Ed. – First time since the early signing date that I've had open time to make a post. Sorry it's about a week and a half late. Now with 2 different updates.
Last week saw the early signing period for most of the Olympic sports including baseball. Michigan signed 4, which is a bit smaller than some of the recent classes, which are generally around 6. This class has some name recognition with it, but it's too early to start projecting major league draft status for these kids.
This is only a portion of the eventual recruiting class, but this appears to be a solid start with two solid pitchers in it, and some added outfield depth, both something Michigan is in the need of (you always need more pitching).
Michael O'Neill (OF, Ohio)
The name that will ring a bell for most of you baseball fans is Michael O'Neill, nephew to famed Yankee Paul O'Neill. From mgoblue:
[A] two-year varsity letterwinner at Olentangy Liberty High School, […] O'Neill earned all-conference and all-district first team honors as well as honorable mention all-state following his junior campaign. He was named the team's Offensive Player of the Year after hitting .447 with a .500 on-base percentage and eight triples. He also stole a team-high 21 bases.
O'Neill was also recruited by Ohio State and Miami (OH). I haven't found much else on him. More will come when I do.
O'Neill (.447) has dizzying speed and he's not afraid to use it, stealing a school-record 21 bases in 2009 and regularly flashing the leather as the defensive anchor in center field.
Incoming freshman Patrick Biondi had the best chance of taking over center field in the near future, but O'Neill may give him a run for his money.
Mark Bass (SS, Florida)
Coach Maloney hasn't done much recruiting in Florida in the past, but it appears he has been making the rounds their this summer. He's even convinced some players down there into "buying some parkas":
Despite seeing little playing time with the Patriots in 2009 following a shoulder injury, Bass participated at the Perfect Game Showcase in Fort Myers in May where he caught the eye of Michigan head coach Rich Maloney.
It was their relationship that led Bass to the Wolverines over the University of Central Florida.
"I honestly never thought I was really going to go to a D-I school," said Bass, who will move from second base to shortstop at the next level. "But this summer, I was in the right place at the right time and met the right people.
"The deciding factor for me was the coach. He made a big impact on me and really liked what he was doing with the program."
Getting a kid to come play here over a competitive team from the South is almost a coup for Maloney. Central Florida isn't a powerhouse in Conference USA, but they are generally around the .500 mark. This is a great pick up to provide some long term depth in the middle infield. Right now, it looks like incoming freshman Derek Dennis will probably hold down a middle infield position with Anthony Toth over the next two seasons, and Bass should be in the mix by his redshirt junior year.
Plus, it sounds like he needs some strength and conditioning work. Maloney says:
"Mark is a 6-2 middle-infielder who brings great confidence, a good bat and good glove to our program," Maloney said. "I think as his body matures, with the help of our strength and conditioning program, he will have some very bright days ahead."
UPDATE II: Stories are popping up today, this time with pictures! Someone get that kid a real Michigan hat. Picture by awesomely named Bill Gamblin of the Santa Rosa Press Gazette.
The Santa Rosa Press Gazette reported on Mark Bass's signing not three hours from me posting my post. Apparently, the decision to go to Michigan over UCF was really close:
Mark Bass is looking for all the coats he can find as he is headed to Ann Arbor to play for Michigan.
For Bass, it is a time to get jackets and coats to prepare for the cold, but that doesn’t matter after he got to meet the coaches at Michigan.
“I wanted to go to the school on academics, but the coach saw me in Ft. Myers and asked me to think about Michigan,” said Bass. “I was about two days away from committing to UCF, but the coach (Rich Maloney) was a big decision over the others.”
Bass selected Michigan over UCF, Jacksonville, Sanford, Alabama Southern, Pensacola Junior College, and the University of West Florida.
Sounds like a little bit of snake oil right there.
Brett Winger (RHP, Florida)
Maloney snagged not one, but two Florida players over the summer, the second is right hander Brett Winger of Orlando's Olympia High School. From his summer ball team that finished 3rd in an elite national tournament:
Brett Winger, a strong bodied right handed pitcher from Olympia High School, has recently committed to play baseball at the University of Michigan. Brett is one of the most competitive players the Scorpions have had, and can always be counted on in big situations. He throws a heavy fastball in the upper 80s/lower 90s and compliments this will a late breaking slider and quality change. Brett also excels in the classroom, and Michigan's prestigous [sic] academic pedigree certainly appealed to him. Brett will look to make an immediate impact for the Wolverines and add to a rich history of success at the institution.
Perfectgame.org has similar praise in their Central Florida All-Junior team, and mentions of a new pitch he has been working on for his senior year as well:
He throws an effective slider for strikes that is still developing and a splitter/palm ball type changeup that dives down and out of the zone late. Winger's pitchability has increased over the last year and he is the ultimate competitor. If Winger continues to improve, there is no reason to think he won't be living in the 90s and be a dominant guy at the next level.
Depending on how his senior season goes, I think Winger is the most likely to be drafted out of all our players, but I don't think his junior year stats really indicate that he'd be drafted outside one of the late rounds, where it probably wouldn't affect his coming to Michigan.
Alex Lakatos (RHP, Grand Rapids, MI)
The only in-state player picked up in the early signing period is right hander Alex Lakatos out of Forest Hills Central High School in Grand Rapids, the same high school as current incoming freshman Derek Dennis.
Lakatos is a three-time varsity letterwinner […] two-time all-conference, all-district and all-area honoree, Lakatos added preseason Perfect Game All-America honors to his list of accolades prior to his junior campaign. He helped lead the Rangers to conference and district championships as a junior while posting an 8-2 record on the mound and hitting .450 with seven home runs. Lakatos has also spent the last four summers playing for the prestigious Diamonds/Maroons program, under the direction of Bill Peterson.
"Alex has good size (6-3, 200) and possesses a fastball that hovers at 90 miles per hour with an excellent slider," commented Maloney. "What I really like about Alex is his competitiveness. He has great presence on the mound and is also a great student, which fits our mode of what we look for in a balanced student-athlete. I believe Alex can be a difference-maker early in his career at Michigan."
But pitching isn't the only thing Alex is looking to do:
"More than anything, pitching got me to college. But I didn't want them looking at me only as a pitcher."
Lakatos, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound right-hander, might find it difficult to do both at the Division I level, but he had an outstanding junior season this spring on the mound and as a hitter.
He was 8-2 in 12 games as pitcher, posting a 1.65 ERA and 75 strikeouts in 55 innings. As a batter, Lakatos hit .414 with 18 extra-base hits, including seven home runs. He drove in 36 runs and stole 13 bases in 34 games.
Lakatos said he also considered Michigan State, Central Michigan, Louisville, South Carolina, Northwestern and Coastal Carolina.
Lakatos wants to swing the bat, and that's why he's coming to Michigan. I'm not sure I see him cracking the outfield rotation any time soon, but he's definitely got an arm. He's already been clocked at 92 miles per hour on his fastball, and that was as a junior.
That list of schools is also pretty interesting. Louisville, South Carolina, and Coastal are all major players in college baseball. It's good to know Michigan does a good job of roping in talent.
After all of the events over the past few days it is crucial we show the team they have our support. There have been a number of great ideas passed around the board and one stuck out in my head. A chant. It would be a great way to show the entire program our support in one unanimous voice.
So what to cheer?
We need to keep this simple, classy, and meaningful. Why not take the very slogan the team has been telling us over the past couple of months?
When should we do this?
The best time would be right before kickoff. Let the team take the field, hear our fight song, and touch the banner. When all of that dies down we start. A slow chant would be best to ensure it doesn't come out as too jumbled.
How can we do this?
This NEEDS to start with the student section.That is the heart, soul, and voice of the Big House. I imagine we need one group (at least 15) the start the initial chant. Any volunteers? If enough people have exposure to this idea they will jump in too. Having a queue crew is key though!
How to spread the word:
- Spread this to rivals, scout, and any other site you visit to get your Michigan fix.
- Email your friends that will be at the game
- Tell the Daily (maybe they would be willing to help out)
- Tweedle-dee (twitter) it
- Mention it in your Facebook status
- Whatever you can do to get the word out
Maybe it's just me, but I feel like this would be really well received and could help jump start the season.
Here is the sad part, as much as I want this to happen I won't be there to see it fail or succeed. I don't live in Ann Arbor anymore (wooo class of '07), but this is now a goal of mine and hopefully yours. Our present to a team that has worked it's butt off over the past 8 months (voluntarily).
Are you all in?
I think it is important to take a step back from all that is going on in the media, and really take a look at the big picture.
First, I visit mgoblog 965.44 times a day, and consider myself to be fairly looped in to what’s going on at Michigan athletics (props to the mgoblog community.) While I don’t have any inside information, I think it is fair to say that this year’s team is very different from last year’s team. Watching daily videos and reading interviews from mgoblue.com, it’s obvious the players are working hard, having fun, and are having an impact on the community.
When I saw the reports on a potential NCAA violation, I was pretty baffled and confused. Again, I don’t go to practice, I’m not on the team, so I can’t speak on whether or not these allegations are true. What I do want to highlight is how the media have greeted the new Rodriguez era at Michigan.
The media notoriously sensationalize news. Politics (Howard Dean’s Rick Flair moment), health (“Africanized” Bees, swine flu), are excellent examples of times where the media focused all too much attention on minor stories, and exchanged journalistic integrity and responsibility for higher ratings.
The topic of athletics is no different. The media (often prematurely) release stories that will rile up a fan base. Once the fan base is riled up, they then report on the discontent of the fan base. In cases where the stories prove false, or not as severe as initially thought, the media follow up with “maybe everyone’s looking at this topic in the wrong light after all. The person or team in question isn’t an evil wrong-doer, despite ‘public perception’.”
For example, the media took Rich Rodriguez’ comments on the QB situation and ran with it, concluding we will certainly have three QBs, and a few analysts even added that we are doomed.
They also questioned Michigan’s culture and character:
- Feagin situation gets viewed as a Rich Rodriguez error in judgment.
- Players are transferring because RR is pushing them out.
- Most recent allegations of violating NCAA’s practice policies.
The media then report on how upset the fan base is, how things aren’t going so well at Michigan. Personally, Rich Rodriguez hasn’t given me a reason to question the direction of Michigan football. In fact, it’s quite the contrary. I’m very happy with the direction. GPAs are higher than they were before he got here, the kids looks happy, and they’re doing great work in the community.
Winning? Last year
was difficult, but I saw glimpses of what will be. I look forward to improvement this
season. And I especially look forward to
the years of dominance to come. One
thing that has never changed, is the integrity of the Michigan football program. I trust and believe in Rich Rodriguez, and he
has done nothing yet to lose my trust.
Again, while I don’t have insider exposure to the program, I
have learned a lot more about the program from places like mgoblog. Unfortunately, the average Michigan
fan doesn’t spend as much time reading about Michigan athletics outside of the confines
of ESPN, SI, CBS Sports, etc. They don’t
see the more complete portrait of Michigan
One thing I’m almost certain of, is when Michigan is cleared from all this, and Michigan is playing respectable football, with a solid record (somewhere in the mid-season) ESPN will have a segment on RR and how he managed to keep his team focused despite all the “negative attention” Michigan’s received. ESPN will then prove to be the hero that helps clear Michigan’s perception and Rich Rodriguez’ image. Whew, thanks College Game Day!