It's that time of year again. The 2002 baseball season is upon us as fall practice kicked off today. The fall practice schedule runs from October 8th to November 4th, which also includes the annual alumni game this Sunday the 14th at 12:00pm. I caught a good portion of practice today and here are some of my observations:
- Saw the last part of infield practice with no real shocking developments. Arik VanZandt, Chris Carter, and Billy Paganetti were playing first, Chris O'Riordan and Jonny Ash at second, Brian Hall and Tobin Swope at the third, Andy Topham and Steve Gantenbein at short, while behind the plate were Ryan Garko, Donny Lucy, and Andrew Cleary. It was a welcome sight to see Cleary behind the plate as going into the fall practice season I was only aware of two catchers on the roster. Cleary, a freshman, can also play in the infield, but I only saw him behind the dish.
- After that, the team broke into four groups for an intra-squad game. I saw five pitchers see time on the hill, Ryan McCally, Jonny Dyer, Moses Kopmar, Dan Rich, and Steve Papazian. McCally got the first call and looked very good. He featured a good fastball that bore inside to right handed hitters. This forced a lot of weak ground balls that jammed the hitters. He mixed in a few strikeouts and was not hit very hard. Dyer, a freshman, got hit around a little more, but threw strikes. I was very impressed with Moses Kopmar. Kopmar, a freshman, spotted his fastball very well and fooled many hitters with a good change-up. He also struck out quite a few hitters while on the hill. Steve Papazian, another freshman, also looked pretty good. He wasn't as over-powering as Kopmar with the strikeouts, but still managed to get the majority of the hitters out. Finally, Dan Rich also threw, which was a welcome sight after he missed the majority of the 2001 season with an injury. Rich wasn't overpowering, but mixed his pitches nicely, which included a very good change-up. Rich could see a lot of time out of the pen as he and Cunningham are the only two lefty pitchers on the team.
- Two things struck me when watching the pitchers. First, all five hurlers that I saw, threw strikes consistently. There were very few walks which is great to see, especially on the first practice of the year. Another noticeable thing was the height of the freshman pitchers. Kopmar (6'3"), Papazian (6'5"), and Marc Jecmen (6'8") are huge pitchers which can be intimidating for the opposing hitters. It's still early, but I could see these freshman contributing to this team in one way or another.
- As for the hitters. Sam Fuld is going to have a huge year. This guy is going to be a tough out for other teams, as he makes contact, always seems to hit the ball hard, and can find holes in the defense. Just from watching everybody hit, you can tell the ball jumps off the bat of guys like Fuld, Garko, O'Riordan, Quentin, and Hall.
- As for the other returnees. Andy Topham and Arik VanZandt both put some good swings on the ball. Topham had one of the better hits of the afternoon, driving a Steve Papazian offering off the wall in left. Brian Hall looked very good with the bat, stinging a couple of balls on a line. I really think it's going to be tough to keep him out of the lineup.
- Scott Dragicevich saw very little action today. I didn't see him at all in the field when the infielders were practicing in the field and he did not play at all in the field during the intra-squad game. He did get a couple of at-bats, but was retired easily. Jason Cooper also did not see any action in the field or at the plate.
- Freshman Billy Paganetti had a few nice hits. He had a deep fly to center that almost carried out in only his second at-bat. Another one of these huge freshman (6'4").
- In the field during the intra-squad, there were no real surprises. Garko, Lucy, and Cleary split time behind the plate. VanZandt, Carter, and Paganetti were at first. VanZandt looked good at first, as usual, while Carter showed some good agility around the bag. O'Riordan, Ash, and Gantenbein all played second, but this position is all wrapped up. Topham, Gantenbein, and Hall each played short. Over at third, it got a little interesting. Topham did not play at all over at 3rd as Hall, Tobin Swope, and VanZandt were the only ones seeing time. It will be interesting to see if VanZandt at third will continue, as one of the freshman could oust him at first. VanZandt is solid with the glove no matter where you put him. In the outfield, Fuld and Danny Putnam played center. Putnam, Carter, and Swope all saw time in left, while Quentin, Putnam, and Swope each played right. Danny Putnam, a freshman, will remind people of Sam Fuld, about the same height (maybe a little taller) and left handed. Can play anywhere in the outfield and may sneak into the lineup.