The team will be a youthful one that features 12 incoming freshman and a bevy of junior college transfers as Kentucky continues to build on the foundation begun last year. Just six senior players are on the fall roster.
Among the newcomers are Kentucky Mr. Baseball Collin Cowgill, Major League draft picks J.P Lowen, Drew Albers and Willie Mays and Louisville Slugger All-American Scott Green.
Leading the returnees are Jesse Barber and Billy Grace, who finished 2004 with batting averages of .333 and .331, respectively. John Shelby and Aaron Tennyson are also back after stellar play in summer ball that earned them recognition from Baseball America. Shelby was the No. 7 overall pro prospect in the Great Lakes League while Tennyson was rated the No. 5 prospect for the Northwoods League.
The Wildcats will hold practices for five weeks and play three to four intra-squad scrimmages per week to prepare for the Spring season.
Head coach John Cohen previews fall practice
On what he hopes to accomplish with fall practice...
"Well, we've got 21 new players, so the turnover it tremendous and we're really starting the program from scratch in a lot of different ways. We're trying to get everybody on the same page. The neat thing is that there is a dramatic difference in our athleticism, there's a dramatic difference in the physicality of the club and there's a dramatic difference in the work ethic an passion level of the players coming in. We're excited. I think our team is very optimistic. They have been lifting four times a week and are bigger and stronger. The players who are still in our program from a year ago went out and had great summers in summer baseball. There's tremendous optimism and we really like the club we have."
On the importance of the returnees for continuity and leadership...
"I think two of the best leaders we had on our club last year that are returnees were freshman: Billy Grace and John Shelby. Those guys are tremendous. Michael Bertam is a guy who is a leader and had a great summer. Jesse Barber – you can just look down the list – Calen Gibson, Craig Snipp, James Rodriguez. They all had great summers and we have tremendous leadership. Aaron Tennyson will end up being a very high draft pick is an outstanding athlete. He came back with a breaking ball he didn't have last year. So, we had some guys go out over the summer and get a lot better. I think we did a pretty good job at the end of last year with the guys that were going to return and letting them know what our expectations of them are."
On using the fall to build chemistry for a team with so many new faces...
"I think the chemistry really unfolds during battle and during the Spring. There's no question that guys have to enjoy being around each other. But in our sport, because of the nature of individual skill instruction, the pitchers and hitters are always separated. So, there is some natural separation, but we hope it can come together in the four or five weeks we have of practice right now. But, in the Spring is when you find out about the make up of your team. You start playing in front of a couple thousand fans and things are happening for real. We'll see what happens then."
On some of the incoming players and how they adjust to college baseball...
"When I'm talking to recruits, the name I always bring up is Mark Prior. He went to Vanderbilt and had very, very below average numbers in the SEC, which begs the question, ‘Is it more difficult to go from high school to the SEC or from the SEC to the major leagues?' Because it's not that great of a jump. Specifically, Drew Albers, out of Canada, was a 12th round pick and is going to be special. He has a great arm and knows how to pitch. Scott Green has gotten bigger and stronger and is close to 6-7 and 210 pounds. He has a great arm with a good slider and his change up has come along way. As a freshman, he's going to pitch for us. How quickly he picks it up you just don't know, but he has a maturity about him that makes you think it will happen quick. Alex Jordan is a kid from Orange County who has been phenomenal so far. I think we got a steal out of southern California there. We have a lot of guys who have made the jump and want to pitch for us. They are SEC caliber athletes and have the mentality you need. It's going to be fun around those guys as they mature."
"Colin Cowgill, from here in Lexington, has been very good. He really figures into what we're trying to do in the outfield. Antone DeJesus, from Ohio, is a solid left-handed hitter who can really play the outfield defensively. JP Lowen is a left-handed hitting catcher from Chipola Junior College has a chance to be a high draft pick. He's done a great job with leadership and really handles himself behind the plate. He can also really hit from the left side. Russ Smithson is a junior college player who is going to be a great hitter in this league. He has a great feel for hitting. Kevin Caldwell is 6-5 and 220 pounds from Tupelo, Miss. He has been very, very good and can add some power to the middle of our lineup. There are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that we're excited about. All of the players have been working hard to get bigger, faster and stronger. I think they will all contribute pretty quickly.
Kentucky Baseball Fall Roster
Name Cl. Pos. Hometown
Jesse Barber Jr. INF Lexington, Ky.
Michael Bertram Jr. INF Lexington, Ky.
Shane Boyd Sr. RHP Lexington, Ky.
Steve Deaton So. INF Lexington, Ky.
Matt Fritts Sr. INF Lexington, Ky.
Kalen Gibson Jr. RHP Lexington, Ky.
Billy Grace So. OF Granger, Ind.
Adam Kunkel Jr. LHP Lexington, Ky.
Andrew Levenson Jr. INF Lexington, Ky.
Andy Myette Jr. RHP Surrey, British Columbia
James Rodriguez Sr. RHP Lexington, Ky.
Jimmy Rose Jr. RHP Lexington, Ky.
J.B. Schmidt Sr. INF Lexington, Ky.
Justin Scutchfield Jr. C Lexington, Ky.
John Shelby So. INF Lexington, Ky.
Craig Snipp Sr. LHP Lexington, Ky.
Aaron Tennyson Jr. LHP Lexington, Ky.
Name Cl. Hometown
Andrew Albers Fr. North Battlefield, Saskatchewan
Brock Baber Sr. Lexington, Ky.
Matt Brady Fr. Louisville, Ky.
Kevin Caldwell Jr. Tupelo, Miss.
Collin Cowgill Fr. Lexington, Ky.
Barry Cressley Jr. Meadville, Pa.
Antone DeJesus Fr. Amherst, Ohio
Greg Dombrowski Fr. Rome, N.Y.
Scott Green Fr. Louisville, Ky.
Brian Hastings Jr. Liberty, Miss.
David Hill Fr. Baton Rouge, La.
Alex Jordan Fr. Yorba Linda, Calif.
Shaun Lehmann Jr. Nashville, Tenn.
J.P. Lowen Jr. Marietta, Ga.
Willie Mays Fr. Lexington, Ky.
Adam Revelette Jr. Lexington, Ky.
Matt Robinson Jr. Rapid City, S.D.
Russ Smithson Jr. Port Coquitlam, British Columbia
Mark Tanner Fr. New Castle, Pa.
Tommy Warner Fr. Lexington, Ky.
Ryan Wilkes Fr. Harrison, Tenn.
Josh Wright Jr. Lexington, Ky.