Optimistic Rattlers reload; look to repeat as MEAC champ
By MarKeith Cromartie
After defying the odds last season to win its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Southern Division title in 19 years, FAMU’s baseball team is brimming with confidence that it could repeat the feat with a reloaded squad.
The Rattlers open the season on Feb. 19 with a three-game series at home against Marshall University.
“We like this baseball club,” said third-year coach Jamey Shouppe. “That’s all you can ask for. “We got some depth pitching (and) we got some depth position-wise. All we can do is prepare and get our guys ready to play the game.
“You never know; baseball is a game of inches anything can happen at any moment, but we do like our chances.”
Especially after the Rattlers overcame a shaky start last season to finish with a 23-25 record. They went 15-9 in conference play and culminated their incredible run with their first MEAC championship since 1994.
There have been several personnel changes that could affect the dynamics. But the players still thrive on a brotherhood with a solid work ethic.
“We’re like brothers; of course brothers argue sometimes and in the end we all need each other,” said Dexter Martin, a redshirt sophomore outfielder out of Rickards High School.
The mission is clear. They want to repeat for a second straight trip to the NCAA Regional tournament.
“Winning the (MEAC) championship made us want to work harder,” said infielder Ryan Hutson. “We are not looking at it like we are trying to protect it. We are looking at it like we are trying to win it again.”
As defending champions, the Rattlers are going into the season with plenty of fan support. They know they represent more than just the local community.
“It’s really great that we can get our community involved and not just us but all HBCU sports do well.” Martin said. “I think it’s really good that people are drawing more attention to us,” said Martin.
Fan support is obvious as they have provided resources and manpower to spruce up all around Moore-Kittles Field. The team has a new club house and a new backstop is being installed behind home plate. A viewing deck near the left field also is under construction.
It has inspired the Rattlers’ theme for the season.
“Our theme this year is ‘building,’ ” Shouppe said. “It goes to all the work that’s being done out here. We are looking to increase the facilities which allows us to attract better baseball players, as we continue to build the tradition of FAMU Baseball.”