With three UConn graduates playing in the big leagues now, diehard Husky fans have plenty of teams to root for this baseball season.
Maybe the best aspect of this trio is that they are all position players, so their former UConn coach – and the rest of Husky Nation – can root for their individual successes even when they take the field against each other.
At the moment, George Springer ’11, is breathing new life into the struggling Houston Astros franchise, where – as of July 1 – he leads the team with 16 homers and 43 RBI through 65 games. Springer’s powerful start led him to be named the American League’s Rookie of the Month in May, an honor that was recognized on the June 30 cover of Sports Illustrated.
In the National League, Mike Olt ’10, is settling in with the Chicago Cubs; and Nick Ahmed ’11, was called up by the Arizona Diamondbacks last weekend to start at shortstop. All played under Jim Penders ’94 (CLAS), ’98 MA, UConn head coach.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch all three of the guys realize their dreams of playing in the big leagues,” says Penders. “Each of them gave so much of themselves while they were here at UConn, and they’ve earned everything that has come their way.”
Coming into the 2014 season, Springer was ranked the No. 3 prospect in the Houston system and the No. 21 prospect in all of baseball. Capturing the coveted cover spot in Sports Illustrated has made Springer part of another notable trio too. With the publication of the June 30 issue, Springer became the third current or former UConn student-athlete to earn the prestigious recognition this year. Basketball players Breanna Stewart and Shabazz Napier were featured on the March 24 and April 14 covers, respectively.
Olt was acquired by the Cubs in a late-season trade in 2013, and has served as Chicago’s primary third baseman while hitting in the middle of the order. Through 60 games, Olt has 10 homeruns and 25 RBI.
Ahmed’s promotion comes during a breakout year for the shortstop, who was batting .324 in 70 games this season at AAA-Reno. He also cracked a pair of homeruns and drove in 36 runs, adding 10 stolen bases.
Importantly, if the former Huskies are playing in games on the same night, Penders has an extra set of eyes to monitor one screen while he watches the other: his son.
“I got to watch Nick’s debut, and I had my son in another room watching George on a different TV,” says Penders.
“Dad, George just made a leaping catch at the wall,” shouted his son.
“Nick is coming up right now,” Penders responded.
Members of Husky Nation are watching, too.