Sept. 17, 2008
ARLINGTON, Texas -
After compiling one of the most successful seasons ever by a freshman at UT Arlington, center fielder Michael Choice is preparing to once again to lead the Mavericks in 2009. Before the spring arrives, the five-time Freshman All-American and the Mavericks will begin fall practices this week at Clay Gould Ballpark.
The UT Arlington office of sports information caught up with the sophomore standout from Mansfield, Texas, for a conversation asking him about what he has been doing to stay busy over the summer, how he reacted to all of his accolades last spring and how he plans to prepare for a follow-up season in 2009.
UTA: After finishing your first college season last spring, what were you up to this past summer?
Michael Choice: Just taking a couple summer classes and I played with my summer team, the Dallas Mustangs, with Coach Sam Carpenter. I played with them on the weekends, or whenever I could make it so I could stay in shape and stay focused.
UTA: What was your reaction over the summer when you had heard you had been named to not just one, but to five Freshman All-American teams?
MC: I guess it was a little overwhelming at first. I didn't really expect to make all of those teams. Especially coming from a smaller D-I. A lot of times players will get overlooked, so I didn't really think much of it. When I heard about the first one I was happy, and then they just kept coming and I didn't really know what to think.
UTA: How would you explain your experience during your freshman season with the Mavericks baseball program?
MC: It was the best year of my life. I have never had so much fun. Getting to play against all of these different schools and teams and being around the older guys on the team was a great experience. I just went out there and played hard.
UTA: What were some of the biggest adjustments you had to make going from high school baseball to playing at the NCAA Division I level as the starting center fielder at UT Arlington?
MC: The players on the other teams are a lot smarter than they are in high school. Pitchers aren't going to throw the ball down the middle of the plate for you every time. They are going to hit their spots. College baseball is a mind game. You have to know what is going on and stay in the game. A lot of it is strategy. You can almost know exactly what the other team is going to do if you know the game well enough.
When did you realize during last season that you had a chance to accomplish all that you did?
I had gotten injured towards the beginning of the season, and then when I got back into the flow of things - I would probably say the UTSA conference series - I had realized that what I was doing wasn't just luck. I just thought that if I kept working hard everything would keep going well.
UTA: Were you even aware that your .376 batting average was the highest ever for a freshman at UTA?
MC: No, I wasn't aware of that until someone told me.
UTA: You were named All-Conference, Southland Conference Freshman of the Year and to five Freshman All-American teams, what do all of those accomplishments mean to you and where you have put yourself in just one season in UTA baseball history?
MC: It means a lot to me. Growing up in this area I always watched UTA baseball. I never would have thought I would end up here, just because it is so close to home and everyone always thinks about going away from home. Being able to accomplish all of those things here makes me happy to be a part of this program.
UTA: How did the Mavericks coaching staff help you through your first year of college?
MC: They helped me by not overwhelming me with trying to change things. With a lot of incoming freshmen, coaches will try and change a lot of what they do coming from high school because it is such a big jump. The coaches just let me play and have fun and helped me not be so nervous.
UTA: Explain your recruitment process from a year ago and how the UTA coaching staff recruited you and made you aware and impressed with their program.
MC: I came on my first visit after every coach came and watched me at practice or in a game. I was aware of that because my high school coach told me they were coming a lot. Then they contacted me and wanted me to come to one of the games and to talk to them. When I came to the game I really liked the atmosphere and everything about UTA. I liked the academic part of UTA and saw that it was a good school. I also liked staying close to home. It was an easy decision to make.
UTA: What sports, other than baseball, were you involved in growing up and in high school?
MC: I played basketball. I started playing baseball when I was about 4 years old and then started playing basketball in the sixth-grade. I picked up basketball later and just became good at it naturally, and I played both sports until my junior year in high school. I faded away from basketball because I realized I was probably junior-college material in basketball, and in baseball, I had a chance to do bigger things. So I stopped playing basketball and just concentrated on baseball during my senior year.
UTA: With the fall season starting this week, what are some of the aspects you plan to work on and some of your individual goals you are trying to achieve for your sophomore season?
MC: I'm just trying to stay focused and trying to get better every day. Because it won't be easy to just repeat the kind of season I had last year, so the only way to do the same or do better is to just continue working hard.
UTA: After last season, you and your teammates helped double UTA's overall win total from the previous year, what are some team goals you and your teammates want to focus on for the 2009 season?
MC: We want to pick up exactly where we left off from last year. I felt that a lot of the losses we had last year were from not knowing each other, or from not knowing what to expect, or from one person putting too much pressure on them self. Sometimes people were trying to do too much because they felt they needed to get it done alone, instead of depending on their team and everybody else. Now we know we can do it as a team.
THE Michael Choice FILE:
2008 Statistics, Awards and Honors:
- .376 batting average (highest batting average ever for a freshman at UTA)
- 7 home runs (led team)
- 51 RBI (led team)
- .462 batting average against Big 12 opponents (12-for-26 in six games with five runs, three doubles, two home runs, four walks and eight RBI)
- Southland Conference Freshman of the Year
- Second Team Southland All-Conference
- Rivals.com Freshman All-American
- National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Freshman All-American (First Team)
- Baseball America Freshman All-American (Second Team)
- Collegiate Baseball/Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American (Second Team)
- PING! Freshman All-American (Second Team)