Play Ball

STORRS, Conn. – Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine dropped in on the University of Connecticut campus Friday, first giving a pep talk to the UConn baseball players and then speaking to a crowd of almost 400 who gathered to welcome the upcoming season.

The 61-year-old Stamford native, about to embark on his first spring training with the Red Sox, was the keynote speaker for the baseball preseason dinner but he took the time to chat with the defending Big East regular season champs on their first day of practice.

"He's wanted to come for a long time," UConn baseball coach Jim Penders said of Valentine. "He's such a great Connecticut native son. It's fantastic to have him back and giving back. He's a fantastic person and I think the Red Sox are going to do very well with him at the helm.

"It's not every day you can have a big-league skipper talk to you. I think the kids are going to have a heck of a time tonight. But we're back at work at 6:30 tomorrow morning."

Valentine said he was looking forward to getting to work with the Red Sox but he had a different mission Friday night.

"I think what we want to do is get the excited about Husky baseball tonight," Valentine said. "And raise some money for what will be a great new stadium up here in Storrs."

During the banquet, Penders revealed artist renderings of the new baseball stadium and facility he hopes can be funded and constructed on the footprint of J.O. Christian Field. The stadium would be part of UConn's proposal to build a basketball practice facility and upgrade facilities for soccer, baseball and softball.

Penders said it will require $8-$12 million to build the baseball facility and improve and expand the stadium.

Among those in attendance Friday night were former major league Lee Mazzilli and former college basketball coach and UConn alum Tom Penders, who is Jim Penders' uncle.

Mazilli's son is UConn junior second baseman LJ Mazzilli, who was named to the Preseason All-America First Team by Perfect Game Friday. It is the second All-America honor of the preseason for Mazzilli as he was named a NCBWA Preseason All-American in December.

Mazzilli will also enter the season as an All-BIG EAST Preseason Team member. He is the lone player from the conference to be honored as a first team member by Perfect Game. St. John's junior outfielder Jeremy Baltz is the only other BIG EAST player to represent the conference as he was named to the second team.

Mazzilli, who spent last summer with Team USA Baseball and the Wareham Gatemen of the Cape Cod Baseball League, batted .338 with 93 hits, 23 doubles, both second most in a single season by a Husky, and 48 runs scored.

Last season, George Springer and Matt Barnes were honored with postseason All-American First and Second Team awards, respectively, from Perfect Game.

UConn opens its 2012 season at the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge on February 17 against Indiana in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Perfect Game First Team All-Americans?SP-Mark Appel, Stanford (Jr.)?SP-Michael Roth, South Carolina (Sr.)?SP-Michael Wacha, Texas A&M (Jr.)?SP-Hudson Randall, Florida (Jr.)?RP-Marcus Stroman, Duke (Jr.)?RP-Matt Price, South Carolina (Jr.)?C- Mike Zunino, Florida (Jr.)?1B-Christian Walker, South Carolina (Jr.)?2B-LJ Mazzilli, Connecticut (Jr.)?3B-Stephen Piscotty, Stanford (Jr.)?SS-Deven Marrero, Arizona State (Jr.)?OF-Victor Roache, Georgia Southern (Jr.)?OF-Tyler Naquin, Texas A&M (Jr.)?OF-James Ramsey, Florida State (Sr.)?DH-Adam Brett Walker, Jacksonville (Jr.)?UT-Bria


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