Dusty Rhodes, the former UNF baseball head coach, returned to the stadium named after him to coach an alumni team against the current UNF baseball squad.
The game, which is held annually, finished 8–5 in favor of the current Ospreys, although the old boys gave them a run for their money under Rhodes. UNF trailed 5–2 before scoring six runs in the final four innings to complete the comeback.
“We’re trying to help the team out,” Rhodes said. “They’ve got to play next week, and the chances are they have guys that really haven’t played that much before now, and they go into a three-game playing series on the road. They’ve got to get some sort of playing experience in.”
Freshman Shane Kennedy and senior Andrew Hannon led the scoring for the current team, with Kennedy scoring two runs and Hannon finishing the game 2–for–4 with a pair of doubles, three RBI, a run scored and two sacrifice flies.
Despite not being head coach anymore, Rhode said it seems like he never really left.
“I’ve been out of town for four months and it’s good to be around the guys again,” he said. “I’ve got guys from almost every team that ever played here for 20 years.”
Rhodes feels the mix of returning seniors and the addition of some good young players means the program looks promising.
“We got to the tournament last year, and they ought to be able to get to the tournament this year,” he said, “and if they get there, they can win it in the next couple of years.”
Freshman Tyler Moore was the starting pitcher for the Ospreys and struck out eight batters. After storming to a 5–2 lead, the alumni were pegged back after the sixth inning. The Ospreys then hit a three-run seventh inning to tie the game.
In the eighth inning, Shane Kennedy tripled to put a runner in scoring position. Sam Perry, a senior, scored Kennedy from third with an RBI single to put the Ospreys ahead and the added runs in the ninth and 10th innings to take the win.
Moore said although he was nervous, he felt pretty good in the uniform and feels the team will do well this year.
“We have a good freshman class,” Moore said. “The coach is a good coach, he knows what he is talking about and has a lot of experience.”
Current head coach Raymond “Smoke” Laval said it was nice to see the freshmen play, and that is really what the game was all about.
“Although it’s kind of boring for the veteran type players, we got three brand new guys in to pitch,” he said. “You can’t judge this team this year by wins or losses. We will compete and win our share, but I would rather get better with each and every game even if we lose.”
Laval also said with the squad he has this year, they will be able to mix and match a lot of guys.
“We will be a little short on the mound obviously, as we have three or four injuries and will have to wait for them to get better,” he said.
As for Rhodes, he will continue to be in baseball for as long as possible, he said.
“I’m working in the minor leagues for the Milwaukee Brewers and as a hitting coach in Appleton, Wisconsin,” he said. “I’ll be gone for six months. I’m getting old, but if I can hang on long enough I’ll be there, but if not I’ll be back home and do what I got to do.”
The Ospreys begin their 2011 season on the road at Charleston, S.C. to play in a three-game weekend series. The first game is Feb. 18 at 2 p.m. at Buccaneer Ballpark.