Outfielder Taylor Dugas was a three-time All-SEC and one-time All-American that was a constant force for the University of Alabama baseball team during the last four years, including leading the team last year in batting average, runs, doubles, triples, walks and slugging percentage. Dugas, coupled with drafted shortstop Jared Reaves, represented the heart and soul of the Crimson Tide the last two years. So the question becomes, how do you replace them?
Meet Mikey White, freshman shortstop for the Tide who played for the 2011 U-18 USA Baseball team, was named 2012 Mr. Baseball and whose dad, Mike White, played for the Alabama back in the 1980s. Along with fellow freshman second baseman Kyle Overstreet and outfielder Georgie Salem, White will look to make an immediate impact as a starter on opening day.
One of the immediate benefits that should come from the three freshmen is their fielding ability, which will be a needed boost from last year’s defensive struggles.
“[It’s] a defense that’s very athletic and is very consistent in making the routine play, and can also occasionally make a great play and can also turn double plays,” head coach Mitch Gaspard said.
Gaspard said while he expects there to be struggles early on, they should be assimilated quickly into the pace and adjustments of college baseball.
“I don’t know that you go into the first week and you see three freshmen that play like they’ve been out there for three years, I think there are a little bit of growing pains in there,” Gaspard said. “They are very good baseball players, they have very good baseball IQ, and they’ve played at the highest level you can play at prior to coming into the SEC and Alabama. I think there is going to be a comfort level that is going to get there pretty quick with this group.”
Senior infielder and catcher Brett Booth said the key to the incoming freshmen is helping them stay mentally strong throughout the course of the season.
“The biggest thing is just keeping their confidence every day for a young player,” Booth said. “You can see how they like to compete, they are good players, you don’t have to teach them much on the baseball side of stuff, they are handling their own, but the biggest thing is mentally. Letting them know what they are getting into when in two months, when we’ve been playing almost every day for two months and they are zero for their last ten or zero for their last fifteen.”
Gaspard said he is very proud of how the older players have helped the younger players adjust as they prepare for the upcoming season.
“The returning players have done a really good job at helping the young guys coming into the program as for as just showing the ropes and what it’s all about,” Gaspard said. “And I think we also got a great group of young players who are really respectful and really understand their situation.”
Leading in today’s Crimson White: