From The Diamond

It doesn't quite feel like baseball weather outside just yet. Sub-32 degree temps, which Oxford experienced last night, mean it isn't quite time for the boys of spring.

Don't look now but the season is fast approaching. The Rebels, ranked 11th or 12th or somewhere in that range nationally, depending on which poll you see, have their first team meeting this week as classes begin.

On Sunday, Feb. 1, just 12 days from now, they'll practice officially for the first time. It will be interesting to see just how things at the facility known as Oxford-University Stadium/Swayze Field are by then. I'm supposed to join a small group for a tour of the place soon. Hopefully that will give us some indication.

As for now, the Rebels continue to work out on their own. They actually are required to wear hard hats to get from the street/parking area at the baseball offices to the indoor hitting building. There are challenges surrounding the construction for everybody involved, but just wait until they are through.

As Mike Bianco says, teams that haven't been here in two years will have no idea it's the same facility. And he's right.

The players are excited about what they see in their renovated and expanded home. Jordan Henry said they've gotten to look around a little, and the locker rooms and team areas underneath are impressive.

"It's crazy how much bigger and better they've made that place," said the Rebels' leadoff man.

Not a bad way to put it. Crazy in a good way. The home of the Diamond Rebs will be nothing short of a baseball palace in just a few weeks.

Henry said he's eager to get on the field and get ready for 2009. The team's first games are in the South Alabama tourney as the Rebels play Liberty, Mercer, and the host school on Feb. 20-22.

The speedy Henry, in his third year, says the Rebels may do a little more running this year.

"The coaches were impressed with our base stealing this fall," he said. "They liked seeing guys go when they wanted to. We've got quite a bit of speed this year and can run well. I feel like from what the coaches have said that they're really looking to steal a lot more this year and to be more aggressive on the base paths."

The Rebels lost Michael Guerrero, with eligibility remaining, to the pros last summer. Had he returned, given his postseason prowess in '08, there would be no question that Henry, Logan Power, and Guerrero would have formed the best outfield in college baseball.

With veterans Henry and Power back, it still could be, given the guys in the mix to replace Guerrero.

"I totally agree," Henry said of the strength that is the Rebel outfield. "We had eight or so guys out there in the fall. You look at them, and every one of them could be a starter and be successful. (Michael) Hubbard had a great fall. Jeremy Travis brings a lot of offense and he is in the mix. We had some juco guys like Taylor Hashman who came in who had great falls and showed the kind of players they are. So all those guys are capable."

Construction is still ongoing. The temperature is not yet baseball seasonable.

But it won't be long until things get rolling for the Rebs of '09. More baseball coverage to come on here in the days, weeks, and months ahead.

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