Sun Belt coaches, pay attention before casting your vote for Sun Belt Player of the Year.
The Sun Belt Conference will announce the Sun Belt Player of the Year during Tuesday's night's Sun Belt Home Run Derby and Awards ceremony in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
With the exception of FIU coach Turtle Thomas, who cannot vote for his own player, the rest of you Sun Belt coaches your choice is an easy one: FIU infielder Garrett Wittels.
Tell me something you coaches have done for 48 consecutive days that is as hard as getting a base hit.
Hitting a round ball squarely on the bat and having it find a hole -- where if you do it just 3 out of 10 times throughout your career, you become a Hall of Famer.
Only 2 other players in baseball history (major league and Division I) have hit in at least 48 consecutive games: Joe DiMaggio, who holds the MLB record with a 56-game hitting streak and former Oklahoma State 3rd baseman Robin Ventura, who hit in 58 consecutive games and is the NCAA record holder.
The next longest hitting streak in the major leagues is by Willie Keeler of Baltimore in 1897 when he hit in 45 straight games. No one else in the bigs has reached more than 45 games, except Joe D.
GW is 2nd all-time in the NCAA record books with his 48 and counting.
Need more from GW to have you put a check mark next to the Panthers infielder's name?
GW won the Sun Belt batting title with a .415 average, was 5th in hits with 85 -- despite missing 5 games due to injury and FIU having another game rained out. Give GW those 6 extra games and he leads the conference in hits.
GW also led his team with 53 RBI and was sixth in the conference with a .463 on-base percentage.
You want to talk fielding?
How about GW, who played three different infield positions (2B, SS, 3B) this season and racked up 112 assists, while committing just 7 errors.
Not sure how many of you coaches actually played the game (and I don't mean to sound like Hanley Ramirez with that statement), but switching around from 3 different positions is not an easy task, especially in the infield where each position has a different throw to make and the ball comes off the bat differently at each spot around the infield.
And when each of your teams played FIU this season, I'm sure there was play that GW made in the infield that made you say "aw, shucks, great googly, moogly". Yeah, you probably didn't use those words, but this is a PG-13 blog.
Finally, if you want to talk about the intangibles, then let's go back to May 2 at FIU's ballpark.
ULM vs. FIU in the series finale.
Bottom of the 8th inning, FIU down 7-4 and GW's hit streak is on the line with him being hitless thus far.
Jabari Henry [who if you haven't voted already, you need to vote this kid for Sun Belt Freshman of the Year -- he will be one of the Sun Belt's highest MLB draft picks before he leaves FIU] doubles and GW comes up knowing he is NOT the tying run and that the dangerous Jeremy Patton is on deck as the possible tying run.
So what does GW do? Instead of reaching for a pitch to try and get that hit to keep the streak going, he takes a 4-pitch walk to bring Patton up.
FIU would eventually tie the score 7-7 in the bottom of the 9th on....you guessed it....a Wittels RBI single.
If that is not a team player, then please show me who is?
If you need more intangibles, then spend 5 minutes talking to GW about the streak or any other baseball-related topic you will hear how he credits his teammates and coaches for his success.
And it's not Bull Durham-related "cliches are your friends"--speak. When GW says that he owes his success this season because of hitters like Pablo Bermudez and Henry in front of him and Patton, Mike Martinez, Tim Jobe and others behind him in the lineup, GW means it.
Because think about it, if those players were not hitting what they are hitting, then why would any sane pitcher pitch to GW? The sane pitchers would take their chances with other batters if that was the case and intentionally walk GW. Sort of like what opponents used to do to Albert Pujols before Matt Holliday arrived in St. Louis.
Relax, Crazy Cane, I am not comparing GW to Pujols.
So Sun Belt coaches, I hope you all did the right thing when they hand out the Player of the Year hardware on Tuesday night.
Remember when you take the trophy to the engraver, there is no I in Garrett and Wittels is spelled with 2 Ts.
The Sun Belt Player of the Year has to be Garrett Wittels.
From the where are they now file: former FIU baseball coach Danny Price is the leading candidate to become the head baseball coach at Miami Dade College. Wonder if this will have any impact on FIU's pipeline from MDC?
Like he did last season at the SBC Tournament, catcher Doug Joyce will represent FIU in the Home Run Derby.
ESPN now is projecting FIU to be playing in the Gainesville Regional with Florida, Florida State and Bethune Cookman. Take a look: FIU in NCAA Tournament
Yeah, there are other candidates for Sun Belt Player of the Year and we might already know the answer to this poll question, but check your ballot anyway....