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January 30, 2010

Easterling, McDaniel putting in double shift

Besides the incoming freshmen class, Mike Martin's Florida State Seminoles had two fresh faces join the squad at the team's first official preseason practice.

Former Major League Baseball draft choices and current football players Taiwan Easterling and Jacobbi McDaniel are now donning a different type of jersey as a part of the Seminoles' baseball team.

Easterling and McDaniel, who will wear 37 and 54 respectively, now face the challenge of becoming re-acclimated with the sport they excelled at in high school. Although admittedly rusty, it is a challenge that they both are looking forward to taking on.

"It's a good feeling (to be out here)," said the now dual-sport athlete Taiwan Easterling. "I'm trying to get back in the baseball groove or whatever. It's a good atmosphere out here."

Easterling, a former draft pick of the Florida Marlins, elected to defer to the life of a college athlete to play football at Florida State back in 2007. The Hattiesburg, Mississippi native has since wanted to get back out on the baseball diamond and now has his chance to do just that.

However, it's been quite some time since he has played baseball competitively. Nevertheless, the 5-foot-11 outfielder thinks he has made some steps in the right direction already.

"At first I was shaking off the rust, but I feel like I have come along pretty good," Easterling explained. "I feel like I am starting to come around now."

While McDaniel's sabbatical from the game has been much shorter compared to his teammates', he still has to deal with the jump from high school to college level baseball - a hurdle big enough in itself.

McDaniel, who was selected by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 33rd round of the Major League Baseball draft a year ago after a brilliant high school career, nearly won the Big Bend Triple Crown as a junior hitting .589 with 13 home runs.

Despite all his high school accolades, McDaniel has already noticed a big difference going against college competition.

"It's a lot different," McDaniel said. "This is the college level now. And Florida State is one of the top programs in the country for baseball so it is a lot different.

"Just being out here the first couple of days it's been kind of intense coming out here trying to impress the coaches. After a while, the coaches came and told us not to try to impress and not to worry because they are going to coach me. They said you are trying to overachieve and that is why you are messing up

The easier transition has been fitting in with their new baseball teammates. Both Easter and McDaniel had great things to say about how easy and welcoming the baseball players have been to them. In fact, McDaniel has already garnered a collection of interesting nicknames.

"Stuart Tapley, he calls me Big Nasty," McDaniel said. "Some of them call me Big Poppy, some of them call me Prince Fielder. I mean, it's all jokes and games, but it makes you feel like you grew up with them.

"I love it."

Until the first pitch on February 19th, the two dual-sport athletes will have a few more weeks to shake the rust off and develop as college baseball players. Head coach Mike Martin believes that live scrimmages will help their cause and is anxious to see how they fare.

"They haven't really seen what it is like to hit with nine guys in the field," said Martin. "Most of their hitting has been done in what we call a four man staff."

McDaniel, who figures to feature as either a designated hitter or first baseman, knows where he will most likely be playing. His counterpart, Easterling, expects to play in the outfield.

While his exact spot in the outfield is yet to be determined, that isn't a priority for Easterling. Instead, he is only looking to get on the field and help the team anyway he can.

"I haven't ever had a problem fielding the ball or anything like that, I'm comfortable out there," he said. "It doesn't matter where I play, just getting an opportunity to play."

Warchant.com / SectionB.com Message Board



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