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March 26, 2010 - Image 10

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-03-26

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10 - Friday, March 26, 2010

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

10 - Friday, March 26, 2010 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

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Preview

STARTING LINEUP)
*Out with thumb injury
Today's Home Opener:
IPFW at Michigan
Matchup: IPFW
2-17; Michigan 9-9
When: Today at 3 P.M.
Where: Ray
Fisher Stadium
Live Blog:
michigandaily.com

Dufek seeks his own
legacy as- 'M' captain

Oaks aims to make transition
from outfielder to staff ace

By CAITLIN SMITH
Daily Sports Writer
Senior pitcher Alan Oaks has
often lived up to the role of "the
man."
In 2007,. during his freshman
year at Michigan, Oaks was "the
man" who had the pinch-hit,
walk-off home run against Col-
lege Player of the Year David Price
to win the Nashville Regional. A
week later, Price was the No.1 pick
in the MLB draft to the Tampa
Bay Devil Rays.
But, the coaches have taken
Oaks off the base and created
a new identity for him on the
mound. He is once again, "the
man" - the Friday-night pitcher.
The ace.
"He's going to be a tough guy
for any team to beat," Michigan
coach Rich Maloney said. "And
that's the kind of guy that is a
Friday-night pitcher. This is a
tremendous accomplishment for
Alan. It was his goal to be the
Friday-night pitcher and with his
limited experience, to say that
he's the guy, shows alot about his
work ethic and his drive to be the
best."
Oaks was recruited to Michigan
as the No. 1 prep player in Michi-
gan as a , two-way player.
His first preference was

to hit, so Maloney gave him the
opportunity.
Although Oaks had a powerful
swing, big moments came incon-
sistently for him.
So last season, when the Wol-
verines were struggling on the
mound, Maloney and Michigan
assistant coach Bob Keller took
a chance on Oaks and his golden
arm, putting him in the game to
pitch.
"Thankfully we did," Maloney
said. "From that point on, we felt
like for him to play at the next
level, knowing that his swing
was a little bit long, that his best
chance was probably going to be
on the bump. So we made that
move and to Alan's credit he has
excelled there in a short period of
time."
You could say that he has han-
dled the transition from an out-
field position player to ace pitcher
about as well as he handles the
ball on the mound. To prepare in
the offseason Oaks, who previous-
ly made a total of 10 appearances
at the mound in his freshman
and junior season, pitched in the
Florida collegiate league, did two
bullpens a week, and focused
on endurance and strength over
quickness and agility..
Besides working on the physical
aspects of the game, Oaks has also

taken on a new, less conventional
approach to improve his pitching.
"A recent tradition started
this year," Oaks said. "At the first
game, the umpire told me to take
off my Livestrong wristband and I
pitched really well that game. And
the next two weeks he told me
to do it again. But, the following
week he didn't ask me to remove
it, so I said, 'Hey, can you tell me to
take off my wristband?"'
Superstition or not, something
is working well for Oaks. This past
weekend, he recorded a career-
high 10 strikeouts against Ford-
ham - bettering his previous high
of seven, which he has reached
twice already this season. Oaks
is throwing a 90-92 mph fastball,
a low-80s slider and a high-70s
changeup.
"I can throw pretty hard in
my opinion," Oaks said. "So I like
to challenge the hitters and say,
'here it is if you can hit it, and good
luck.'"
Although Oaks struggled in the
beginning of his career to find a
consistent place on the field, he
was able to gain the experience
of batting against some of the top
pitchers in the nation. It might
be that because of this, Oaks
has learned just how to throw
in order to be "the man" on the
mound.

By BEN ESTES
Daily Sports Writer
Look closely at Mike Dufek as he
strides out to his territory at first
base, and you'll see the typical gear:
a cap on his head, mitt on his hand,
ball in his back pocket.
If you get a good enough look,
you may even see a determined
expression on his face or eye black
smeared across his cheeks.
But what you won't see is the
sixty years worth of success, lead-
ership and Wolverine tradition that
follows his name everywhere he
goes.
The next time the senior fouls a
ball off his leg and opens up a cut,
try to look at the blood that comes
out.
It just might be maize and blue.
A FAMILIAR NAME
Those Michigan fans who have
attended football games for as long
as the Pope has attended mass smile
knowingly whenever Dufek's name
is announced at Ray Fisher Sta-
dium. Not necessarily for him, but
because they lnow about his prede-
cessors.
The first baseman's grandfa-
ther, Don Dufek Sr., was a standout
fullback for the Wolverines from
1948-50. His uncle, Don Jr., was
an All-American defensive back in
Ann Arbor from 1973-75, and his
uncle Bill played offensive tackle
for Michigan from 1974-78, also
attaining All-American status. All
the Dufek men would go on to play
in the NFL (as did Mike's father,
Joe, who played at Yale in his col-
lege days).
They were all leaders, too. Joe
played quarterback, the general on
the field; Don Sr. was chosen as the
team's MVP in 1950; and Don Jr.
was elected a captain both at Michi-
gan and during his career with the
Seattle Seahawks.
It's no wonder, then, that Mike
was selected as a co-captain for the
2010 season. Leadership is genetic
in the Dufek family.
"I definitely learned from my
uncles and my dad and my grand-
father," Dufek said after practice
Tuesday. "Everybody in my fam-
ily taught me the right way to do
things. I guess in the end, that real-
ly led to being a leader. Just leading
by example is the number one key
they all taught me the right way."
Despite his family's football ped-
igree, Dufek was blessed with much
greater baseball talent. And with all
of his connections to Ann Arbor,
Michigan was always the first base-
man's top choice. He first caught
the Wolverine coaches' eyes during
summer camps that Dufek attended
while in high school.
Those visits also confirmed his
interest in the school. The issue,
however, wasn't whether he want-
ed Michigan - it was whether
Michigan wanted him. Dufek
was lightly recruited as a pitcher/
outfielder coming out of Desert
Mountain High School in Scotts-
dale, Ariz. Since NCAA baseball
teams have fewer scholarships to
give than other major sports, even
a player of Dufek's caliber was not
guaranteed a full ride. If he were
to play for the Wolverines, it would
have to be in a walk-on role, at least
in the early part of his career. It
would also have to be at a new
position, as his athleticism limited
his potential in the outfield.
"(Recruiting Dufek) was easy in
the sense that he made it very clear
that he wanted to come, so that

was great," Michigan coach Rich
Maloney said. "It wasn't easy in the
sense that he really wanted to hit
and he wasn't blessed with a lot of
foot speed. It's tough if you're a hit-
ter who doesn't have a lot of speed,
so you got to really hit. And to his
credit, he really hits.
"We gave (the opportunity) to
him, and we're thankful we
did, because he's been a real-
ly good player for us."
That hitting prow-
ess led to a first
team All-Big Ten
season in 2009,
one in which he
hit .304 with

17 home runs and 59 RBI. The 17
homers led the team and all first
basemen in the conference - good
enough for third place all-time for
Michigan in asingle season.
And though Dufek isn't satisfied
with his power numbers so far in
2010 (he's slugging only .411, down
.216 from last season), he's still
managing a .329 batting average
with 20 runs knocked in.
TAKING CHARGE
The senior's leadership qualities
were so apparent early in his career
that it "really came as no surprise"
that he was selected as one of the
co-captains for this season, accord-
ing to senior utility man Mike Kit-
tIe.
"Everyone kind of had a pretty
good idea it was going to be Dufek
and (senior catcher Chris) Berset,"
Kittle said. "Him and Berset are
doing a good job keeping the team
together ... we wouldn't have voted
him captain if he didn't think he
could lead us. No doubt."
And the coaches supported the
choice. Maloney said that even as
a young player, when he wasn't
receiving a lot of playing time, he
could tell by Dufek's work ethic and
the way that he "meshed" with the
team that he had a shotcat becoming
a captain later in his career.
It was the same story for Dufek
in high school. Though the co-cap-
tain said he didn't really realize his
potential until his senior year, his
high school coach, Bryan Rice, saw
it much earlier.
"WhenImethimineighthgrade,
to tellyou the truth, he showed tre-
mendous potential," Rice said in a
phone interview. "That's the first
time I saw him and he just kept
getting better and better. Even as a
sophomore, he came up in the state
playoffs and got the bench all fired
up and was getting people going.
You could just tell he had a special
quality about him."
Dufek, for his part, was ready for
the challenge of leading at the col-
legiate level.
"When coach first told me, I
was excited to be put in that posi-
tion to help lead the team," Dufek
said. "We didn't have a great year
last year, so being a leader on the
team this year, I got a great chance
to kind of guide the way the season
will go. So far, we've had our downs,
but we want to be atcourbest during
Big Ten play."
The team has indeed struggled
somewhat so far, with its record
sitting at 9-9 heading into the long-
awaited home opener against Indi-
ana University-Purdue University
Fort Wayne today.
The Wolverines' rough start has
challenged their leaders to step up
and right the ship. The team has
leaned on Dufek and Berset to keep
everything afloat in the face of -an
extremely difficult schedule and
injuries to preseason All-American
Ryan LaMarre and the team's most
experienced returning pitcher

(senior lefthander Eric Katzman).
His teammates and coaches have
praised the first baseman for the
job he's been doing and for keeping
everythingtogether despite arough
start to the season.
"The hard part is having to tell
guys when they're not acting the
right way or they're not doing
something the right way," Dufek
said. "You've got to correct them on
and off the field, not being afraid to
pull a guy aside and have a talk with
them. You don't want to do it, but
sometimes every now and then it
has to happen.It doesn'thappen too
often, really. We have a good club-
house. These guys all have good
heads on their shoulders."
BUILDING A LEGACY
After this season, Dufek's future
is uncertain. If he performs well
enough, he has a shot at playing pro
ball (he was drafted by the Tampa
Bay Devil Rays in the 41st round of
the 2006 draft, before he even got to
Michigan).
But with his determination, work
ethic and leadership ability, Malo-
ney feels his success in any future
endeavor is almost guaranteed.
"When you're a leader, a lot of
people are going to want you,"
Maloney said. "So for whatever he
chooses, he's going to be a leader in
that profession. I fully expect that
he'll be outstanding."
Instead of worrying about that
right now, Dufek has more pressing
issues on his mind: returning the
Wolverines to their familiar spot
atop the Big Ten.
When asked what his top
achievement has been, he imme-
diately mentioned the two Big Ten
Championships the team won dur-
ing his freshman and sophomore
years (he waited until much later to
bring up his individual accomplish-
ments).
But those are two conference
crowns Michigan won before
Dufek became a big contributor.
Coming off of a disappointing sea-
son last year as a team, he is driven
that much more to cap his career
with a championship.
"You want to leave a champion,"
Maloney said. "He realized being a
champion (in) years one and two,
making some contribution, but not
(being) one of the.guys that we had
to lean on. Now it's his time, and for
us to try to win another champion-
ship, your legacy is what you do to
make that happen. That's the way I
look at it."
With the family he has, one
would think that the word "legacy"
would be something that weighs on
the co-captain. Is there any pres-
sure to live up to the Dufek legacy?
"Both my uncles and my grand-
father played football here and I
play baseball," Dufek said. "Totally
different sport. They're proud of
me no matter what happens on the
field, as long as I compete.
"But I hope if they did have any
expectations, they've been ful-
filled."
He is building his own legacy,
in a way - one he knows will be
defined by how this season ends.
Forget last year. The ingredients
are there for a Big Ten Champion-
ship run, something this program
has come to expect.
And it will be Dufek leading
the charge. In a fam-
ily of cham-
pions, he
will be attempting

to make his own name -
one synonymous with being a win-
ner on the baseball field. That will
be his legacy.
"I'm real proud to wear that jer-
sey," Dufek said. "There's a sense of
pride, but there's also a sense that
you're expected to win. So far, I've
been on teams that have won cham-
pionships, but lastyear was a pretty
big disappointment.
"I feel like I'm the Dufek that
played baseball instead of football
... but I also want to make my own
name by being a winner. I want to
be known as one of the captains
that led the team back to Big
Ten glory."

0
I

S

Si

Senior Alan Oaks is making the transition from outfield to Friday-night starter this season.
STAFF PICKS
The Daily baseball beat makes
its predictions for the season.

Michigan overallrecord
Michigan Big Ten record
Michigan MVP
Michigan Pitcher of the Year
Michigan Freshman Of the Year
Big Ten Regular Season Champion
Big Ten Regular Season Runner-Up
Big Ten Regular Season Third Place
Big Ten Tournament Charpion
Big Ten Tournament Runner Up
Big Ten MVP
Big Ten Surprise Team
Big ten Disappointing Team
Michigan Season Ends Here

Ben
Estes
37-18
18-6b
Alan Oaks
Oaks
Patrick Biondi
Michigan
Michigan State
Minnesota
Ohio State
Michigan
Alex Wimmers: OhioState
Michigan State
Minnesota
NCAA Regionals

Zak
Pyzik
31-24
14-10
Ryan LaMarre
Oaks
Derek Dennis
Ohio State
Minnesota
Michigan
Ohio State
Michigan
Alex Wimmers: Ohio State
Illinois
Michigan State
Big Ten Tournament Final

Caitlin
Smith
34-21
16-8
Chris Berset
Oaks
DerekDennis
Ohio State
Michigan State
Michigan
Ohio State
Michigan
Alex Wimmers: Ohio St
Indiana
Minnesota
NCAA Regionals
Virginia

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