FIU clashes with Marlins in new ballpark

(Alfonso Yec/The Beacon)

(Photos by Alfonso Yec/The Beacon)

By Eduardo Almaguer/Staff Writer

Don’t blame T.J. Shantz for being a realist.

When asked at what point in his baseball career he expected to play on a major league field against a major league team, a grin spread across his face and he answered in one word: “Never!” Well, Shantz, you already know the old saying.

FIU will be facing off against a major league team for the first time in its 39-year history tonight when it faces the Miami Marlins in Marlins Park.

Head coach Turtle Thomas broke the news to his team early October, and since then every Panther has been pumped for tonight’s game.

A college team playing a major league squad is not something unusual. In spring training, MLB’s pre-season, one of the first few exhibition matches that a professional team plays is against a local university.

The Marlins have a tradition of playing University of Miami every year.

The Hurricanes have beaten the Marlins once (in 2011) in the past decade. Earlier this week, one of FIU’s earlier opponents in the year, Florida State University, played against the Philadelphia Phillies.

But now it’s FIU’s turn.

(Alfonso Yec/The Beacon)

And for once in his collegiate coaching career, Thomas will not be worrying about a win at the end of the night.

“I just want the boys to enjoy themselves and compete,” Thomas said.

With power slugger Giancarlo Stanton and four-time All-Star Jose Reyes among others sharing the field with the Panthers, enjoying themselves is something they won’t have to try hard to do.

Senior left-hander R.J. Fondon said that he wants to strikeout the speedy Reyes.

“He’s a switch hitter and one of the toughest guys to strike out,” said Fondon. “I’ll probably use my changeup.”

Fondon also hopes to glean a few things from the Marlins pitchers, specifically their mechanics and work ethic.

Staring the Panthers down for the first couple of innings will be right-hander Ricky Nolasco.

Shantz, who knows Nolasco always pitches in the strike zone, already had his attack plan ready.

“I’m going to swing at every pitch,” said Shantz with a laugh. “That’s my style, free swinging.”

At the time of print, Thomas had no indication as to which pitcher would start against the Marlins. He gave no indication to a lineup, either.

For precedence, however, FSU had a pitcher per inning in all nine innings against the Phillies. Thomas may follow suit in order to give as many players the chance to pitch against a major league athlete.

On the other side, the Marlins’ boisterous new manager, Ozzie Guillen, was asked why he would not start All-Star Josh Johnson against FIU.

“If they see JJ, they might quit. They might stay in school.’’

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