• Trio of baseball alums in the big leagues begin 2009 season today

    David Murphy, Kelly Shoppach, Steve Smith and Jason Jennings

    As the 2009 Major League Baseball season kicks off for most teams today, fans in Arlington have a good chance of seeing two and possible all three Baylor alums currently in the big leagues — Texas Rangers David Murphy and Jason Jennings and Cleveland Indian Kelly Shoppach — as the two teams square off at Rangers Ballpark. (That’s the trio with Baylor head coach Steve Smith above; photo courtesy Brad Newton, Texas Rangers.)

    Murphy, a strong candidate for 2008 American League Rookie of the Year before a late-season injury, begins the year as the Rangers’ starting left fielder after hitting .275 last season with 15 home runs and 74 RBI. (Bonus link: Nice feature on him here from the Oklahoman.) Jennings is in the Rangers’ bullpen as he works his way back from a pair of elbow surgeries. Shoppach hit .261 last season and led all American League catchers in home runs with 21; he will start 2009 as the back-up to all-star catcher Victor Martinez but is again expected to see regular playing time as Martinez also plays first base.

    Two other Bears who appeared in the big leagues last season — veteran pitcher Kip Wells and infielder Mark Saccomanno — will open 2009 in the minors. Wells will likely begin the year with the Washington Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate in Syracuse, NY, while Saccomanno will begin his third season with the Houston Astros’ Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock. A host of other Bears are also at various levels of the minor leagues; once their assignments are finalized later this spring, we’ll run a list of those alums, as well.

    Sic ’em, baseball Bears in the pros!

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