Florida State true freshman Ben DeLuzio looking to continue a tradition in center field

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

There's a tradition at Florida State when it comes to great center fielders, and Ben DeLuzio is shaping up to be yet another link in the chain from Dick Howser's outfield to the major leagues. And he hasn't even played a game yet.

When head coach Mike Martin starts to draw comparisons between true freshman Ben DeLuzio and Seminole greats like J.D. Drew and Shane Robinson, block everything else out and listen.

Or in DeLuzio's case, be kind of taken back by that.

"Wow," Deluzio said. "I mean, those are two phenomenal baseball players that he compared me to. I wouldn't compare myself to them because they're in the MLB, but I just wanna come out here and do my best."

I know, it may seem a little premature to start talking comparisons before the kid takes the field on Opening Day. But maybe Martin was on to something when he said DeLuzio's further along in center field than J.D. Drew was at this point, or when Martin says the youngster runs the bases like Shane Robinson did.

The Miami Marlins saw something in him, too, as they used their first pick, 80th overall/3rd round, in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.

The 6-3/190 DeLuzio attended The First Academy in Orlando, Florida, where he excelled on the baseball diamond as well as the football field. He hit .448 as a senior with 20 RBI and 32 runs scored.  With lightning speed around the bases, he runs the 60-yard dash in 6.56 seconds(approximately a 4.4/40). He was also named the East Most Valuable Player of the FACA All-star game.

In short, this kid is an athlete. Plain and simple.

But his decision to come to Florida State wasn't easily said and done, according to DeLuzio. He almost signed with the Marlins.

"It was very close at one point, " DeLuzio said. "But I really pondered on it and prayed about it and I really changed my decision. Physically, I feel like I'm just as good as anyone, but I didn't feel like I was mentally ready because that plays a huge role at the next level."

It's never fun for an organization when it loses its first pick in a draft like the Marlins did. And as DeLuzio described the tough phone call he had to make telling the Marlins he wasn't making his way to Miami, he quickly put on a smile as he described the call to tell Meat he was coming to FSU.

"I remember talking to Meat - I just said I was coming to Florida State," DeLuzio said with a grin. "He just screamed, and said 'that's great that's great' and I just got a great feel for it."

The Florida State coaching staff knew what they got when DeLuzio decided to come to Florida State and they weren't afraid to show it. A recruiting process that dates back to travel ball during DeLuzio's sophomore year quickly evolved into the Florida State coaching staff being represented at every game during the summer in between his junior and senior year. And the persistence paid off.

"They'd show up to every game, which I don't know how they do," DeLuzio said. "My coach had good ties with Meat, I guess. We kind of formed a tight knit relationship so that was good. Throughout the whole recruiting process they were straight forward and honest so I definitely got a good feel for it."

Crootin'..

It didn't hurt that DeLuzio's older sister, Alexa, played basketball for Florida State between 2009-2013 either.

"I came up here a lot and she kind of game me the tour of campus and I'd come to some of the game,' DelUzio said. "I kind of became a FSU baseball fan after that. I haven't really experienced that on the field, but when you're sitting in the stands the fans get pretty crazy. I definitely wanna get ready for that first game."

He's not trying to get ahead of himself.  He just wants to work day in and day out to get better on the field. He's not much of a power hitter, but he consistently hits the line drive, gathering extra bases with his speed. He will most likely start the season hitting somewhere near the bottom of the lineup.

"I see myself as a doubles hitter," DeLuzio said. "I just try to get out there and hit singles and doubles and tryin' to get on base."

DeLuzio definitely has some big cleats to fill when he takes the field Friday evening for Opening Day against visiting Niagara, but he's up to the challenge. His confidence if evident and his athleticism is obvious.

He should be a fun one to watch.

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