CORAL GABLES, Fla. -- First-year members of the Miami Hurricanes baseball program participated in individual skill instruction groups at Mark Light Field Tuesday, representing the first organized team activity of the fall semester.
For all of those in attendance, including Cincinnati Reds’ 14th-round draft pick and Hialeah, Fla., native Willie Abreu, the afternoon marked the start of a long journey with just one viable destination – Omaha.
“I’m so excited - this has been such a long time coming,” Abreu said. “I’ve been waiting for what feels like forever. We’ve been here working out, but now we can finally get out here and start getting it done.”
Abreu, who grew up attending games at The Light, said the pressure of guiding the Hurricanes back to the College World Series was a main reason behind his decision to bypass a professional signing bonus.
“It’s a crazy experience,” he said. “You see all the teams get to where they do and you don’t want to let this program down. You want to bring them back to where they belong – and that’s winning national championships in Omaha. Not just getting there, but winning the whole thing.”
Derik Beauprez, selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 25th round of the draft, shared similar feelings of excitement. The Colorado native and two-way player got to know a lot of his new teammates while taking summer classes.
“I’m really excited to be here,” Beauprez said. “It’s easy to get along with each other, and we don’t have to worry about anyone bringing the team down. Everybody in our group has good character.”
Head coach Jim Morris, entering his 21st year at the helm of the program, will add a talented recruiting class to a veteran group bolstered by the return of drafted pitchers Bryan Radziewski (29th round, St. Louis Cardinals) and Javi Salas (38th round, Minnesota Twins)
“I feel good about the guys coming back,” Morris said. “That really helps us a lot and solidifies our pitching, which was the strength of our team last year. Those two guys were both a big part of it.”
In addition to Radziewski and Salas, the Hurricanes had five high school commits drafted by professional organizations in June. Four of those five opted for college life over professional baseball: Abreu, Beauprez, catcher Zack Collins (27th round, Cincinnati Reds) and outfielder Jacob Heyward (38th round, Atlanta Braves).
“Our recruiting class is one of the better ones we’ve had, so when you add that together with the guys that are returning – the fact that some of these guys have improved - I’m very optimistic about this team,” the skipper said.
Now, Morris says, it’s time to find out which of the newcomers can separate themselves ahead of the first official team practice in mid-October.
“There’s no question we have some good, young, talented players coming in,” he said. “There are some guys with really, really good tools – let’s see who can turn it up and how quickly, especially offensively, because we’ve needed some help in the hitting aspect. It’s going to be exciting to see which of the guys can turn it up quicker than the others.”
Any student interested in trying out for the baseball team must file necessary paperwork with the Compliance office on Thurs., Sept. 5 (3 p.m.), Fri., Sept. 6 (10 a.m.), Thurs., Sept 12 (3 p.m.) or Fri., Sept 13 (10 a.m.). Tryouts will take place at Mark Light Field Mon., Sept. 16 at 6 p.m.