Coming off the finest season in school history and the loss of National Player of the Year David Price, one could assume that the expectations would not be great for Vanderbilt baseball in 2008.
Yet, with eight position starters returning, highlighted by three preseason All-Americans, this season's team looks to build upon 2007 and set Vanderbilt up as a perennial power and national title contender in college baseball.
The definite strength of this team will be its offense with All-Americans Pedro Alvarez, Dominic de la Osa and Ryan Flaherty back along with experienced starters in Alex Feinberg, David Macias, Shea Robin and Brad French.
Sophomore southpaw Mike Minor anchors a pitching staff that may lack previous time on the mound, but makes up for in raw talent. One thing the Vanderbilt coaching staff has placed a premium on under sixth-year head coach Tim Corbin is pitching and this team has the potential to develop into one of the best staffs in the country.
This fall the coaching staff noticed a new dynamic as the veterans took control of the club and taught the newcomers what the expectations are from them as a Vanderbilt baseball player.
"They have kind of taken the reigns from me in some ways," said Corbin, the 2007 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year. "The things we established back in 2004-2005 I no longer have to teach and in addition I think what they're doing are establishing their own ideals. They're putting their own signature on the program. It's tough to put out a piece of paper explaining what those things are, but I think you'll see them as we play. That's exciting for me. I think every year that goes by, as a coach, and you have older guys in the program, the program is one step better to building a tradition."
The Commodores enter the season set at eight spots in the field with talented performers vying for playing time wherever they can find it.
"Offensively, I think we'll be strong," added Corbin. "I think we have a chance to get many more extra base hits because we're a more mature group. We're stronger and a little bit faster. I would say we have the capability to score a lot of runs. When you bring back guys who have already had 600-plus at bats in a college season, then you're bringing back kids who have been there before and know how to do it. I'd like to think that's going to have something to do with success for the upcoming season. They are driven to continue to get better has been just as good if not better than in years past. They're a very hungry group."