A look at 2010 upcoming baseball season

Spinnaker

Entering their 23rd season, the UNF baseball team and College Baseball Coaches hall of fame head coach Dusty Rhodes enters the 2010 season ready to compete for a championship. After being picked fifth in the pre-season A-Sun conference poll, along with senior outfielder Preston Hale named a unanimous preseason conference player, the Ospreys look forward to many things this season.

The Spinnaker sat down with Rhodes, talking about his goals for the year and what Osprey baseball fans can expect from a veteran squad who has just seven freshmen joining the team.

S: How humbling was it for UNF to name the field in Harmon Stadium after you? Can you comment on the experience?

R: I really appreciate the honor, but I am not the only one. There have been plenty of coaches, players and Osprey Club members who are part of this, as well. Not to mention any of this would not have been possible without the Harmon Family, Doug and Linda. It was just a plan and a system that we had and it worked.

S: Who are some key pitchers on whom you’re counting this season?

R: Well Michael Kelly is a guy who is going to go for us here on Friday Night [vs. Ohio State], along with guys like John Atteo, Robbie Collier and Clayton Schultz.

S: What are some key games and other things that are important early on to know if the team is progressing the way you want?

R: We just need to get off to a good start, beat people early on and play well. We must take care of home field and win every game.

S: With over half your team returning and having that experience how important is that?

R: Well the only real starter we lost was (senior) Brian Wilson, we have Andrew Karmeris back, Ryan Puskar is back and all of our catchers were hurt last year, and they are back and four of our most experienced pitchers are back. I believe we are the most-experienced team in the conference.

S: Over the last four years, having to go through the transition to Division I and now having the ability to move on to postseason play, what are you expecting?

R: The last four years have just been miserable, not for the school but it has really punished the student-athletes. It has hurt recruiting and really put us behind. Now that it is over, this is what I came here for over 20  years ago, and I wake up every day for this right here and the chance to play in the NCAAs.

S: How important is student involvement and having the students at the games this season?

R: Just look at the basketball games and how many students are going to those now, we have to do the same thing and make this important to UNF. It’s about buying into athletics.

The University of North Florida baseball team takes to the field Feb. 19 with their season opener at Dusty Rhodes Field at Harmon Stadium against Ohio State University at 7 p.m. The schedule for the Ospreys includes 30 games at home and the schedule includes games with, FSU, USF, UCF and cross-town rival Jacksonville University.