Baseball brings hopeBy Tony Tsoukalas | 02/14/2012 11:10pm
Basketball was supposed to hold Tide fans over during the spring. This team was supposed to be special. While selfishness and wasted opportunity have seemingly sacked the Alabama basketball season, hope is not lost for Tide fans this spring season.
The Alabama baseball team starts the season on Saturday absent from the preseason top-25 rankings. They are predicted to finish third in the SEC West by college coaches and have not generated half the hype the basketball team did before their season.
However, the baseball team provides something that has been absent from many on the basketball team: drive. This year’s baseball team looks to be a collection of underdogs and hardnosed, blue-collared workers. Last season, the team battled through replacing its entire infield. The Tide lacked power and grinded its way to victories through clean, fundamental baseball and a "never-give-up" attitude. That team finished one game away from going to its second-straight Super Regional.
This season, the team will be led by outfielder Taylor Dugas. The speedy centerfielder is the epitome of everything this team stands for. A senior this year, Dugas was drafted in June by the Chicago Cubs in the eighth round of the Major League Baseball Amateur Draft. He turned down the opportunity to go pro and cash in on his accomplishments for one more season with the Tide.
The decision to stay will not only benefit the Tide with clubhouse leadership, but also provide the team with All-American talent. Since joining the team in 2008, Dugas has done nothing but achieve. Dugas, who was a First-Team All American his sophomore year, was far and away the Tide’s best hitter last season, leading the team in batting average and homeruns.
“When I received the phone call, I was holding my breath and keeping my fingers crossed,” head coach Mitch Gaspard said after learning of Dugas’ decision. “After the decision was made that he was 100 percent coming back, I was on the phone with all of our coaching staff to let them know immediately. ... All of us couldn't be any more excited.”
But make no mistake: Dugas is not the only talented player on this team. Shortstop Jared Reaves will also return to the team for his second season after transferring from Southern Union Community College last season. Reaves, who led the team in RBIs last season, provides the same grit and scrap as Dugas.
Last year, the Tide was a young team battling to find its identity as a ball club. This year, Alabama knows what it takes to get to the next level. And while nobody expects much from the up and coming group, players have the desire and drive to disprove early predictions.
If you are looking for a team with the will to win and players who care more about the team than their own individual success, look no farther than Sewell-Thomas Stadium this spring.