Bears anticipate 2004 seasonSept. 19, 2003
By Kalin Cogar, reporter
The Baylor baseball team was hurt offensively with the loss of players to the draft and graduation last year. Ten new faces have joined the Bears for the upcoming season in hopes to keep the winning tradition alive.
Four of the 10 signees were freshmen ranked in the top 45 prospects in Texas. Freshman first baseman Cory Van Allen was ranked No. 4 and drafted in the third round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Allen bypassed the opportunity to play professionally and decided to join Baylor's program. Another addition, freshman infielder Jeff Mandel, was ranked as the No. 13 prospect in the state.
Other players joining the team include junior shortstop Drew Sutton, freshman outfielder Paul Miles and freshman first baseman Blake Tully. Wrapping up the 10 new freshmen are right-handed pitcher Jason Corley, right-handed pitcher Erik Forestiere, right-handed pitcher Kerr Foster, left-handed pitcher Xerxes Martin and first baseman and infielder Mike Pankratz.
Although the team gained 10 new players, it's the losses that will become the biggest hurdle for the team to overcome.
'Last year's loss hurt us a lot,' Josh Ford, a junior catcher, said.
A record-breaking eight players were drafted to the pros after the 2003 season. Leading the draft was outfielder David Murphy. Murphy was the 17th overall pick, the highest ever for a Baylor player. Murphy was picked up by the Boston Red Sox. Outfielder Chris Durbin was picked up in the 10th round of the draft.
Among the six other Bears drafted was pitcher Steven White and shortstop Trey Webb. Webb and Murphy, who were juniors last year, decided to bypass their senior year to play in the pros.
Closer Zane Carlson was picked by the San Diego Padres in the 16th round, first baseman Mark Saccomano in the 23rd round by the Houston Astros, pitcher Jared Theadorakos in the 25th round by the Milwaukee Brewers and right-handed pitcher Jason Pritchard was picked in the 35th round by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Although the program lost many outstanding players, it was left with young players waiting for their turn to shine.
'Like every team, you bring new players, and the ones who didn't get a chance to play are going to have an opportunity,' head Coach Steve Smith said.
Ford was listed among 10 players as a semifinalist for the 2003 Johnny Bench award. Ford also made the All-Big 12 second team.
Another returning player who has acquired much success is junior left fielder and third baseman, Michael Griffin. Griffin was named to the 2003 USA National Team Selection, All-Big 12 first team and received awards in academics.
Currently the team has been doing a lot of offseason training. They have been working on strength and conditioning in small groups. Players also have been doing individual training.
In October, the team will play a series of inter-squad games to prepare for the spring season.
'We'll get to trust each other over the fall,' Sutton said.