With the official start of the 2014 Major League Baseball season just a couple of weeks away, six former University of Connecticut baseball players are working out in Spring Training hoping to secure a roster spot on a major league team. Former Huskies are currently playing for the Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Miami Marlins, Chicago Cubs, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks.
In the 118-year history of UConn’s baseball program, a dozen former UConn players have reached the big leagues. Here is a look at this year’s band of Spring Training invitees:
Nick Ahmed ’11: Drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 2011 MLB Draft, Ahmed spent the 2013 season with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. In 136 games for the Diamondbacks’ Double-A affiliate the Mobile BayBears, Ahmed notched 115 hits, including 21 doubles and four home runs. Ahmed was named to the Clemson Region All-Tournament Team as a unanimous selection. Ahmed was one of 11 Huskies to earn postseason accolades from the conference, as he was named to the All-Big East Second Team.
Matt Barnes ’11: Ranked on Major League Baseball’s top-100 prospect list, Barnes figures to be a major piece of the Boston Red Sox organization in 2014. Barnes spent the majority of 2013 with the Portland Sea Dogs of the Eastern League, making 24 starts. Barnes was called up to the Pawtucket Red Sox for one start at the end of the year, in which he went 5.1 scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, allowing just three hits to pick up a win. Barnes was the 2011 Big East Pitcher of the Year and a First Team All-Conference selection.
Greg Nappo ’11: Nappo spent the majority of the 2013 season with the Jupiter Hammerheads (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Miami Marlins), before being called up to the New Orleans Zephyrs near the end of the season. In two appearances with New Orleans, Nappo worked two scoreless innings, allowing just one hit. In 2011, Nappo became the fourth player in UConn history to win 10 or more games in a season, with a 10-3 record in his senior campaign, and he became just the second player in Connecticut history to record 25 career wins.
Scott Oberg ’12: Oberg has enjoyed success at the minor league level in his first two years of professional baseball. In 2013, the righty appeared in 56 games for the Modesto Nuts (Class A-Advanced team of the Colorado Rockies). At Connecticut, Oberg ranks fifth in program history with 11 saves, including nine in the 2012 season. After returning from surgery in 2012, he was honored as an All-Big East First Team selection and named to the ABCA Regional Second Team.
Mike Olt ’10: The last former UConn player to make his major league debut, which occurred for the Texas Rangers in August 2012, Olt aims for a return trip to the big leagues with the Chicago Cubs in 2014. In 230 at-bats, the right-handed batter smashed 11 home runs and drove in 32 runs. Olt currently ranks second in UConn history with 44 home runs, and holds the single-season program record with 23 home runs in 2010.
George Springer ’11: The former UConn center fielder is ranked as the number three prospect in the Houston Astros’ organization and appeared in 62 games for the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate Oklahoma RedHawks last season. While at UConn, he was the first Husky to take home Big East Rookie of the Year honors. In 2011, Springer was the league’s Player of the Year, garnering First Team All-America nods from Perfect Game USA, Louisville Slugger, and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Check UConnHuskies.com for updates throughout Spring Training.