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TV20 sit-down interview with Florida Gator baseball coach Kevin O’Sullivan

If all goes right, the preseason top-ranked Florida Gators could have a special season
Published: Feb. 18, 2021 at 11:35 PM EST
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) -The Florida Gators have it all entering Friday’s opener to the collegiate baseball season. The Gators are a unanimous No. 1 across every major poll and unveil their brand new ballpark against Miami. First pitch is at 5 p.m.

TV20 Sports Director Kevin Wells chats with head coach Kevin O’Sullivan on the eve of the season opener about the expectations surrounding the team, and the need to be flexible while COVID-19 persists.

Kevin Wells

“Sully it’s been 11 months since this team last played a game. The level of anticipation here, the excitement, do you have to control the guys emotions going into a very entertaining and exciting scenario, or do these guys have that proper balance?”

Kevin O’Sullivan, Florida Gators head coach

“Well, I think anytime you start a season, there’s a bit of excitement, not just with players but with the staff and everyone involved in our program. I think this year lends a little even more because of the 11-month layoff and because of the new beautiful ballpark we have to open up this Friday against Miami so there are a lot of things we’ll probably have to work through the first weekend but we’re awfully excited to get back onto the field.”

Kevin Wells

“What do you think the fan experience is going to be like for people who are able to come to these games, in this cathedral, there wasn’t like a grand tour or anything because of COVID so what do you think the experience is going to be like?”

Kevin O’Sullivan, Florida Gators head coach

“I think they’re going to love it. It has so many different amenities, you have the Gator Sports Shop up there, a new menu with concessions, the berm areas which are different than McKethan, we have a turf field with some different ideas as far as marketing for the kids, an outfield areas where you can see the Adirondack chairs, and some food trucks. It adds a little of everything.”

Kevin Wells

“Miami coming in for that first series, a team that can’t wait to play you, you swept them last year and they remember that. What do you expect from the Hurricanes?”

Kevin O’Sullivan, Florida Gators head coach

“They’re a good team, and like most teams in college baseball, they return a lot of their players. They return their closer who they made their number one starter, they have two freshmen who pitched on the weekend. But their lineup comes back pretty much intact, they didn’t lose much. It will be very competitive like it always is, and last year could have gone either way. Two games went into extra innings and one went down to the last strike so I find it will be very competitive and it will give us a good starting point and we’re obviously looking forward to getting started.”

Kevin Wells

“You were talking earlier in the preseason, you talked about maybe one level of concern is how some players and several pitchers in particular really don’t have a ton of SEC experience, and SEC winning experience. What have those conversations been like with Mace and Leftwich to the point where no one is going to hand you anything, number one billing, or not?”

Kevin O’Sullivan, Florida Gators head coach

There hasn’t been a lot of talk individually. The players understand, at least I hope they do, that usually during the season you have to deal with injuries, and all teams deal with it, but as far as COVID is concerned your roster can change week to week. We’re starting to get tested tomorrow morning on a weekly basis and twice a week after that so your roster cold change week to week so we have a lot of challenges ahead of us just like everybody else does.”

Kevin Wells

“The depth on this team. Is it going to be a welcome challenge to have to narrow it down to nine people every night?”

Kevin O’Sullivan, Florida Gators head coach

“It’s a challenge but it’s a good challenge so what we’ll do is what we did last year, when I don’t think we used the same lineup two games in a row. We’ll give some guys opportunities because they’ve earned it but I think early on we’ll give the older guys an opportunity to get on the field first and have the younger guys soak in the first night and kind of go from there.”

Kevin Wells

“You mentioned Miami’s closer. Do you have someone in mind for that role?”

Kevin O’Sullivan, Florida Gators head coach

“We don’t, it’s more of a hybrid situation. We have two or three guys we’re comfortable with. It’s not just a one inning guy we can go to for multiple innings. We’ll let that shake itself out as we go along.”

Kevin Wells

“Jud Fabian is all over the draft boards, the projections. How high is the ceiling for this guy, an Ocala product, too?”

Kevin O’Sullivan, Florida Gators head coach

“Yeah he’s a local kid who we were lucky to get to come to school year, he graduated early so he’s only a sophomore age-wise. He has worked awfully hard but the great thing about Jud’s situation is he doesn’t feel like he has to shoulder the load. There are other guys in front of and behind him who will produce as well and hopefully have good years and take the pressure off of him.”

Kevin Wells

“Lastly, the game of college baseball has grown a lot in the last 20 years. Facilities like this are emblematic of that. More TV exposure, greater presence in the draft.. How proud are you to be a part of this surge in your sport?”

Kevin O’Sullivan, Florida Gators head coach

“It’s been great. I think ESPN and the SEC Network have a lot to do with that. Just to be a part of something like this is a once in a lifetime opportunity in your career. I’m excited to get started Friday and it should be an awful lot of fun”

Kevin Wells

“Can’t wait for the start of Gator baseball Friday through Sunday against the Miami Hurricanes. Sully, Thanks. Thank You.

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