Jan. 27, 2012
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HOUSTON - The Rice baseball team, ranked as high as No. 6 in the country in one national preseason poll, held its first practice of 2012 at Reckling Park on Friday (Jan. 27). Rice head coach Wayne Graham welcomed back 22 returning lettermen from last season's squad that went 42-21, won the Conference USA tournament championship, and hosted a home Regional in the NCAA Tournament.
On the first day of practice Coach Graham, who is now in his 21st season at the helm of the baseball program, had the team in batting practice and fielding drills before a Blue-Gray scrimmage. His 2012 squad returns eight of the nine starters in the batting order and a host of veteran pitchers from a year ago. The Owls have a highly-touted group of incoming freshmen players making their Division I debut this spring.
Rice's talented team is no secret in college baseball circles. The Owls are ranked sixth in the country by Baseball America and seventh according to both Collegiate Baseball magazine and by USA Today/ESPN. Even with high preseason rankings, the team has a challenging 2012 season to prepare for in a short time. The Blue & Gray officially open the schedule in just three short weeks with a three-game home series against NCAA Tournament participant Florida International on Feb. 17-19.
Prior to the season-opener, the program will host its biennial Baseball Alumni Weekend on Feb. 3-4. On Feb. 3 (Friday) Rice University Centennial historian Dr. Melissa Kean will deliver the second Rice Baseball Alumni Lecture at 6 pm in the Rice Stadium R Room. The topic of her speech will be "The Early History of Rice Athletics and Why It Mattered." On Feb. 4 the attention shifts to Reckling Park for an alumni-vs.-alumni game and an alumni-vs.-varsity home run derby. That's just a part of the activities to enjoy as Rice welcomes back its baseball alumni, including many who went on to play professionally.
Last season the 42-21 Owls advanced to an NCAA Regional for a 17th-straight year. Not only has the program has won at least 40 games in each of the last 17 seasons, Rice has won or shared 16-consecutive conference championships (including regular season and/or conference tournament titles). Rice has maintained the nation's best composite win-percentage (.742) since 1999, a comprehensive 13-year span that marks the first year the NCAA adopted its current 64-team/Super Regional format for the NCAA Tournament.
Season ticket plans for Rice's 31-game home baseball schedule are now on sale through the Rice Athletic Ticket Office and online at the above link. Season-ticket packages start as low as $200 for adults and $150 for youths (ages 3-17).