July 20, 2012
Boca Raton, FL -John McCormack has had a major influence on Florida Atlantic University's successful baseball program. The Owls are coming off a successful 2012 campaign, capturing their second Sun Belt Conference title in the last three years.
FAU has compiled 14 consecutive winning seasons and is coming off a 32-22 mark in 2012. The Owls posted a 19-8 SBC record in 2012. Over the last four seasons the program leads the conference with a .574 (131-97) overall winning percentage and a .588 (70-49) SBC winning percentage.
FAUSports.com recently asked McCormack about the successful 2012 season and former players playing professionally. He also discusses the student-athletes in the FAU program.
Q: Your team accomplished one of your goals by capturing the 2012 Sun Belt Conference regular-season title. It marked the second league title in the last three seasons. Many younger players made sizeable contributions in their first starting roles. How will you remember the 2012 season?
McCormack: "I'm very proud of what we accomplished by winning another Sun Belt title, and this being the second in my four years. Many of the juniors were a part of the 2010 championship team, but they were back-up players. This was their chance to win their own ring. All of those guys stepped up and each had a really good season. In the end, the team demonstrated consistency from the start of the season and was the conference's best team over the course of 10 straight weeks. That is a really special accomplishment and makes that team so special."
Q: You have to be proud to see FAU players realize their dreams by being selected in the Major League Draft.
McCormack: "Throughout the years - I've been through 22 drafts - you look at the draft differently. It's nice that professional baseball wants our players to join them. However, it's also a bittersweet day for those that don't get selected. Also, the draft has taken away several recruits that never got to play for us. You're happy for them, but you're disappointed that all of your hard work throughout the recruiting process doesn't end up with a player that got to put on a FAU uniform."
Fifteen players have continued to play professional baseball since 2008 and 78 players under McCormack dating back to his assistant coaching days.
Some recent players to realize their dreams of professional baseball include: R.J. Alvarez (3rd round selection by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2012); Paul Davis (17th round pick by the San Francisco Giants in 2011) and Kyle Newton (19th round selection by the Colorado Rockies in 2012).
Q: Mike Albaladejo was a fan favorite because of how he played the game. His unselfish, team-first approach was showcased when he changed positions prior to his senior season -- from catcher to second base. Mike recently signed a free-agent deal with the Washington Nationals. Isn't it going to be challenging next spring not having to write Mike Albaladejo's name onto the FAU lineup card?
McCormack: "Mike had a great career here and he's a natural-born leader who loves to play baseball. He was a four-year player, three-year starter and was a part of two championship teams. Before last season, I asked Mike to play second base because I knew he had played the position during summer ball. He helped solidify a young, inexperienced infield. He never complained despite being selected as a preseason all-league selection at catcher. I don't know what I am going to do without him next year. I am so happy that Mike has an opportunity to realize his dream of playing professional baseball. Most importantly, he will be getting his degree in a few weeks."
Albaladejo is one of 15 players to receive all-conference recognition under McCormack, earning first-team All-Sun Belt honors at second base in 2012. In total, two players have garnered preseason or postseason All-American status and five players named to the All-South Central Region team since 2009.
Q: You take great pride in the fact that you can win on the field and in the classroom . . .
McCormack: "Our players are fantastic young men and an absolute pleasure to be around. Four players from our 2012 team have already graduated and four more are scheduled to reach that goal this fall. Our players are fortunate to be getting a quality education and should be proud of their achievements. This is a great time in their lives, and they should take advantage of this opportunity. I'm proud that we have been winners - on and off the field."
Q: Turning to next spring, the 2013 team should return a strong core of returning players to help defend this year's Sun Belt Conference regular-season championship. What are your early projections for next season?
McCormack: "We are in good shape. Mike Spano will be back behind the plate and Mark Nelson will anchor first base after leading last year's team with 45 RBIs. Also, Robert Buckley returns and will move to second base while Mitch Morales will be the other half of the double-play combination. We're also going to be strong in the outfield with Nathan Pittman, Geoff Jimenez and Corey Keller returning after successful 2012 seasons. On the mound, pitchers Austin Gomber, Jeremy Strawn and Kevin Alexander give us a strong starting rotation. The bullpen is also in good shape with relievers Michael Sylvestri and Bo Logan. Hugh Adams, a former all-region pick, returns after missing last year from injury. We have a good group of returning players with strong character. Meanwhile, we're also looking forward to add four community-college recruits and a really good freshman class with strength in all areas. I'm excited about next year."