Aug. 19, 2002
ATLANTA – Of the five players in Georgia Tech’s recruiting class who were selected in Major League Baseball’s June draft, four arrived on campus and attended their first classes Monday. The list includes three high school All-America selections in shortstop Tyler Greene (Plantation, Fla.), pitcher/first baseman Micah Owings (Gainesville, Ga.) and pitcher Jason Neighborgall (Hillsborough, N.C.).
In all, head coach Danny Hall, associate head coach Bobby Moranda and recruiting coordinator/assistant coach Scott Stricklin welcomed eight scholarship freshmen and one walk-on, as well as 25 returning players in preparation for the start of fall practice in the first week of October.
Greene and Owings were second-round draft choices by the Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies, respectively, and Neighborgall was a seventh-round selection by the Boston Red Sox. Also drafted in June but electing to enroll at Tech was pitcher Jon Crosby (Germantown, Tenn.) who was selected in the 45th-round by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The rest of Tech’s incoming freshmen includes pitchers Ryan Self (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Jared Hyatt (Marietta, Ga); catcher Andy Harwanick (Akron, Ohio); first baseman Ryan Stanley (Tampa, Fla.) and outfielder Steven Blackwood (Roswell, Ga.).
Also returning to Tech for the start of fall semester classes were a trio of pitchers who were drafted last June but have decided to return for their senior season – Jeff Watchko (11-1, 4.01 ERA in 2002), Chris Goodman (8-2, 4.41) and Philip Perry (3-0, 3.56).
The returnees give Tech a deep and talented pitching staff for the 2003 season, as players who accounted for all 52 wins and 581 of 606.2 innings pitched in the Yellow Jackets’ run to the 2002 College World Series return and are joined by five freshmen pitchers. Included in that group of returnees is junior southpaw and staff ace Kyle Bakker (13-2, 3.14), junior Brian Burks (10-7, 3.87) and sophomore Kyle Schmidt (5-2, 3.64).
Offensively, Tech returns five starters in the field including a pair of Freshman All-America picks last year in second baseman Eric Patterson (.346, 41 stolen bases) and right fielder Jeremy Slayden (.348, 18 HR, 66 RBI). Also returning are left fielder Matt Murton (.344-10-58), center fielder Brandon Boggs (.305-0-35) and first baseman/designated hitter Clifton Remole (.283-4-34).
The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 52-16 season in 2002 and they advance to the College World Series for the second time in nine years under Hall.
QUOTING HEAD COACH DANNY HALL
ON THE RECRUITING CLASS: “All told I think it is a great recruiting class, but we still have a lot of work to do with our team. We have to be very pleased to welcome these guys into the program.”
ON TYLER GREENE: “Getting Tyler Greene was a major coup. The left side of the infield was a hole that we were really worried about, and Tyler is a tremendous athlete with great skills. He is going to do nothing but get better. That’s a major coup to see a guy who is a second round pick walk away from the Atlanta Braves and decide that he wanted to spend the next three years at Georgia Tech.”
ON MICAH OWINGS AND JASON NEIGHBORGALL: “We have had some great pitchers in the 10 years that I have been here, but we have never had two guys with the amount of talent that they bring in right away. If Jason wanted to be a first-round pick, he could have been if he said that he would settle for ‘slot money.’ But he felt like he was better than that and I think that he is better than that. Micah is a tremendous talent and a great competitor. Another way that he is going to be able to help our team is that he can really hit. Not only is he a great talent on the mound, and that is where his future is, but he will be a major factor for us offensively.”
ON TECH’S OTHER FRESHMEN: “We needed another catcher and I think that Andy Harwanick was the best catch and throw guy available. Steven Blackwood is probably the sleeper of the group – every time that I saw him this summer with the East Cobb Yankees he hit the ball on the money. Jon Crosby and Ryan Self are the two forgotten pitchers in the recruiting class, but both of those guys are outstanding pitchers in their own right. Ryan Stanley is a guy that gives us some more depth with our position players and I think he will compete with some of our older guys for playing time.”
ON GOODMAN, WATCHKO AND PERRY: “If you look at our club last year, the pitching staff was one of our strengths. To have every pitcher back plus to add some depth with some of the new guys, gives us the chance to have a very good team. We feel very good that all three of those guys decided to come back and get closer to their degrees and contribute to our team from a pitching perspective. All three were major factors in our staff last year, and they are going to be major factors in our staff this year.”
ON ASSEMBLING THIS RECRUITING CLASS: “[Recruiting Coordinator] Scott Stricklin was relentless all summer with these freshmen. You see the recruiting class in the fall and feel good, but you realize that you are taking a chance by signing these high profile guys. Then you see them taken high in the draft in June and you think that you will lose a lot of those guys. But Scott deserves a lot of credit for identifying their talent and then getting them here in school at Georgia Tech. The year we had last year going to the College World Series definitely helped a lot as these guys saw we had a nucleus of young players returning and they want to try to win a national championship. The new stadium has helped tremendously. The idea of getting a degree at Georgia Tech is an insurance policy to these guys that if baseball fails then they will be able to use a Georgia Tech degree to be successful.”
ON THE STATE OF THE PROGRAM: “We are excited about getting back to work, and we are excited about the talent level of the players coming back and the players coming in. We have a lot of hard work to do before we play, but we have a lot of great players to work with. I look forward to getting the guys to mesh together as a unit. We are very fortunate with all that we have going for us right now.”