Jan. 28, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State baseball team conducted its first official practice of the 2011 season Friday afternoon inside the Duffy Daugherty Football Building.
Third-year head coach Jake Boss, who welcomes back 22 letterwinners from last year's 34-win team, was excited to begin drills in preparation for the season opener Feb. 18 against Notre Dame.
"It's always a fun time of the year to kick off your practice season," said Boss. "Our first game is only three weeks away, so we have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time, but this is the time of year where to start to get the feel of that intensity. We're fortunate to have one of the best indoor facilities around. We can get an awful lot accomplished in here.
"We really pick up today where we left off last October. Our guys have done a great job of working out on their own and getting a lot of those details taken care of before us coaches were able to be here. We expect a smooth transition and we're ready to roll."
Four players who earned All-Big Ten players return in 2011 for the Spartans, including first baseman Jeff Holm, second baseman Ryan Jones, third baseman Torsten Boss and starting pitcher Kurt Wunderlich. Center fielder Brandon Eckerle also brings a wealth of starting experience to the team in the outfield.
"Well, the younger guys are a year older now," Boss said. "Ryan Jones was the Freshman of the Year in the Big Ten, and Torsten Boss was another guy on the All-Freshman Team. It's fun to watch those guys learn and mature, and step into leadership roles. Certainly our two captains, Jeff Holm and Brandon Eckerle, are outstanding guys and leaders. And on the mound, Kurt Wunderlich and Tony Bucciferro are back and had a lot of success last year. So it's a good mix. There's a lot of youth that's going to be on the field for us this spring, but there's a good combination of experience as well."
Michigan State will take a break from preseason practice next Friday, Feb. 4 to host the program's sixth-annual First Pitch Dinner at the Spartan Club. MSU will honor Jim Cotter, MSU Director of Admissions and captain of the 1979 Big Ten Championship team, as the 2011 Distinguished Baseball Alumnus of the Year. In addition to honoring Cotter, there will be a panel discussion with members of the 1984 World Champion Detroit Tigers, including Dave Bergman, Dan Petry and Dave Rozema. For more information on the event, please click here.
"We have a great lineup of people that are going to be there," Boss said. "Jim is a tremendous baseball advocate and supporter for us. Having three members of the World Series team from 1984 in Detroit is going to be special and we'll hear some good stories out of those guys. It's just a fun night and fun event. It's a huge turnout, about 400-500 people will be there. It's fun for our players too, to get them recognized in front of that kind of crowd and to sign some autographs for some kids. We're looking forward to it."
The Spartans begin the 2011 season with the Big East/Big Ten Challenge Feb. 18-20 in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. After playing the Fighting Irish on Opening Day Feb. 18 in Dunedin, Fla., Michigan State will take on Seton Hall Feb. 19 in St. Petersburg and Cincinnati Feb. 20 in Clearwater.