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BASEBALL

The next Shohei? Two-way standout Jac Caglianone says focus is first on UF baseball 2024 season

Kevin Brockway
Gainesville Sun

Few baseball players can throw a ball 97 miles an hour and smack 350 to 400-foot home runs on a consistent basis.

Jac Caglianone demonstrated that ability during a breakthrough sophomore season with l, bringing to mind another two-way, Major-League standout.

Not only did Caglianone bat .323 with a school record 33 home runs and 90 RBIs to help lead the Florida Gators to the College World Series Finals in 2023, but he made 18 starts as a weekend pitcher for UF, going 7-4 with a 4.34 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 74.2 innings pitched.

That earned Caglianone the nickname ֱShohei Caglianoneֱ as a nod to Shohei Othaniֱs All-Star hitting and pitching exploits during his career with the Los Angeles Angels.

ֱShohei has done a lot to kind of open the door for two-way guys and Iֱd say itֱs given myself a lot of inspiration to follow someone like that,ֱ Caglianone said. ֱTo work to be kind like of the next version of him would be really cool. But yeah, down the road is down the road, the only thing I can really focus on is now.ֱ

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That focus is on the 2024 UF baseball season after the 2023 season ended one win short of a second national title in school history in an 18-4 loss to LSU. The Gators open the season with a three-game homestand Feb. 16 against St. Johns.

ֱOne of the biggest things for us as a team to kind of focus on is to not have that happen again,ֱ Caglianone said. ֱOur goal is to win the last game of the season. Obviously, we came up one game short last year but itֱs kind of like just adding fuel to the fire ֱ

ֱJust because we got there last year doesnֱt mean that itֱs going to be easy, itֱs never easy so just kind of making sure everybody is on the same page and everybody is working really hard to get to the same goal.ֱ

Jun 25, 2023; Omaha, NE, USA; Florida Gators first baseman Jac Caglianone (14) celebrates hitting a home run against the LSU Tigers in the eighth inning at Charles Schwab Field Omaha. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY ֱ

How UF baseball player Jac Caglianone is handling star status

Caglianone, a Golden Spikes Award Finalist in 2023, will enter 2024 as one of college baseballֱs biggest stars. MLB.com projects him to go No. 4 overall to the Oakland Athletics in Julyֱs Amateur Draft.

During the offseason, Caglianone often accommodated fans by posing for pictures either in Gainesville or his native Tampa.

ֱItֱs really cool taking pictures with people, people getting really excited to see you,ֱ Caglianone said. ֱItֱs very new to me and I do my best to make everyone realize that Iֱm just kind of a regular person.ֱ

The increased attention also has resulted in some Name, Image and Likeness opportunities, including one with Rapsodo, a high-tech device that monitors advanced data during bullpen sessions and batting practice.

Caglianone said heֱs grateful for NIL opportunities for himself and his UF teammates.

ֱItֱs been a long time coming for student-athletes to get a little kick back from their success on the field,ֱ he said.

Why Jac Caglianone wears No. 14

Caglianone wears No. 14 in part because his father, Jeff Caglianone, wore No. 14 as a scholarship baseball player at Stetson. But thereֱs another reason as well. Growing up a Tampa Bay Rays fan, Caglianoneֱs favorite Major League Baseball Player was David Price, who wore No. 14 with the Rays.

ֱIֱm hoping to put my kind of little spin on it,ֱ Caglianone said. ֱBut yeah just having baseball on just about every day in the house growing up has been pretty influential.ֱ

Living in Tampa shaped Caglianoneֱs passion for baseball. At Plant High in Tampa, Caglianone followed a long line of former UF baseball standouts, including former big leaguer Preston Tucker and New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso. Caglianone worked out with Alonso at Condron Family Ballpark last week.

ֱThereֱs a bunch of guys that I train with and kind of get to talk to in the offseason,ֱ Caglianone said. ֱReally about just the mental side of things of how they go out about their business and applying it to myself.ֱ

Jac Caglianone ready to take on a leadership role at UF

Last season, Caglianone learned the day in, day out grind from veteran shortstop Josh Rivera and veteran outfielder Wyatt Langford as an every day college baseball player. This season, with Langford and Rivera both gone after being taken in the Major League Baseball draft, Caglianone will take on more of a leadership role at UF.

ֱThe biggest thing for me was taking a little bit of what each and all of them do and kind of incorporate all of that into my kind of leadership ideas,ֱ Caglianone said. ֱJosh was a very vocal guy, Wyatt is more a lead by example type of guy, so finding all of these happy mediums to kind of draw from have been really helpful.ֱ

ֱFlorida projects to have a different lineup without Langford, Rivera and catcher B.T. Riopelle. But UF added former Alabama slugger Colby Shelton (.300, 25 HR, 51 RBIs) and former Coastal Carolina catcher Tanner Garrison (.275, 6 HR, 20 RBIs) from the transfer portal to give Caglianone some protection in the lineup.

ֱAll the transfers are going to play a really big role and the production of this team, especially this year,ֱ Caglianone said. ֱYou know last year we were very long ball dominant, this year, weֱre going to hit plenty of home runs, thereֱs no doubt in my mind about that but I think all these transfers really understand what needs to be done.ֱ

Can Jac Caglianone harness control on the mound of 2024?

If there was one weakness for Caglianone during his stellar 2023 season, it was at times he could lose command of the strike zone. Caglianone walked 55 batters in 74.2 innings, hit 14 batters and uncorked 10 wild pitched. The wildness showed up for the hard-throwing lefty on the big stage in the deciding Game 3 of the College World Series Finals, when Caglianone lasted just 1.1 innings against a star-studded LSU lineup, walking three and hitting two batters.

Caglianone was just a year removed from Tommy John surgery in 2023, and there is hope that the continued healing in his left elbow will result in better precision on his pitches. He was encouraged with how he threw the ball during fall workouts.

ֱJust simplifying everything like I did at the plate, just getting rid of the unnecessary movements, really trying to go out there and attack, trust your stuff and trust what youֱve worked on this offseason,ֱ Caglianone said. ֱIt worked pretty well for me in the fall so Iֱm just going to stick to it, see how it goes.ֱ