UM baseball team continues preseason work

The Rebels begin to look toward the weekend's scrimmages; Justin Henry named captain by his teammates. Intrasquads are set for 3:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Day two of Ole Miss baseball preseason practice was another productive one as the Rebels got more into the swing of things, according to their head coach.

"A little bit better today than the first day on some of the fundamentals," Mike Bianco said. "We've still got a lot of practicing to do and a long way to go. Offensively we were good again today (Wednesday), but not as good as the first day. Part of that was because the wind was blowing in.

"Stoney (Stone) had a good bullpen (workout). Garrett White and Tommy Baumgardner did as well.

"We also spent a lot more time at first base with runners to go over everything in our system that we teach off first base. Players are always on first base more than any other, so we worked on some things there. The next couple of practices will be one day working at second with the runners and one day at third, going through all situations there."

Bianco said early practices are normally a little rusty or sloppy as the players get used to being back on the field together. He saw improvement on day two.

"No coach ever wants his team not to look sharp, but that's to be expected when we haven't been out here as a team for three months. But what I liked again was the energy and the way people moved around. But that's also to be expected the first couple of days. We challenged them to not just have a lot of bounce in their step and go about being business-like now. We want that to be the way things are for every practice. Time will tell if we can do that."

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Justin Henry, the Rebels' new second baseman, has been honored by his teammates with the title "captain" for the 2006 season.

With the names Coghlan and Cozart and Wright and Baumgardner and Stone and Presley and other veterans on the team, it was never clear cut who would be the captain this season. Sometimes when the voting is quite close, they'll go with two.

When it came time to vote on the captain to lead the Rebels this season, it was the 6-foot-3, 185-pound one-year letterman but two-year member of the program who was the choice of his fellow players.

"Justin got a lot of votes," Bianco said. "When you have one captain, it means that player got a lot of votes. Here's a guy who didn't play his first year (redshirt), and then last year didn't play that much until the second part of the season when he became an everyday player.

"But it's not just about that. No slight against his talents, because he's as talented as anybody we have. But it's not all about talent, it's not all about being the best hitter, it's not all about a guy who will have the most records. It's about the best leader, and as we tell them before they vote on it, it's the one that emulates what we want in the program and on our team the most, the guy that does it right more times than not, the guy who represents us the best, the guy who is what we want to be. It's a tremendous compliment to Justin, and they couldn't have made a better choice.

"Justin is a very good student, has a great personality, is liked by his players and teammates and has great work ethic. He's the total package."

Henry, who appeared in 54-of-65 games last season, making 17 starts as the DH, one at first base, and one at second base, said he was humbled by the honor.

"It's nice to have the respect of your peers, but there's a lot that goes along with that," said the Vicksburg High alum. "I have to step up even more to help lead this team. That's what they selected me for."

Henry says, however, leading is not a one-person show. He knows he will have many more players help lead as the season goes on.

"We have some guys on this team that are right up there as leaders of this team, guys who I will look to to help me lead this team," he said. "They are a big part of this too. We all just want to make sure we keep this thing rolling like it has been."

Chris Coghlan, the veteran third baseman, said the choice of Henry is excellent.

"I don't think anybody," said Coghlan, "could be a better captain for this team than Justin Henry."

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