Aug. 4, 2008
ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - It's August. At this point of the year, several Major League Baseball clubs are already out of the race. In the American League East, the last 10 years have been dominated by the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox as they have finished first and second in nine of those seasons. And 2008 is no different with both organizations battling it out with the Tampa Bay Rays. So boy it must be tough for Baltimore native and UCF assistant baseball coach Jeff Palumbo.
"I grew up a big Orioles fan being right outside of Baltimore. I'm still an Orioles fan as hard as that might be, but I'm staying strong."
Palumbo, who was hired July 14 after spending three campaigns as the recruiting coordinator and hitting coach for George Mason, still keeps an eye on the O's even though he now lives about 900 miles away from the city of Baltimore. Along with being his favorite team, the Orioles provide Palumbo with his favorite ballpark as well.
"I've probably been to about seven or eight stadiums, and I'd say Camden Yards is definitely my number one," said Palumbo. "But I've also been to Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium and those would round out my top three. I also went to the new Nationals Park in D.C., which was nice, but their old park, RFK Stadium, is certainly last on my list."
Individually, two players stand out for Palumbo when he thinks about his top athletes to watch. Not surprisingly, one of them is an Oriole.
"From a professional standpoint, obviously he hasn't been playing too long but Brian Roberts from the Baltimore Orioles is a guy I like to watch play," admitted Palumbo. "He's not too much older than me, but he's a guy that stood out. Also David Eckstein with the way he plays the game and all of the adversity he has faced in his career."
A former infielder himself, Palumbo was given three choices to determine what type of play he prefers: A defensive play to save a run, a two-out stolen base that leads to a run or a 12-pitch at-bat that ends with a walk.
"Being an infield guy, I'd want to see a player make a great defensive effort to save a run," thought Palumbo. "The 12-pitch at-bat would be up there as well, but I definitely love seeing tough plays made on the field."
While he craves a good web gem, there's another sport that grabs his attention. Not many student-athletes can compete in both baseball and basketball, especially at the Division I level. However, Palumbo achieved a roster spot on each squad at George Mason, playing basketball in 2000-01 before concentrating on baseball full-time. He saw action in two games as an invited walk-on for the Patriots.
Although he spent most of his playing days on the diamond, one road game that took place on a basketball court Nov. 13, 2000, still stands as one of Palumbo's most memorable experiences.
"Probably the neatest trip for me was playing in the Preseason NIT in basketball my freshman year," reflected Palumbo. "We got to go out to New Mexico and play on ESPN2 in `The Pit' which is obviously not just a unique situation because you are playing college basketball, but you're playing underground in an arena that's louder than most schools. It was their opening night and there was quite a crowd. We lost by 11 and I played a couple of minutes. I didn't score but had a steal and did what I could. I had a little jitters my freshman year."
For part three of the series, return to www.UCFAthletics.com soon to learn about assistant coach Cliff Godwin, and if he had three wishes, what they would include.
For the latest news on the Knights, log on to www.UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit www.UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.