Price Names 2015 Baseball Captains
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Ritch Price announced Wednesday that seniors Justin Protacio, Taylor Rappaport and Blair Beck will be the captains for the 2015 Jayhawk baseball team.
“I’m excited to announce the selection of Justin Protacio, Taylor Rappaport and Blair Beck as captains for the 2014-15 season,” Price said. “All three seniors are great Jayhawks. They’re great teammates and they represent our program in a first-class manner on and off the field.”
Entering the season with two-straight All-Big 12 Honorable Mention selections to his name, Protacio enters his final season with the Jayhawks having started the last two. The Pearl City, Hawaii, native led the Big 12 with 53 runs scored, and ranked fifth on the conference charts with 44 walks. He started 60 out of the 61 games for the Jayhawks last season, batting .280 with 16 RBIs.
“We need a huge year, both at the plate and on defense from Justin for us to finish the upcoming season in the top-25 and reach our goal of making it to the NCAA tournament,” Price said.
“It’s a huge honor to be a captain,” Protacio said. “Skip (Coach Price) called me when I was in Alaska during my last few weeks of summer ball to let me know. I was kind of shocked about it, because it is a new type of responsibility. Being in this clubhouse three years prior, I’ve got to see three different sets of senior captains and how they led the team. I want to take from them the good things they did because they were awesome to play with.”
Coming off of Tommy John surgery as a sophomore, Rappaport reinjured his elbow last season and will be unable to finish his career on the mound for KU. Although the Riverside, California, native will not be able to make an impact with his play on the field this season, he will certainly bring leadership to the team. Rappaport will be assisting associate head coach Ryan Graves in player development for the pitching staff, a role that is similar to the one held by former KU pitcher and current big leaguer Brett Bochy (San Francisco Giants) when he too, underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010.
“Taylor is going to provide our young pitching staff with crucial senior leadership to help with their development through the course of the season,” Price said. “He has amazing leadership skills and is highly respected in this program and we want him to be a mentor to all of the young pitchers on this team. This role is a way for Taylor to continue to contribute to this program.”
“It’s an honor to be named a captain,” Rappaport said. “I think with my situation, being hurt and coach knowing I won’t play this year, it meant a lot. It really speaks to the kind of guy Skip is. I have always been a bullpen guy, so I will be able to help the new guys get ready for a game and get that mentality. We have a lot of young guys that need to learn the way we do things here.”
Utility man Blair Beck completes the trio of captains, entering his second year with the Jayhawks. The Midland, Texas, native spent his first two college seasons at Midland College before transferring to Kansas for his junior and senior years. Beck is coming off a season where he appeared in 46 games for KU, including 34 starts, where he batted .250 and drove in 15 runs.
Beck joins one of last year’s team captains, Jordan Piche’, as one of three transfers in the Price era to be named a team captain as Sean Richardson captained the Jayhawks in 2005.
“Blair is a true baseball rat,” Price said. “Whether he is in the lineup or coming off the bench, there is nobody in the dugout that’s more engaged in trying to contribute and find a way to help us win than him. The kid loves the game. He brings energy and enthusiasm to practice and to games every single day that is unmatched. With so many young players on our team, Blair’s leadership qualities will be crucial to the success of our team.”
“It means a lot that coach put his trust in me and he knows that we are going to lead the team in the direction he wants it to go,” Beck said. “Honestly, it’s a really big thing for me to be named captain. It really means a lot. Being a leader to me isn’t as much about getting on the players as it is bringing energy and being the same guy I was last year. I just want to work hard and set a good example for the underclassmen and show them what it really means to play Kansas baseball.”
The captains, along with the rest of the 2015 squad, look to carry the momentum over from the 2014 season where the Jayhawks made an appearance in the NCAA tournament for the fifth time in school history. The quest to make back-to-back postseason berths begins homecoming weekend as Kansas kicks off the fall slate with the Third-Annual Floyd Temple Alumni Game on Saturday, September 27.
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