is the lack of a platform for Florida senior first baseman Matt LaPorta. The slugger had a phenomenal final season in Orange and Blue and won his second SEC Player of the Year honor, but most of the country has no idea who he is.

LaPorta turned down pro ball after a disappointing junior season that was limited by an injury. He returned to post huge numbers despite injuries limiting him throughout the year. Unlike the basketball players who turned down the pro to enjoy great team success, the Port Charlotte, Fla. product has to be content with returning for a great individual senior year.

LaPorta finished the season with a .402 average, which is the seventh-best regular season average in UF history. He slammed 20 homers and drove in 52 runs. His slugging percentage was amazing (.817) as was his on-base percentage (.582). LaPorta had to deal with being pitched around most of the year, drawing 55 walks. And when he wasn't being pitched around he was being pitched at as evidenced by being hit 19 times, the second most in Florida history.

LaPorta's final career stats rank him with the greatest players ever to wear Orange and Blue. His 74 homers are by far the most in school history and his 206 RBI are second behind Brad Wilkerson (214). He leaves Florida as one of the top ten best players in school history. LaPorta was not only a prodigious power hitter highlighted by his sophomore season of 26 homers and 79 runs batted in. He also developed into an outstanding first baseman defensively. He gets bonus points for playing in pain, coping with a painful oblique muscle strain as a junior and multiple injures including a badly pulled quad muscle this past season.

But just how high on that list should he be?

That's a subject I will investigate in the days ahead with a look at the ten best Gator baseball players over the past 30 years.

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