Jackets Baseball Opens Fall Practice

The phrase "you can't tell the players without a scorecard" will be very appropriate one for this year's Georgia Tech baseball team. The Jackets began fall practice on Monday with 17 scholarship freshmen on the squad. Coach Danny Hall will use the fall practices to sort out all the new players as he looks to replace six of the eight position players from last year's team.

Prior to the opening of fall camp at Georgia Tech Coach Danny Hall kept a close watch on the returning players that were playing in the various summer leagues. One of those players was sophomore outfielder Brandon Thomas. "I think Brandon Thomas probably stood out as much as anybody," said Coach Hall. "He went and had a good summer and has a lot of confidence." Infielder Connor Winn had some instructions from Coach Hall prior to the start of his summer league. "Connor Winn stuck out for me also and almost hit .300 in that league," said Coach Hall. When he left out of here my message to him was that he has to hit better and make more consistent contact to get in there."

Going away for the summer the players get to play in a more relaxed atmosphere. "If it's a pitcher, you want him to get innings, if it's a position player you want him to get at-bats and it looks like most of them did well and gained some experience."

Coach Tom Kinkelaar takes most of the responsibility for getting the players assigned to summer teams. "A lot of them we'll get calls from the Cape Cod League, the Northwoods League, or the Coastal Plains League requesting certain players but Coach Kinkelaar is the placement director," said Coach Hall. "You try to put them in a position where they have a chance to play and have some success.

While Coach Hall and his staff may have things they want the players to accomplish, it's pretty much up to the coaches of the teams how they'll use the Tech players. "There's times when we try to intervene a little bit whether somebody is not pitching enough or they're not playing a certain position we'd like them to play but once they get up there it's up to the coach and the team to do what they want to do with them."

The Jackets have lost most of the leaders from last year's squad and Coach Hall will use the fall to find players from this year's team to take over that leadership. He has an idea who that will be but will be looking at everyone as the fall proceeds. "Most of the upperclassmen have always looked up to the Tony Plagman's, Jay Dantzler's, Chris House's and on and on and on for leadership," said Coach Hall. "I think our leaders are to be determined but obviously the guys that have played a lot like Matt Skole, Jacob Esch, Brandon Thomas, and our pitchers like Zach Brewster who is a senior, Mark Pope, Jed Bradley. Those players know what is expected so they will be the ones that Coach Hall will be looking at to provide the leadership for the young squad.

One of the question marks at the end of last season was the health of closer Kevin Jacob. Kevin was slated to pitch in the Cape over the summer but a decision was made to shut him down for the summer. "I think he's getting better but he's not ready to throw yet but he is progressing and we hope we don't have any setbacks." Jacob has until the spring to get ready and right now he's just playing catch in hopes that he can return as the closer for this year's team.

One of the positives with the incoming players is their versatility. Many are capable of playing more than one position. This is important in Coach Hall's eyes. "I think it's very important and we tell them the more positions they can play the better chance they have of getting on the field."

One of the positions that Coach Hall hopes to use that versatility is the catching position. "One of the positions we're trying to get a handle on is the catching position and there's going to be a couple of them we're going to take a look at catching to see if it's a possibility." One of those options may still be Matt Skole. "He's still an option, said Coach Hall. "We didn't spend much time with him there last year but we will this fall and we're looking at a couple of other guys." In the ideal world Coach Hall would like to find the next Buster Posey who made the move from shortstop to catcher at Florida State and is now catching in the majors.

One thing that will be evident this fall when watching the Jackets practice is the fact that none of the players are guaranteed a starting position. The competition will be fun to watch and should be a positive for the Jackets as they prepare for the 2011 season.

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