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    Injured slugger hopes to take crack at pros

    By NANCY MORGAN

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published July 8, 2001


    Baseball has been Patrick Boyd's passion since he first played T-ball.

    Through grade and middle school years, Boyd's desire to play never waned.

    A stellar career at Clearwater Central Catholic resulted in the Seattle Mariners drafting the outfielder in the second round. Boyd, however, opted for a scholarship from Clemson University.

    Even an injury before his senior season this year at Clemson didn't dampen Boyd's dream to play professionally.

    "When I was in the eighth grade, I was visiting some of the schools with my brother, Jonathan," Boyd said. "Clemson really jumped out at me then and I knew that if they would be interested in me when I got out of high school, I would want to go. The coach's style suits me -- aggressive and hardnosed."

    Clemson coach Jack Leggett was interested in Boyd and was impressed by his work ethic and attitude. Results proved Leggett was right about Boyd's potential.

    Boyd's first three years with the Tigers resulted in a career .342 batting average. He finished in the top 10 in school history in walks, doubles, runs, hits and RBI. After his junior year, the All-American again was drafted -- this time in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    "After I went to the Pirates camp, I decided to go back to school and play out my fourth year," Boyd said. "I felt I could learn more and refine my skills."

    His senior season was a difficult one while dealing with a stress fracture in his lower back.

    After sitting out 13 games, Boyd participated in a 17-4 win over Ohio by contributing a double and scoring two runs. That was Boyd's only game of the season, however, and he was returned to the injured list.

    "I've been working really hard on rehabbing and am getting better and stronger," Boyd said. "I'm right on track and up to 45 swings on both sides. In a couple of weeks, I should be ready to go."

    Boyd recently was drafted again -- this time by the Texas Rangers in the seventh round. Although no contracts have been offered , Boyd plans to participate in a Ranger camp later this month.

    "The draft is wild and works really weird," he said. "I'm keeping my options open and see what happens."

    One of Boyd's options is returning to Clemson to play a fourth season and complete his degree. Athletes are allowed to sit out one season and have five years to complete their four seasons of eligibility.

    While unable to play most of last year, Boyd's intense desire helped him focus on getting healthy and returning to the diamond.

    "I think my biggest strength is the passion I have for the game at this level," he said. "I take pride in every tool of the game."

    MORE BASEBALL: Kurt Abbott (Dixie Hollins/St. Petersburg Junior College) is with the AAA Richmond Braves rehabbing after surgery in May.

    In the International League, Abbott is hitting .214 in 14 trips to the plate.

    Lefthander Clayton Andrews (Seminole) is 1-3 with a 6.00 ERA in 36 innings with the Chattanooga Lookouts, a AA Cincinnati Reds affiliate.

    Andrews was first drafted in 1996 by the Blue Jays and made his major-league debut in the Toronto Sky Dome as a 21-year-old.

    Left-handed reliever Clint Chrysler (Boca Ciega/Stetson) is 2-3 with a 4.5 ERA in 32 innings with the Altoona Curve, the Pirates' AA team in the Eastern League.

    Among the California League leading hitters is Matt Bowser (Tarpon Springs/UCF) with a .333 average. The left-handed batter has scored 41 runs for the Visalia Oaks and connected for 5 triples and 11 home runs, driving in 47.

    B.J. Leach (Seminole/Florida Southern) moved up to AA with the Trenton Thunder, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.

    While rehabbing from injury, Leach is 1-1 on the mound with a 4.45 ERA.

    In less than a month with the Elizabethton Twins, Cory Agar (Dunedin) has connected for two home runs and is hitting .250 in 10 games in the Appalachian League.

    TENNIS: University of Arkansas junior Aleksey Bubis (Palm Harbor/Saddlebrook Academy) was named to the Southeastern Conference Academic honor roll.

    To be eligible, student-athletes must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA.

    Bubis, a psychology major, completed the season with the Razorbacks' second-best singles record (25-10) and was 18-9 in doubles. Kyle Nelson (Canterbury) was 12-3 overall in singles and 3-1 in doubles for Emory University.

    The Eagles were named an All-Academic Team by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association -- one of only three NCAA Division III squads from among the 350 selected.

    Last year, Nelson was voted rookie of the year by the ITA and earned All-America status in singles.

    Competing in the No. 3 and No. 4 singles positions for Seton Hall, freshman Nicole Cercone (Seminole) earned a 10-12 record and was 10-11 in No. 2 doubles. SOCCER: Becky Burleigh (Tarpon Springs) was named Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year for the second time at Florida. She reached the 200-win milestone with the Gators' 2-1 victory over Kentucky in an SEC Tournament semifinal.

    Jill Stevens (East Lake), 1997 Times Player of the Year and one of Burleigh's forwards, finished her third season with 32 points -- fifth on the Gator squad.

    Boston Breakers forward Robin Confer (CCC/North Carolina) hopes to see action against Mia Hamm and the rest of the Washington Freedom when the teams meet July 29 in front of a sellout crowd at the Breakers' home field.

    In an earlier game, Boston won 1-0.

    FOOTBALL: Future plans for Chris Daniels (Clearwater) are uncertain after the receiver was released by the Tampa Bay Bucs last week.

    Daniels, who enjoyed a stellar college career at Purdue, has been plagued by injury since signing with the Bucs as a free agent in April 2000.

    This summer, Daniels was to play for the Barcelona Dragons in NFL Europe, but a neck injury in training camp forced him to be placed on injured reserve.

    Ryan Watson (Largo) completed the 2000 season at defensive tackle for Appalachian State University with 66 tackles, 46 of which were unassisted. He played all 14 games and started the last nine. -- News for this column may be faxed to Nancy Morgan, 445-4514, emailed to namgamma@gte.net, or sent to 710 Court St. Clearwater, Fla. 33756. Please include your phone number.

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