April 16, 2010
By Jon Cooper
Tony Plagman believes in finishing what he’s started.
For the senior first baseman, that meant coming back to Georgia Tech and doing what he’s always done — taking his place at first base (he enters this weekend’s three-game series vs. Clemson with 206 career games played, 194 at first base), batting in the middle of the order and launching baseballs all over Russ Chandler Stadium (not to mention opposing ballparks) and areas beyond. It also meant turning down the Major Leagues despite getting drafted last June by the New York Yankees in the 46th round (he’s available again this June).
“I’m thankful that I came back for my senior year and have stayed healthy and had the opportunity to play four years at a great baseball program like this,” said Plagman, a Dean’s List student who’s majoring in Management. “The team is doing great and we’ve accomplished some of our goals, like beating Georgia in the series.”
His teammates and coaches are thankful for his decision as well.
“He’s a great student, he’s a great leader, he’s a great college baseball player,” said Head Coach Danny Hall. “He works extremely hard and has a way of being real competitive in games. He’s kind of an emotional leader of our team as well.”
“I’ve learned everything from Tony from the day I set foot on this field as a freshman. He’s kind of taken me under his wing as a brother,” said sophomore third baseman/catcher Matt Skole. “He’s a guy who’s going to jump on you if you make mistakes and if you’re not hustling and stuff. But he’s also going to go out here and play the game the right way and get everybody else going.”
One of the team’s three captains, Plagman would like nothing better than to get everybody going this weekend when Tech, currently ranked fifth in the nation (the Jackets fell from second after dropping last weekend’s series at Virginia, currently ranked No. 1) hosts ACC rival Clemson, beginning Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Russ Chandler Stadium Saturday and Sunday games start at 1:00.
“We have to keep winning in the ACC,” he said. “If we win every series we’ll be pretty set for the postseason and that’s one of our goals.”
The Jackets know they count on Plagman in attempting to accomplish those goals. He’s the big wrecking ball on a team full of demolition experts, as Tech leads the ACC and ranks second in the country with 74 home runs, trailing only New Mexico State (77), and tops the nation averaging 2.24 round-trippers per game.
Of course, Plagman has individual goals as well. His third-inning shot Wednesday night gave him 13 homers on the season, putting him ahead of K.G. White into undisputed possession of fifth place, while tying him for fourth with Luke Murton. He’s only 10 away from tying Jason Varitek, the school’s all-time leader.
“I definitely think about it (the home run record),” he said. “There’s a lot of talk about it but you’ve just got to take it one at-bat at a time. I hope I keep swinging the bat well, and keep seeing it well and maybe someday.”
Someday means in the course of getting the team to an ACC Championship and to Omaha for a berth in the College World Series, not in place of either.
Plagman, who also is seven RBIs away from tying Jay Payton and cracking the top school’s top 10 in career RBIs, has proved the home run is coincidental with his consistency at the plate. He headed into action Friday night tied for third on the team with a .372 batting average, is tied for third in hits (48), and is second in doubles (10).
He has gone hitless in only seven games all season and only once has he gone hitless in back-to-back games. That was in early March. His discipline at the plate is showing, as he’s struck out 20 times but has drawn 16 walks.
He’s as solid defensively, as pickin’ `em at a .996 clip this season (he’s a career .990 fielder). That’s a big reason Tech ranks fifth in the ACC in fielding (.971) and has committed the fourth-fewest errors in the conference (36). Clemson is the ACC’s second-worst fielding team (.957) and has committed the second-most errors (58).
Plagman’s all-around play is beginning to draw comparisons to past Tech greats.
“At the [Georgia] game Brian Jordan asked me what kind of first baseman Tony was and I said `He’s one of the best in college baseball,'” said Hall. “Then he asked me is he as good as Mark Teixeira. I said, `I’m not going there. He’s just a great player.'”
While Plagman won’t go into comparisons, either, he is flattered by them.
“There are a lot of guys that have done well in this program,” he said. “It’s great to be in the class as one of those guys. It’s incredible.”