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Baseball: Virginia opens practice with high expectations

Last Thursday marked the first official day of practice for Virginia's baseball team, which enters the season ranked as high as No. 2 in preseason polls.

This is unprecedented territory for the Cavaliers, serving both as a testament to the program Coach Brian O'Connor has built and the expectations bestowed upon the team months after reaching the school's first College World Series.

"I think it's a great honor that people feel that way about the program," O'Connor said. "I've never been one to say that you should shy away from it. I think as a team, I talk to my team about this all the time, they need to wrap their arms around it and do well with it. I think you make a big mistake trying to push it away. It's nice they come out. But once they're out, you go to work."

O'Connor's honest approach is refreshing in coaching, as many coaches play down preseason rankings. He has candidly discussed the rankings with his team. After the Cavaliers returned from Omaha last year, O'Connor talked with the team about the way the program is now viewed.

Junior outfielder Dan Grovatt said he has not yet seen the rankings, but understands that the expectations exist. Grovatt was among the players who participated in the prestigious Cape Cod League during the summer, and other college players were more aware of the Cavaliers.

With the first weekend series less than three weeks away, though, they're quickly turning their minds from the rankings to the practices.

"The coaches talked to us about them a little bit," Grovatt said. "The way we prepare, what we do here, practicing, where we are ranked is not going to have any effect on how we prepare. But it's definitely an honor to be considered a top team going into the season."

By Zach Berman  |  February 2, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
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