Some of Winthrop's past stars got an early jump on Alumni Weekend.
Jeremy Plexico (2002-03) was at practice two days ago, throwing to catcher Alan Robbins under the watchful eye of coach Joe Hudak. Plexico, scheduled to be with Double-A Harrisburg in a few weeks, was seeking some minor adjustments to his delivery, so he came out to The Winthrop Ballpark.
"There's actually been several of them that still live here or around here in the offseason," Hudak said. "Obviously, it's a nice facility to help them get ready."
All of the Eagles who are currently in minor-league ball are in Rock Hill for the weekend, except one. Kevin Slowey (2003-05) got a free pass since he's trying to stick with the Minnesota Twins in big-league camp.
"Boy, where are his priorities?," joked Hudak.
Robbins is with Single A-Lakewood and was joined at practice by Matt Repec (2003-06), who's with Single-A Asheville. The others -- Heath Rollins, Jon Wilson, Chris Leroux, Daniel Carte and Chris Carrara -- should be in attendance at today's Alumni Game.
All but Robbins and Wilson probably won't play, but will be at the yard. They'll join a crowd of 50-plus in what's become the best response to an Alumni Weekend yet.
"When you put something like this together, you hope guys will come back, that guys will want to come back," Hudak said. "Hopefully, we can get to the point where we can maybe get 100 guys back."
Hudak mentioned that two of his former players, Canadian natives Joe Colameco and Jeff Reeves, left their homes at 11 p.m. three days ago and drove through the night to get to Rock Hill. He also mentioned that while the great majority of the players are guys that played for him, there's a few that preceded his arrival, such as honorary captains Russell Gaddy and Steve Kirby.
"We'd like to make it a regular thing," Hudak said. "Don't know if we're going to do it every year, maybe every other year, but this year will be very enjoyable for the guys that are here."
The Alumni Game begins at 12:30 p.m. today and will be followed by an intrasquad game of this year's team. Admission is free.
• RECOVERING: With six days to go until the season-opener, the flu bug that swept through the clubhouse seems to have dissipated. Everyone was hoping it stays gone, with the Eagles thrown right into a hectic schedule.
"I lost nine pounds in three days," freshman pitcher Hamilton Bennett said, exhaustedly shaking his head.
• AND SPEAKING OF: Winthrop begins the season on Friday, playing three games in three days for the Johnny Gill Memorial. Then the team takes a day off, plays St. John's again, takes another day off, and begins play in the Coca-Cola Classic against No. 5 North Carolina.
New NCAA legislation pushed the starting date of all Division I baseball teams to Friday but didn't change the dates of the College World Series. Therefore, if all teams want to play their limit of 56 regular-season games, they have to cram everything into 12 weeks.
Most teams, if they don't want to cut any of their 56, have no choice but to play every Tuesday and Wednesday and then a three-game set on every weekend. NCAA rules also mandate every team must have one day off per week, so once the season starts, there's going to be scarce time for practice.
An average Winthrop week should be taking Monday off, playing non-conference games on Tuesday and Wednesday, practicing on Thursday and playing a conferences series on the weekend. But that's just on home weekends, since Thursdays are sometimes going to have to be used for travel days.
• THANK GOD I'M A COUNTRY BOY: Freshman pitcher Robert Lake has already become a popular topic in the locker room for his pronounced Southern accent. The right-hander, who proudly hails from Prosperity and Mid-Carolina High School, has been taken some good-natured ribbing from his teammates.
"Fellas on the team like to give me a hard time about that," Lake said. "All these boys from up North, they don't know nothing about it."
Lake was introduced by Hudak at the team's Media Day and his teammates were cracking "Bob Lake" in their own versions of Lake's voice. Lake grinned, brushed them off and finished by answering a question on where exactly Prosperity is.
"Betwixt Newberry and Aiken," he said.