OMAHA—Well, the tarp is on the field, and a thunderstorm is passing over Rosenblatt Stadium, so we’re going to be delayed at least 90 minutes or so from the scheduled 7:08 ET or so start time. So to pass the time, I figured this is a good time to unveil the 2009 version of everyone’s favorite exercise in self-indulgence, the All-Fitt team. This list is essentially just my favorite players of the year—the ones I had the most fun watching and interviewing in 2009. Those are the only criteria. Please don’t confuse this team with the All-America team, which is based on things like talent and production. Without further ado:
C: Cameron Rupp, Texas
Built like a fullback with a neck that evokes former New England Patriot Sam Gash, Rupp won me over not only for his tape-measure home runs but for his thoughtful quotes and sharp sense of humor. Honorable mention goes to LSU’s Micah Gibbs, another quotable sophomore backstop.
1B: Dustin Ackley, North Carolina
It’s just fun to watch this guy hit.
2B: James Ewing, Southern Mississippi
This fifth-year senior showed veteran poise in press conferences. Thoughtful, articulate, insightful, entertaining—the whole package. Honorable mention to little Virginia sparkplug freshman Keith Werman.
3B: Steven Proscia, Virginia
I just love this guy’s all-around game. I heard great things about him from scouts in the Northeast while doing draft coverage last year, and he became my favorite freshman in the nation this spring. He’s going to emerge as a big star over the next two years at UVa.
SS: Ben Orloff, UC Irvine
A skills grand-master, as Mike Gillespie called him in the preseason, Orloff has better feel for baseball than any college player I’ve covered in the last five years. He’s always doing the things necessary to win, whether with his glove, his bat or his legs. Very likable personality, too.
OF: Kole Calhoun, Arizona State
"Carrot Top", as Pat Murphy called him, was a stocky bundle of energy who repeatedly electrified Rosenblatt with his big hits this year. He also wins points for taking Murphy’s ribbing with a smile.
OF: Ryan Schimpf, Louisiana State
Not only did I appreciate Schimpf’s slight resemblance to actor David Faustino (aka Bud Bundy), I like little guys who can hit the long ball, and the 5-foot-9 Schimpf has 22 of them now. He’s also a strong quote.
OF: Jamel Scott, Cincinnati
Undersized players tend to find their way onto this team, and in February I referred to Scott as a 5-foot-4 stick of dynamite. I like his game, and he would make this team based simply on the amazing catch he made against Michigan—the best defensive play I saw in 2009—if for no other reason.
DH: Michael Torres, Texas
I had to make a spot for Torres somewhere. He’s another master of the press conference, just a quote machine.
UT: Mike McGee, Florida State
There were plenty of good choices here—Danny Hultzen and Brooks Raley would have been fine ones—but I’m going with McGee for his combination of power, grit and congeniality.
SP: Ryan Berry, Rice
Berry might have been the most honest, colorful interview I encountered this year. It was also fun watching him put on a pitching clinic against Texas A&M at the Houston College Classic.
SP: Kyle Gibson, Missouri
Mizzou coach Tim Jamieson says that Gibson could run for mayor of Columbia, because everyone feels like they’re best friends with him. Baylor’s Kendal Volz calls him a "goofball." Gibson has a winning peronality and winning stuff.
SP: Josh Spence, Arizona State
The Aussie‘s got the best accent in college baseball, and he’s the only pitcher in the country who throws an occasional eephus pitch, as far as I know. To see a guy dominate the way Spence does without topping 85 mph is pretty remarkable. He’s a treat to watch.
SP: Alex White, North Carolina
The epitome of a big-game pitcher, White turned in his best start of the year in Omaha, striking out 12 over nine innings of one-run ball.
RP: Eric Pettis, UC Irvine
Pettis has been a rock for the Anteaters over the last couple of years, but he’s making this team for his quotability. No player in college baseball seems more at ease with a microphone in his face.
Coach: Paul Mainieri, Louisiana State
Mainieri might get my vote for nicest man in college baseball. He’s just a very genuine person who makes real connections with everyone he comes into contact with, from players to fans to media. And his coaching job this year has been masterful.