Baseball set to start season

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James Hagan

Published: January 21 2004

The PJC Pirates baseball team kicks off its season Jan. 31 in Palm Beach against Broward Community College with high expectations of a winning season and continuing academic excellence from its players.

   Head Coach Bill Hamilton, entering his 14th season at PJC with a win-loss record of 383-274, characterized the Pirates as “very young.”

   Coming off a successful 30-17 season, but with only five returning sophomores, Hamilton said that while this team is inexperienced, “top to bottom there is not a lot of drop-off from best to worst player, one to 24 we’re strong.”

  Hamilton expects a lot of production this season from Jeff Morris, a sophomore infielder.

   “He knows how to play. He’s not a great athlete, but he’s a great baseball player. If you want to win, he’s the guy you want first on your team,” he said.

   He also praised his pitching staff, specifically a trio of lefthanders – Brad Owen, expected to be the opening day starter, freshmen Logan Williamson and Charlie Hesseltine, a recruit from Connecticut.

   The team plays in the Panhandle Conference, which Hamilton thinks is the toughest conference in the country at the junior college level.

   Athletes come to PJC, Hamilton said, because of the location, the chance to get a top-notch education and a tradition of winning.

   Also, a big enticement for high school students from northern states to attend the college is the ability to play baseball year-round.

   “Players who know that the big league teams are interested in them know that they need to go somewhere where they can play.  

   “Baseball is a sport where you have to put in a lot of practice, a lot of time to make the adjustments to overcome your failures,” he said.

   Hamilton, who is also Athletic Director, stressed the high quality of his team.

“This is one of the best character teams I’ve had. They’re all good people, students and leaders. These are kids I would like to spend the day with.”

   The overall team GPA is 2.8, Hamilton said, well above the 2.0 required by the state for junior college athletes to be eligible to play. 

 He gave credit for the team’s academic success to the administration and the work of the students and their tutors.

  The baseball team has an investment in the athletes, Hamilton said. 

   With the amount of time and money that is spent wooing them to PJC, he said, the school has an obligation to help them achieve academically.

   The baseball coaches monitor the students’ progress in their classes during the semester to make sure they are keeping their grades up.

   “Sometimes we lose sight of the athletics, because we’re focused on the education,” he said.

   Because of this, he said that PJC athletes are attractive to major universities because they know that they will qualify to play in Division I schools. 

   Although thirty-nine of its players have been drafted by professional teams, one of his proudest achievements, said Hamilton, is that 132 former players have gone on to four-year institutions to continue their degrees.

   Hamilton is excited to get the season underway.

“I’m ready to get on the bus now,” he said.  “We’re looking forward to working real hard,” he said. “We’re excited and ready to go and see how all this plays out.”