Now that football season is over and basketball is moving their way into SEC play, it is time to start thinking about Crimson Tide Baseball. Last season the Tide finished 10th nationally in attendance. They averaged 4,010 fans per contest. This season the Tide will hit the field under new leadership in Coach Mitch Gaspard. This has increased the level of enthusiasm in many fans. Bama will be led on the field by two Pre-Season All-Americans. Third baseman Jake Smith was named Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball All-American. This is the third time he has been named a PSAA. Second baseman Ross Wilson was named first-team Pre-Season All-American by Ping. Along with the two All-Americans, the Tide returns a bevy of talent. This includes Shortstop Josh Rutledge. Last season Rutledge batted .353 with 9HR's. Alabama has arguably the best MIF in college baseball. Another key returnee is Sophomore OF Taylor Dugas. He was Freshman All-American last season, and he is the lone returning starter in the OF.
Not only is the outlook great for the 2010 season, but Coach Gaspard has brought in one of the top recruiting classes in the nation for next season (More on that later).
You can look for a change in play with the new regime in place. While Bama still has the bats to have big innings, look for them to play more small ball this year. CMG has said on many occasions that you will see the team be more aggressive on the base paths and do more bunt and runs and hit and runs than they have in the past. Throughout fall practice quite a few players were injured due to the more aggressive style of play, but no one is expect to miss any time in the Spring. You can also look for improvement on the mound with new pitching coach Kyle Bunn. Gaspard hired Bunn away from traditional baseball powerhouse Clemson. However, Bunn is no stranger to the SEC. He spend six years as an assistant at Ole Miss.
You can also expect to see some changes to the stadium in the next couple years. The change is supposed to be coming in three phases. The first phase will not be visible to the public. It is including moving the home dugout to the third base side of the field and building a new lounge for the players and renovating the locker room. The second phase is supposed to be adding outdoor batting cages and improving the outdoor side pitcher's mounds. The third phase is said to be cosmetic upgrades to the outside of the stadium. All of these upgrades are welcome and long overdue. Alabama is notorious for having the worst baseball facilities of any baseball team in the SEC. The changes have been promised for a long time, but when it comes time for construction to begin, the powers that be always say that the money isn't there. Hopefully with Nick Saban wanting every program to succeed on the level that the football team is, the baseball team will get the resources that they need to return to Omaha.
The 2010 season kicks of February 20 against South Alabama. The schedule also includes non-conference games against teams such as Samford, UAB, Jacksonville State, Michigan State, and regular NCAA Tournament team Minnesota. The SEC home slate includes Vanderbilt, Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Florida. Go out and support the Tide this season as they try to make it back to Omaha for the first time since 1999.