Baseball Gets Through Pro Signings Ok

You might think Urban Meyer or Billy Donovan has it tough, but no one has a tougher job on the recruiting trail than Florida Baseball Coach Kevin O'Sullivan. "Sully" has to recruit with a miniscule "budget" of 11.7 scholarships. Then after he's signed his class he has to wait and see which if his current players and recruits will leave school for professional baseball.

Many of those final decisions aren't made until right before the semester when it's too late to react.

That was the case for Sully in the last week leading up to Monday's signing deadline for pro ball. Sully lost lefty pitcher Patrick Schuster when the Arizona Diamondbacks more than tripled their previous offer, but he also got Matt den Dekker back when the centerfielder decided a senior year was better than what we was offered by Pittsburgh.

In all the most significant losses off the current roster were relief pitchers Billy Bullock and Tony Davis. Recruiting wise the Gators lost four players, but seven of their 11 recruits that were drafted turned down pro ball and will be seen at McKethan Stadium this spring.

I spoke with Coach O'Sullivan about his overall view of how the Gators fared in relation to pro ball.

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KO: "I thought we ended up doing okay. We ended up with 22 players drafted between the guys on our team and the guys we signed and I thought we fared pretty well."

LV: If we go back to the start of the season I guess the biggest surprise is that you will have Matt den Dekker back for his senior season.

KO: "That's huge for us and we're looking for Matt to have a great senior year and we're fortunate to have him back. Anytime you get a player of his caliber back for his senior year it can do noting but help our program immensely."

LV: How does this set things up for 2010?

KO: "It's nice when you're starting your lineup from the middle with him and (Preston) Tucker, (.364, 15, 85), and (Josh) Adams (.342, 8, 52) back. And (we have) Jonathan Pigott (.357, 6, 32) playing really well the last half of the year and Tyler Thompson having a great last month and a half or so our outfield looks really strong defensively and offensively."

LV: Seven guys who were drafted but decided to turn down pro ball. Talk about those guys and what they can bring to the program.

KO: "Well a lot of the players were drafted in the late twenties and into the fortieth round, but to be honest with you they're much better than the round they were drafted in. A lot of that has to do with their commitment to the University of Florida and they made that evident to everybody involved. We're awfully excited that they're coming and we fee a lot of these guys will make an immediate impact and helps us to our ultimate goal which is to win a National Championship."

LV: The highest drafted guy you signed was Brian Borchering who signed with Arizona. He's played all over the country in all kinds of all star tournaments. I read an article where he was asked about the toughest pitcher he had faced and he said it was one of the guys who will be a Gator next spring, Brian Johnson.

KO: "Brian's got a great future ahead of him. His sister (Brooke) played softball here and we're awfully excited that he decided to play here."

LV: When you look at the roster overall and the mix you have do you feel good about heading into 2010?

KO: "I really do. I like our outfield and infield-wise we'll have a couple of new faces, but we really like what we have there. Behind the plate we're going to be as strong as anyone in the country. Pitching-wise I think we have finally gotten to a point here where we have a ton of options for starting and middle relief and hopefully we'll be able to develop somebody for the end of the game."

LV: One of those new faces in the infield could be Bucky Dent's son, right?

KO: "Cody Dent is going to be a heckuva player. He has a tremendous amount of upside, is a great kid and a tremendous student. We're looking forward to working with him for the next three or four years."

LV: To be honest with you I'm amazed that a guy who works for Jeremy Foley (a die-hard Red Sox fan) had the guts to sign Bucky Dent's kid to a scholarship.

KO: "(laughing) We kind of joked about that early on."

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O'Sullivan went on to point out that the Gators have several players, like Dent who were not drafted but were good enough to be had they not made it clear to the pros that they were going to school no matter what. He says those guys will join the drafted recruits and returning Gators on September 24 when fall practice begins.


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