By Jillian Williams
It will not be long before the sound of a ball cracking off an aluminum bat is ringing in the ears of BYU baseball fans.
The BYU baseball team began practice on Monday, (Jan. 15, 2007) and is looking forward to a new season. Two starters return from the field and two starters return from the pitching rotation.
“We”re excited because of the talent level, the speed of the outfield and [Apana] Nakayama anchoring our lineup,” Said coach Vance Law in a recent press release. “It”s nice to have a couple of returning pitchers like Jesse Craig and Jordan Muir anchoring our staff, too.”
Nakayama returns after sitting out last season, recovering from knee surgery. In 2005 he batted .344 in 59 games with 47 RBI and was selected to the Mountain West Conference all-tournament team.
“Apana is fully recovered from his injury,” Law said. “He is a disciplined line-drive hitter with great power.”
The team comes off a second-place conference finish last season and is poised to rebuild after losing 17 lettermen from last season. The team lost shortstop Marcos Villezcas and third-team All-American outfielder Ben Saylor.
Law welcomes 16 new players this season. Outfielder Leon Johnson and pitcher J.D. Stambaugh return to the team after serving church missions.
The Tampa Bay Devil Rays drafted Johnson, a transfer from Eastern Arizona Junior College, in 2003, 2005, and 2006.
Johnson will compete for a position in the outfield with freshman Jonathan Cluff, freshman Stephen Wells, and junior college transfers Mike McKeever and Collin Fanning.
Nakayama will split time at first base and designated hitter. Others competing for the first base position are 2006 second team All-MWC athlete Kasey Ko and Thomas Bills.
BYU”s baseball season begins in one month when the team travels to Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas, Feb. 8-10. The home opener is March 1, when the Cougars face the University of Northern Colorado in a three-game series.