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'It was a blast': Auburn baseball begins practice
Jan. 29, 2016

Niko Buentello, left, and new Auburn baseball coach Butch Thompson like the first day of preseason practice
Niko Buentello, left, and new Auburn baseball coach Butch Thompson like the first day of preseason practice

By Charles Goldberg

AUBURN, Ala. ― If Auburn had kept stats, and Auburn didn't, but if the Tigers had kept stats you'd know that newcomer Niko Buentello went 2-for-2 with four RBIs in the first preseason practice for a baseball season that is now three weeks away.

Alas, there was no Friday box score because new coach Butch Thompson is drawing on his baseball experience to learn his players.

"We're committed to go no stats," he said. "We'll draw on other stuff to try to pick when and where. We'll probably let seniority rule the day."

Thompson, hired on Oct. 22 and after fall practice to replace Sunny Golloway, is learning his team on the run. Friday was the first day to have his team practice all at once. The Tigers staged a four-inning exhibition and will have exhibition games at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday as well in Plainsman Park.

Thompson says he'll lean on his veterans as he installs his system.

"We're going to use these older guys as guys to rally around and let them kind of show the way and let them coach," he said.

Thompson's veterans included Anfernee Grier, Blake Logan, Cody Nulph, Melvin Gray and Jordan Ebert.

"We had a lot of maturity on the field today," Thompson said.

Still, it's a learning experience for all those involved.

"You're trying to see who they are, still," Thompson said. So he said he'd stand back and watch and not over-coach his new team.

Thompson has spent his time in drills, shaking hands, talking to banquets since he was hired. On a cool Friday, he was in the dugout.

"It's just nice to get out and coach and see the ball club run around a little bit," he said.

Buentello ran around with his doubles.

"It was a blast to finally get out here and show off our skills," he said.

"He took advantage of his opportunities," Thompson said. "He came up with runners on base two times, and made a difference in the ball game. If you're looking for a most valuable player today… it was kind of obvious. He had two meaningful at-bats in the ball game."

Charles Goldberg is a Senior Writer at Follow him on Twitter:


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