Florida International baseball player Garrett Wittels will be in the line-up and ready to chase history when the college baseball season opens Friday. The FIU junior ended the 2010 season in the midst of a 56-game hitting streak, but he enters 2011 with a cloud over his head.
Wittels, 20, and two 21-year-old male friends were charged with rape for an alleged incident that involved two 17-year-old girls. The alleged incident occurred in December at a resort in the Bahamas. The men face an April 18 hearing back in the Bahamas.
“Let me tell a little story,” athletic director Pete Garcia said at a Wednesday press conference. “Back in 1967 a couple with two kids decided to leave a country and leave everything behind. One of the reasons was because in that country, you’re guilty until proven innocent. Here, you’re innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, Garrett Wittels will be playing on Friday and this weekend.”
Garcia was referring to his parents defecting from Cuba in 1967,
“Coach Turtle Thomas as well as all the other coaches here at FIU have done a great job staying with me,” Wittels said. “Every single night I put my head on the pillow and I know exactly what went on that night and I have no trouble sleeping at all.”
FIU hosts Southeastern Louisiana in its season-opening series this weekend in Miami. Wittels needs hits in the first two games of the series to tie former Oklahoma State and MLB veteran Robin Ventura’s 1987 Division One record 58-game hitting streak. Hits in all three games this weekend would give Wittels the record.
“I’m just worried about strikes and balls, wins and losses right now,” Wittels added. “Everytime I step onto the field or get ready in the lockerroom, I’m with my FIU baseball family.,and they’ve been there for me to support me.”
The first two games of the FIU-SE Louisiana series will be on ESPN3.com. Sunday night’s potential recording breaking game will air on ESPNU.