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Senior catcher Peter O'Brien's appeal accepted by NCAA -- huge boost for the Canes; Also, National Signing Day party for football

Great news today on the UM baseball front.

The NCAA approved former Bethune-Cookman star catcher Peter O'Brien's appeal to compete for the Hurricanes during the 2012 season.

O'Brien, 6-5 and 225 pounds, is a senior, so he needed the OK to be able to finish out his career with the Canes without having to sit out the customary season. He was drafted this past summer in the third round -- 107th overall -- by the Colorado Rockies, but did not come to terms with the Rockies on a contract offer by the Aug. 15 deadline.

O'Brien is a big-time Major League prospect. He was never recruited by UM, and flourished with the Wildcats. He grew up in Miami Gardens and played at Braddock High.

His numbers last season at Bethune: .304 batting average with 14 home runs and 69 RBI. He was named Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2010, and was a freshman All-American from Louisville Slugger in 2009.

 "It was awesome,'' O'Brien said of the decision during a UM news conference Friday. "Such a relief. It felt like a ton of weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I had been thinking about it the whole fall.

   "Basically, what [the appeals committee] had to do was hear the truth. I spoke to them from the heart and they were really helpful with everything they did... From Day one when I enrolled here [in the fall] I was getting ready for the season. I was giving everything 100 percent to the team, to the university here. I'm always thinking positive and that's the way I felt. ...Honestly, I didn't think about what would have happened if I got denied. I only thought that I couldn't see myself doing anything else [but] in a game here wearing orange and green.''

  UM Coach Jim Morris, who called O'Brien a leader, is naturally ecstatic about the decision. The Hurricanes badly needed a catcher of his caliber, and he should make a huge difference this season.

     "You get a guy who's a veteran that's one of the best players at their position in the country,'' Morris said, "it's got to help you. We expect him to be our opening day catcher from watching him all of fall practice, hit somewhere in the middle of the lineup, and be a guy who drives in runs.''

    The Canes open their 2012 baseball schedule at home against Rutgers the weekend of Feb. 17-19.


National Signing Day Festivities

    UM announced Friday that it will host a National Signing Day party on Wednesday, Feb. 1, from 6-8 p.m. at the BankUnited Center multi-purpose room. The event is free to Hurricane Club members and admission is $1 for fans who are not members of the Hurricane Club.

    UM coach Al Golden and his staff will introduce the newest players to fans, and will play a highlight reel of their talents. Food and beverages will be sold.

    Fans attending the party are eligible to purchase a ticket to the men's basketball game vs. Maryland for $5. Tipoff is 8 p.m. that night.