It's a get-acquainted time for Wes Johnson, UGA baseball team
Name tags are not required for the start of fall baseball practice, but perhaps they should be.
When first-year head coach Wes Johnson kicked off fall practice last Friday, there were certainly some new names to learn.
Not only do 17 transfers make up Johnson’s first roster, but add in 14 true freshmen, over half of this year’s squad will consist of players who were not on the team last year.
“It’s been fun. It’s been a challenge. We’ve got 17 new guys who we’ve gotten out of the portal. You start to look at different dynamics. It’s one thing to have 17 new players, but when you think about it, that’s 17 new players from other programs. So, one of the big things I’ve been really hammering is we’ve got to establish a normal,” Johnson said. “They’ve had 17 different normals, in a sense, at different other programs, and how we do things. But it’s been good, and it’s been fun. It’s always a challenge, but that’s what you have to do to get your locker room right and try to get everyone on the same page.”
Senior catcher Corey Collins is one of 20 returnees who were part of the team last year, a group that includes Player of the Year candidate Charlie Condon, catcher Fernando Gonzalez, and pitcher Charlie Goldstein.
“It’s good to see guys compete. They’re excited to be here,” Collin said. “They’re really happy and I think everybody is relaxed and is treated professionally. I really like how it’s looking with that; it’s all about getting better and I’ve already seen guys make huge jumps.”
Georgia’s 17 transfers were not a case of Johnson and his staff throwing out offers and haphazardly bringing in players simply to fill out the roster.
Quite the contrary.
“The biggest thing, when we got into it, is we started looking at it analytically. Obviously, we play in the best league in the country. So, with that being said, how are they going to perform in our league?” Johnson said. “It’s one thing to perform in another league, but how are they going to perform here?”
Johnson believes the right choices were made.
Former Baylor infielder Kolby Branch, former Purdue infielder Paul Toetz, former Campbell outfielder Logan Jordan, and former Sam Houston State outfielder Clayton Chadwick are four of the names Bulldog fans will need to keep an eye on.
Former Mississippi State third baseman Slate Alford, former Western Kentucky first baseman Lukas Farris, and FAU outfielder Dylan Goldstein will also play key roles.
“One of the things that Coach (Will) Coggin and I really started looking at this summer was how to build some lineup flexibility, as you call it,” Johnson said. “You look at a lot of teams in our league, they’ve got a really good right-hander with a good slider, and that gets a lot of good right-handed hitters out, so you better have enough left-handed bats when you face that guy.”
There are also plenty of new names on the mound.
One, former Charleston Southern pitcher Daniel Padysak played for the Czech Republic in the World Baseball Classic, while Stanford transfer Brandt Pancer played in the College World Series for the Cardinal each of the past three years.
“Daniel Padysak came out and threw a little bit (Thursday), I think we’re going to see some good things from him; Josh Roberge (transfer from Southern New Hampshire); Prancer from Stanford, who has pitched in Omaha three straight times, knows what he’s doing.
Brian Zeldin was at Penn last year and pitched against Auburn (in the NCAAs), and Zach Harris (Georgia Southern transfer) has pitched well.”
For Padysak, the opportunity to work under Johnson was a no-brainer.
“When I got the call from Coach Johnson, telling me he wanted to come, it was pretty much a no-brainer for me,” Padysak said. “It’s just a great opportunity. His resume speaks for itself; the coaching staff we have is really, really good. I’m just happy to be a part of the team.”
For returnees, who might have struggled last year, it’s a fresh start.
“I told them that day one. I don’t care what your stats were, I don’t care what you’ve done, what you haven’t done, all of these things are irrelevant to me,” Johnson said. “I think that may have given a few guys a jolt of energy, or whatever terms you use, and they’ve come out and shown some things.”