Miami, Florida State, Florida & USF To Compete In Inaugural Event
For this inaugural event, the University of South Florida (USF) and University of Miami (UM) will go head-to-head, while the University of Florida (UF) and Florida State University (FSU) will take on each other.
“We’ve been working with the Yankees for a few years now to bring another premier event to our community,” said Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission Rob Higgins. “We hope it serves as launching pad to Omaha for the four programs. This is a story that will start in March and we hope continues on to June. ”
“On behalf of the World Champion New York Yankees, it is with great pleasure and pride that we welcome The Florida Four Baseball Classic to George M. Steinbrenner Field. As a past collegiate coach, it is George Steinbrenner’s dream to create this event for Tampa”, said Felix Lopez, Senior Vice President, New York Yankees. “We welcome the great schools of Florida to our facility and look forward to continuing this event for years to come”
USF looks to make moves in the BIG EAST Conference after being predicted to finish second in the preseason polls. The Bulls, driven by back-to-back highly-regarded recruiting classes, are on the national radar again as they have received votes in preseason polls for the second consecutive season.
“It’s going to be a great night for college baseball in Tampa. It should be a College World Series atmosphere with four great teams,” said USF Head Baseball Coach Lelo Prado. “I hope it’s the beginning of a long tradition for college baseball here in the Tampa Bay Area.”
The University of Miami baseball team earned its fourth preseason ranking this preseason as the USA TODAY/ESPN Top 25 Coaches’ Poll has the Hurricanes tabbed as the No. 14 team nationally in its first poll of the season. In total the 2009 `Canes feature 18 returning players, including 16 letter winners. In addition, there are 14 newcomers that include three junior college transfers and 11 true freshmen.
“The tournament should be very good for all the teams, as well as Tampa baseball, and we are very excited to be playing in this inaugural event,” said UM Head Baseball Coach Jim Morris. “Tampa is a great city for high school baseball and it will be great playing in front of them. The city has some of the greatest college baseball programs playing and it will be great for everyone.”
When Kevin O’Sullivan took over the University of Florida baseball program prior to the 2007-2008 school year, the Gators were in the midst of consecutive non-winning seasons for the first time in more than 30 years. O’Sullivan and his staff, consisting of Craig Bell, Brad Weitzel and Don Norris, directed the Gators to a runner-up finish in the South Eastern Conference’s Eastern Division and the team’s first NCAA Regional appearance since 2005 with a 34-24 performance.
“We are looking forward to participating in the Florida Four Tournament against top-notch competition. It should be a great opportunity for our fans to see two quality games in a professional stadium and the players will be excited to be part of a tremendous environment,” said UF Head Baseball Coach Kevin O’ Sullivan. “It should be a great night of baseball that showcases the state of Florida.”
Since the Atlantic Coast Conference’s inception of divisional play in 2006, the Seminoles have captured two Atlantic Division crowns, including back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008. Florida State baseball will open the 2009 campaign ranked in the top 25 in five preseason polls, including four polls that position the Seminoles in the top 10. Highlighted by an appearance in the College World Series last year, the 2008 Seminoles Baseball team finished the season ranked as high as No. 7 in the country.
“This is a great plus for the Florida State baseball program to be involved with the New York Yankees in this capacity and certainly to play the University of Florida down in Tampa will create a lot of interest,” said FSU Head Baseball Coach Mike Martin. “I’m sure that the Seminole fans in the Tampa Bay area will be excited to see their Seminoles, and I’m sure the same will be true with the Gators. We could very well draw a capacity crowd because of the interest in baseball in this great state of Florida.”