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UAB opens up Fall Practice


JamalAustinUAB BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — After several weeks of weight training, conditioning and individual workouts since the start of school, the UAB baseball team is ready to get back on the field as a complete unit for its fall practice period.

The Blazers will practice 28 days over the next five weeks, starting Friday, Oct. 2 and ending Saturday, Nov. 7. As usual, all sessions will be held at UAB’s Young Memorial Field and will be open to the public. A weekly practice schedule is included at the end of this release.

"It’s my favorite time of the year," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "The weather is great. They guys are excited to practice. It’s a teaching environment. It’s an important time of the year, but it’s also a really fun time of the year."

UAB returns to the practice field on the heels of a strong finish to the 2009 campaign. The Blazers won four of their final six Conference USA series, including series wins over fourth-ranked Rice and eventual College World Series participant Southern Miss, to top the 30-win mark for the first time since 2005.

"Hopefully what that does is raise the bar in terms of expectations," Shoop said. "We ask our guys to expect more of themselves in every area of life, not just on the baseball field. We’re just trying to be better again. We’ve got a veteran team, and we’re optimistic that it’s a good team."

A total of 25 players that have been on the UAB roster return as the Blazers begin to prepare for the 2010 season. Six of those players were active in summer leagues across the country, including second baseman Nick Crawford, who was an All-Cape selection for the Hyannis Mets of the Cape Cod League.

The entire starting infield is back in addition to second-team all-conference selection Digger Towe, who split time behind the plate last season. C-USA All-Freshman performer Jamal Austin also returns in center field, though the Blazers will have to look for replacements at the corner outfield positions following the loss of all-conference performers Brint Hardy and Cody McMurry.

Another focus of fall practice will be the Blazer pitching staff, which returns three players who have seen significant action as weekend starters in Shay Crawford, Mitch Kloskowski and Beau Pender. Add to that group Ryan Woolley, a sixth-round Major League Baseball draft pick who opted to return to school, and UAB hopes its pitching will be improved. The Blazers also bring back eight arms that contributed in the bullpen a season ago, including Nick Graffeo, who served as the team’s closer.

"It’s no secret that if we’re going to improve again as a team, we have to be better on the mound," Shoop said. "These next five weeks are very important in continuing their development as a staff, and we’re hoping our pitching is going to turn into one of our strengths."

The returning players will take the practice field for the first time together with 10 newcomers, a group that includes eight position players and two pitchers. Newcomers have played an important role in Shoop’s tenure at UAB with four Blazers earning C-USA All-Freshman Team recognition in his three years.

"We think, in totality, this is the best group of newcomers we have had," Shoop said. "Time will tell, but that’s what we believe and what we’re hoping for. We think it’s a really good class, and we’ll need some of them to contribute for us right away."

The slate this fall is scheduled to include 15 practice days and 13 intrasquad days, including the team’s annual Green & Gold Series, Oct. 30-Nov. 1. Below is a tentative weekly practice schedule with all times subject to change:

Sundays: 1:30-5:00 p.m.
Mondays: 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Tuesdays: Off (except for rain make-ups)
Wednesdays: 1:30-4:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 2:30-4:30 p.m.
Fridays: 1:30-5:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.

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