With the baseball club teams preparing to dive into the 2015 spring season, the National Club Baseball Association has announced the annual preseason rankings for competing schools across the nation. This year, the University of Florida has two different sets of rankings – the result of the club team deciding to host both a Division I and a Division II roster for the first time in the club’s history. The past few years have seen the Gator’s Division I team compete at a very high level, including two World Series tournament appearances.
The decision to add a Division II roster came because of such a wide range of talent that has repeatedly filled the fall practice squads, according to Gators third baseman, Andrew Flint.
“Now that we have a Division II team, we can have all of these talented players represent UF and build an even better club baseball program,” Flint went on to say, adding that he believes the club has an even higher chance of winning a national title, despite the team’s talent being split between the two rosters.
The Gators starter certainly has a point. While the Division I team remains near the top of the preseason polls, the Division II team is already making its own case for a top spot, just missing out on the top 15 poll (No. 17) before the first strike of the season has even been thrown. Will the younger division members experience growing pains in their first year out in the league? Possibly. But Flint also doesn’t think that will stop them from competing from the get-go. He pointed to the fact that the same Gators roster that reached the Division I tournaments each of the past two years was also a young team.
And it’s true. The same core group of players has led the team in a big way the last few years, surprising the competition with a cohesive, balanced line-up. It’s the same group of guys that executes on the baseball diamond, while forming a tightly-knit group off of it. It’s everything a baseball team is supposed to be – everything a sports team could hope to be. And the influx of even more youth during the last year has certainly been a big boost to the hopes the team has for its future accomplishments. Hence, the expansion into not merely one championship-ready team, but two.
“I have seen these guys at practice, and they work very hard. Add that to their talent and they will be a tough team to beat,” said Flint.
That No. 17 ranking preseason ranking looks like it is only primed for an uphill climb. And with the fantastic team morale that appeared to envelope the early spring practice fields, perhaps an “upwards march” is a more accurate phrase to adopt.