The Florida Gators won their first ever National Championship in baseball last season and the firsts don’t stop there for Kevin O’Sullivan.
For the first time in 12 seasons leading the Gators, O’Sullivan has named a captain for the 2018 season in senior catcher JJ Schwarz.
The honor was announced to the team on Tuesday, the day before they began fall practice but it’s something that was in the works even before the Gators went to Omaha last season.
Schwarz waited and waited on draft night. He watched as teammates were drafted but had to wait until the 38th round to hear the Tampa Bay Rays call his name. it was a disappointment for the catcher that was drafted in the 17th round out of high school.
“My dad was here, he came up. I kind of bounced some things off of him. I called Sully up. I felt my best option was to come back here,” Schwarz said on Wednesday. “That’s the time that Sully told me that he’d make me captain if I came back. First ever captain. That was a big deal for me. That kind of played part in coming back.”
It’s a huge honor when you consider the names that O’Sullivan has had run through his program. Logan Shore, Alex Faedo, Brian Johnson, Jonathan Crawford, Matt den Dekker, Mike Zunino and Preston Tucker, just to name a few.
“I just think his commitment to this program and his decision to come back his senior year I think speaks volumes of what he thinks about this place,” O’Sullivan said of Schwarz. “It’s probably a long time coming. I probably should have done it a couple other times. I just felt like the timing was right and no one’s more deserving than him.”
Schwarz hit .259 as a junior. His 12 home runs and 56 RBI both led the team and his 67 hits were second to only Dalton Guthrie. Schwarz has been through a lot since he’s been in Gainesville. He had the most productive season a freshman has ever had in Gainesville. The expectations that were then placed on his shoulders were too much for any one player. He’s had good seasons following the otherworldly freshman campaign but has faced harsh criticisms from outside the program. Coming back as a senior he already has the respect and admiration of his teammates. He didn’t need a “C” on his jersey or the designation of being the team captain, but he’ll take it.
“Very well deserved. This is not his fourth year here and he’s always been considered a leader on this team,” junior Deacon Liput said. “I think this year is really just the first time it’s been stated but in reality we all know it. Very well deserved.”