Baseball team gears up for brand new season

Not being able to participate in last year’s MEAC tournament for the first time since 1987 brought a bitter end to last year’s season for the Rattler baseball team.

Now, as a new season approaches, the team is looking to rebound from last season’s lowly record of 13-33 and 6-12 conference record.

“Last year was very upsetting,” head coach Joe Durant said. “One of the worst years we have had at FAMU. If we would have taken care of business last year in Norfolk, Va., we wouldn’t have had to worry about a tie-breaker.”

The North Carolina A&T University Aggies served as a roadblock in the team’s bid to enter the tournament.

The University defeated A&T two out of three times last year and thought they had the tie-breaker advantage over the Aggies going into the MEAC tournament.

Little did they know the tiebreaker would be decided by winning percentage, which gave A&T the advantage over FAMU.The Rattlers are putting the controversial ending behind them as they look for a new beginning in 2007.

“I don’t even want to think about last season, we are looking forward to a fresh start for this season,” Durant said.

Friday’s orange and green match-up and Saturday’s annual alumni game will be the Rattlers’ last chance to tune up before kicking off the season against last year’s Atlantic Sun Conference Champion, Jacksonville University.

The game takes place Tuesday at Moore-Kittles field.

“The orange and green game will give us a chance to get at each other, while Saturday we will have a little fun before we start the season,” Durant said.

Some of the alumni participating in Saturday’s game are Kevin Clethan (06), Willie Brown (1990-92) and Stanley Peppers (1997-2000).

“We are proud to carry on the Rattler tradition, and we appreciate the support that the alumni shows every year,” junior Corey McFadden said.

The 20-year-old Tampa native is looking to continue where he left off last year.

He earned All-MEAC honors, batting .335 with 22 RBIs, 36 runs scored and 11 extra base-hits.

McFadden is confident his off-season work ethic will show on the field as he hopes to improve on last year’s numbers.

“I did a lot of running, fielded ground balls and spent extra time in the batting cage,” McFadden said.

Other players will be forced to step up, especially since one of last year’s leading hitters, Allen DeCambra, was ruled academically ineligible.

“He didn’t do what he need to do in the classroom,” Durant said. “DeCambra is a big loss for us, but we must move on.”Senior Stanley Gnat, who led the team in runs scored and was second in steals, will provide a spark for the Rattlers at the plate and on the base path.

“I cleared my mind from last season and focused on better conditioning so I can improve this year and help the team win,” Gnat said.

Edward Waters College transfer Anthony Mazzeo will provide the power as he led the Rattlers in RBIs, doubles, home runs and total bases.

With Gnat and McFadden constantly getting on base, look for Mazzeo to have another year with similar power numbers.”Playing our first game against Jacksonville will show our team that we can match up against high caliber competition,” Gnat continued.

With Bethune-Cookman College winning eight of the last 10 MEAC titles, the Rattlers are confident they can dethrone the Wildcats as they hope to return to the glory days of the late ’80s and early ’90s when FAMU dominated baseball in the MEAC.