User ID: Password:

June 15, 2011

Tech baseball squad looks head to 2012

By: Marc Mullen

Even though the 2011 baseball season ended before the Memorial Day weekend, there is still much to look forward to from the boys of summer before they return to the diamond in an attempt to make it back to the NCAA Baseball Championship.

What follows are five things to watch and some insight from head coach Pete Hughes into what Hokie baseball fans should be keeping an eye on this summer and through the fall.

1. The 2011 Major League Baseball Draft

The draft, held June 6-8, is over, and Tech had three players – graduating senior Tim Smalling and underclassmen Andrew Rash and Ronnie Shaban – chosen, marking the third straight draft that at least two Tech players were selected.

“To shed some light on what we are doing as a program, the draft is a good indicator – a good program develops players,” Hughes said. “In our first two draft-eligible recruiting classes, we have had 11 guys selected and that is staggering compared to prior years.”

2. The Summer Leagues

With their Hokie careers on hiatus for the summer, Tech underclassmen branch out to the various leagues held throughout the country. Three will see action in the prestigious Cape Cod League – Joe Mantiply, Devin Burke (a transfer from Duke who sat out this past spring) and Rash with the Harwich Mariners – while most others will be playing in the New England, Coastal Plain and Valley leagues.

“To us, summer ball is critical in the development of our players,” Hughes said. “Guys need 90-100 games to get better and this gives them that, especially those guys who didn’t see as much playing time with us this spring. Also, they hit with wooden bats, which requires a disciplined swing.”

Also, don’t forget to follow former Tech players, who are now professionals, a list that is almost a dozen strong and includes Major Leaguer Joe Saunders with Arizona. There will be a release on with links to the players’ summer Web sites.

3. Omaha, Neb.

This year’s College World Series will start June 18 and will run through the end of the month. The ACC is always well represented in the event, with at least two teams making it four of the past five seasons.

Of special note, for the second straight year, TD Ameritrade will be sponsoring a College Home Run Derby, which will be held on Saturday, July 2, and televised by CBS the following day at 2 p.m. Hokie slugger Rash is one of the eight who will participate in the event.

“Anytime the ACC, specifically Virginia Tech, can be represented in Omaha, which is the pinnacle of what we are striving for, it is great,” Hughes said. “And this is a well-deserved honor for Andrew. He was the top slugger in the league, and this gives him and our program some publicity.”

4. Fall Baseball

Once all the i’s are dotted and all the t’s are crossed, the Hokies will unveil their latest crop of incoming players, which Hughes hopes will be available mid-August.

“This recruiting class stretches from upstate New York to South Florida to Wisconsin and California, which is a model of what we are trying to do,” Hughes said. “It is the most athletic class that I’ve signed here, and there are two or three freshmen who could be everyday players in our lineup, along with a couple of junior college players. This will be a big recruiting class – 14 to 16 guys – which will make up for the loss of the last two years, the guys we lost early and those to normal graduation this year.”

Also on the docket this fall will be the possibility of an alumni game. Details are still being ironed out. Lastly, in October, the 2012 schedule will be released.

5. Stadium Enhancements

Once the final day of fall ball is complete, there is a plan in place for a number of stadium enhancements, which includes expanding the dugouts, padding the outfield wall, adding a new batter’s eye and resurfacing the field.

“Anytime there is an investment in your stadium, it shows that there is great administrative support,” Hughes said. “Improving our facilities helps in our recruiting process because it improves the situation for our kids. From a developmental standpoint, the installation of turf will help us out tremendously because it means that we can get on the field in January and February, which are two critical months for a team.”