What would a lineup of all-time UF big leaguers look like?
JUN 14, 2013 11:10a ET
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Former Gators catcher Mike Zunino, the third overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, made his major league debut Wednesday night for the Seattle Mariners.
Zunino arrived at Safeco Field to much ballyhoo for an organization in need of a jolt. Seattle fans got a glimpse of what Gator fans saw for three years.
In his first game, Zunino went 1-for-4, picking up his first career hit with a single up the middle off Houston starter Jordan Lyles. Zunino also threw out a runner attempting to steal in Seattle’s 6-1 loss.
The game was a classic pitchers’ duel as Zunino and Mariners starter Jeremy Bonderman worked well together during Bonderman’s eight shutout innings. However, Seattle closer Tom Wilhelmsen faltered in the ninth as Houston scored six runs.
Zunino became the 56th player in UF baseball history to reach the majors. With that in my mind, it got me thinking about the best major league lineup you could pencil in using only Florida players.
Maybe one day Zunino or Paco Rodriguez or Nick Maronde or others from recent Florida teams will make the cut, but as of now, here is the best lineup this manager came up with using only former Gators who played in the majors:
C Mike Stanley
Stanley played at UF from 1982-85 and made his major league debut in ’86 with the Texas Rangers. Stanley played 15 seasons in the big leagues – the longest tenure of any player in UF history – making stops in Texas, New York (Yankees), Boston, Toronto and Oakland. Stanley enjoyed the most success during his four seasons with the Yankees from 1992-95. Stanley hit 26 home runs and drove in 84 runs in 1993 and earned a spot on the American League All-Star Team in 1995.
1B Herbert Perry
Perry made his big league debut in 1994 with Cleveland after playing at UF from 1988-91. He started his career as a utility player for the Indians and played in the 1995 World Series. He later spent time with Tampa Bay, Chicago (White Sox) and Texas before playing his final game in September 2004 with the Rangers. Perry’s best season came in 2002 with the Rangers when he hit 22 home runs and had 77 RBI.
2B Robby Thompson
Thompson played at Florida in 1983 after starting his college career at Palm Beach Community College. He was selected by the San Francisco Giants in the ’83 draft and made his debut with San Francisco on April 8, 1986. He was a mainstay in the Giants’ lineup for the next 11 seasons, retiring after the 1996 season. Thompson finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting in 1986 and made two All-Star teams (’88, ’93). His best season was 1993 when he won a Gold Glove and had his most productive season at the plate with 19 home runs and 65 RBI as the Giants won 103 games but finished second to the Braves in the NL West in the last great pennant race before the wild card was adopted by MLB. Thompson was in Seattle’s dugout Wednesday night during Zunino’s debut. He is the Mariners’ bench coach.
(Note: This position was probably the toughest since former Gators INF Mark Ellis also plays second base and has put together a career comparable to Thompson's. Ellis is the utility player on this team).
SS David Eckstein
A former walk-on at UF, Eckstein is one of the most well-known inspirational stories in baseball history. The 5-foot-6, 170-pound Eckstein made his mark with the Gators from 1994-97 and after working his way up the minors, he made his major league debut with the Angels in 2001. In his second season in the majors he finished 11th in the AL MVP race and helped the Angels beat the Giants in the World Series. Eckstein won another World Series with the Cardinals in 2006, earning MVP honors for hitting .364 with three doubles and four RBIs in the series. He finished his career in 2010 after playing 1,311 games in 10 seasons.
3B Al Rosen
Rosen played at UF in 1941 and ’42 before signing with the Cleveland Indians. He made his major league debut in 1947 and for the next 10 seasons developed into one of the game’s top players. Rosen was named American League MVP in 1953 when he hit .336 with a career-high 43 home runs and led the league with 145 RBI. Rosen was an All-Star from 1952-55 and drove in 100 or more runs every season from 1950-54. He retired due to back problems in 1956 and later became a major league general manager, building the Giants teams that won the NL West in 1987 and ’89.
OF Brad Wilkerson
Wilkerson starred at UF from 1996-98 and was a first-round draft pick of the Montreal Expos. He made his major league debut in 2001 with the Expos and in 2002, his first full season in the majors, Wilkerson finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting (.266, 20 HRs, 59 RBI). Wilkerson spent eight seasons in the big leagues, making stops in Washington, Texas, Seattle and Toronto after four seasons in Montreal. His best season was in 2004 with the Expos when he hit a career-high 32 home runs, drove in 67 runs and scored a career-high 112 runs, which ranked seventh in the NL that season. He played his final game on Sept. 28, 2008 at the age of 31.
OF Ryan Raburn
Raburn played for the Gators during the 2000 season after stops at South Florida Community College and USF. He was a fifth-round pick of the Tigers in 2001 and climbed his way through Detroit’s farm system to make his major league debut in 2004. Raburn didn’t stick with the Tigers until 2007 and has developed into a steady everyday player. He is hitting .288 with seven home runs and 20 RBI in 37 games this season, his first with the Cleveland Indians. He hit .280 with 15 home runs and a career-high 62 RBI in 2010.
OF Lance Richbourg
Richbourg has the distinction of being the first UF baseball player to ever play in the majors, making his debut on July 4, 1921 for the Philadelphia Phillies. Richbourg only played 10 games for the Phillies and returned to UF to coach the Gators during the 1922-23 seasons. He returned to the big leagues in 1924 with the Washington Senators and after playing only 15 games, did not play again in the majors until 1927 with the Boston Braves. He spent the 1926 season as Florida’s coach. However, Richbourg finally found a home in Boston and over the next five seasons was a starting outfielder. A teammate of Rogers Hornsby in 1928, Richbourg had his best season that year, finishing 15th in National League MVP voting. He hit .337 that season with 26 doubles, 12 triples, two homers and 52 RBI. He finished his career in 1932 with the Cubs and died in 1975 at the age of 77.
SP Josh Fogg
A right-hander out of Cardinal Gibbons High in Fort Lauderdale, Fogg played for the Gators from 1996-98. He was a third-round draft pick of the White Sox and made his big league debut for Chicago in 2001. He was traded to Pittsburgh prior to the 2002 season and finished seventh in NL Rookie of the Year voting after going 12-12 with a 4.35 ERA in 33 starts. In nine seasons in the majors, Fogg won 10 or more games five times and finished his career in 2009 with a career record of 62-69, the most wins of any pitcher in school history.
RP Doug Corbett
Corbett played at UF from 1970-74 and made it to the big leagues with the Minnesota Twins in 1980. He immediately made an impact for the Twins, finishing third in AL Rookie of the Year voting as one of baseball’s top relievers. He went 8-6 and saved 23 games in 73 appearances, posting a 1.98 ERA over 136 1/3 innings. He made the All-Star team in his second season, going 2-6 with 17 saves and 2.57 ERA in 54 appearances. Corbett never matched the success from his first two seasons in the majors but was good enough to hang around for eight seasons and played a key role for the 1986 Angles team that lost the ALCS to the Red Sox. He pitched in 46 games that season, going 4-2 with a 3.66 ERA and 10 saves. He played for Baltimore in 1987, his final season in the majors. His 66 career saves are the most for any UF pitcher to make the majors.