Baseball team searches for talent at walk-on tryouts

On Tuesday, ten men took to the diamond at Moore Kittles Field to see if they were talented enough to walk on to Florida A&M University baseball team.

Head coach Jamey Shouppe began his tryout with defense. He told players to go to their position on the field. Then, he tossed up the ball and hit it to random spots. Players had to make the catches on the fly.

After defensive drills, athletes stepped up to the plate to take some swings. Each player had seven swings. There were no home runs. Next seven pitchers went to the bullpen to see if anyone could throw a heater. A few players had fastballs in the low 80’s.

Freshman James Thomas played first basemen for Rickards High School last year. Thomas hustled hard, but admittedly didn’t perform his best.

“My performance was okay,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t my best and I know I could’ve did better.”

Thomas added that baseball is his motivation for school and if he doesn’t make the cut he will come back next year.

Sophomore pitcher Jaylan Norwood walked on to the team last year. Norwood said even though he made the team last year he was nervous.

“I knew what coach was looking for, I knew what to execute, but it’s a New Year and things change,” Norwood said.

Michael Birdsong is a junior infielder that is already on the team. Birdsong was the catcher for the pitching portion of the tryouts. He saw a lot talent and hustle. “I feel like coach will have some tough decisions to make.  We’re just going to wait for them,” Birdsong said.

Shouppe says that walk on tryouts are an opportunity to see if there are any guys that can make the team better. His goal is to make FAMU’s baseball program a solid, respectable Division 1 program.

Shouppe also feels that walk on tryouts are to see if there is any extraordinary talent.

“We don’t look for hustle and energy at walk on tryouts. We look for talent,” said Shouppe.

Shouppe wants difference makers, guys that can throw a 90 mph fastball or an old-fashion slugger. He added that he looks for guys who would give the team depth in case of injury.

The main thing coaches will have to decide is  there anyone who is talented enough to add to the 35-man roster.

If so they will be invited to finish out fall ball.  Fall ball competition begins Oct.16 and the Rattlers will play four games against teams from the region. The first game is against St. Johns River Community College Oct. 15, at 4 pm.