Seven Florida Gators are taking part in Major League Baseball’s Opening Day festivities and one more will join them soon after a stint on the disabled list. Florida has had a ton of success in the past 10 years, and it’s evident by those on 25-man rosters. Of the eight players to start the season with big league clubs, seven of them took part in a College World Series. After a week where the Gators dominated top-four teams in the diamond, it’s only fitting to look at these eight players starting the season at the highest level, and their stats from last season:
LHP Kevin Chapman (2007, 2009-2010), Houston Astros
The Astros don’t get started until Tuesday, but Chapman is coming off a solid season in Houston. Chapman went 1-1 with a 1.77 ERA in relief for the worst team in baseball. In 25 appearances, he struck out 15 and held opposing batters to a .183 average in 20.1 innings.
INF Mark Ellis (1996-1999), St. Louis Cardinals
Ellis will start the season on the DL with a knee injury for the defending National League Champion Cardinals. He played last year for the Dodgers and put up solid numbers. In 126 games, Ellis batted .270 with six home runs and 48 RBIs. He’s eligible to come off the DL April 9.
LHP Nick Maronde (2009-2011), Los Angeles Angels
Maronde was called up late last season and appeared in 10 games. He averaged a strikeout per inning, but had a 6.75 ERA in 5 1/3 innings pitched.
RHP Darren O’Day (2003-2006), Baltimore Orioles
O’Day remains one of my favorite Gators. He was downright nasty in his time at Florida with submarining sidearm release. O’Day’s done pretty well in the big leagues too. Last season, he went 5-3 with a 2.18 ERA with two saves. He appeared in 68 games, striking out 59 in 62 innings.
INF Ryan Raburn (2000), Cleveland Indians
Raburn’s the only Gator on this list never to go to Omaha and the College World Series. But he’s made up for it with one of the best careers for a Florida player in the MLB. Last season, Raburn played in 86 games, hitting .272 with 16 homers and 55 RBIs.
LHP Steven “Paco” Rodriguez (2010-2012), Los Angeles Dodgers
Technically, his season started over a week ago with two wins in Australia. He also took part in Opening Night stateside, as his Dodgers lost to the San Diego Padres. He’s pitched in two games this season and hasn’t allowed a run yet. Rodriguez has also struck out two in just 1 1/3 innings pitched. Paco’s coming off a pretty good campaign last year where he appeared in 76 games, notched a 3-4 record and two saves with a 2.32 ERA.
C David Ross (1998), Boston Red Sox
Ross played an integral part in the (it pains me to say this) Red Sox World Series championship last season. As part of team beard, Ross played in 36 regular season games, hitting .216 with five homers and 11 RBI. But he really came on in the postseason, when he caught the final three games of the Fall Classic, including the final out for the series clinching win.
C Mike Zunino (2010-2012), Seattle Mariners
One of the most decorated Gators ever, Zunino got his chance late last season after being the third overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. He played in 52 games, batting .214 with five home runs and 14 RBIs. He’ll start this season in Seattle and will be counted on to produce.