By MICHAEL KELLY
After helping to lead the Amsterdam Mohawks to a victory in the 2013 Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League Championship Series, infielders John Nogowski and John Sansone are doing their part to get their college club, the Florida State University Seminoles, off to a solid start.
The Seminoles are 12-2 and took two of three games against Atlantic Coast Conference rival Maryland this past weekend in Tallahassee, Fla.
"One through nine, we're so deep; our number eight hitter could easily be our number five hitter," said Nogowski in a recent interview. "When you have a team like that, that's experienced and all are willing to sacrifice to bunt a guy over ... that's what makes a team special."
So far this season, Nogowski and Sansone have each seen action in every FSU game. Nogowski is hitting .256 with a team-best 14 RBIs, while Sansone is hitting .302 and has a robust on-base percentage of .492.
An early-season highlight for the former Mohawks came Feb. 25, when the Seminoles played the New York Yankees in an exhibition game at Tampa's Steinbrenner Field. FSU lost the game 8-3, but Nogowski had a double and scored a run against the Yankees, while Sansone had a single and three RBIs.
Sansone, who grew up in Pittsburgh, said he has always been a fan of the Yankees.
"All the way up, I always watched Derek Jeter play," said Sansone. "I was so in love with the Yankees because of him."
While most of the Yankees' big-name players did not compete against FSU, the Seminoles got to meet guys like outfielder Brett Gardner, Jeter and first baseman Mark Teixeira.
"Teixeira actually came over to our dugout and met everyone on the team. He took the time to shake all of our hands and he sat in our dugout for the first couple of innings," said Sansone. "I thought it was amazing that he took the time to do that."
Sansone is a sophomore this season, so he missed out on when FSU played the Philadelphia Phillies in 2012. Nogowski, a junior, played against the Phillies, but said getting to take the field against the Yankees had some extra meaning for him.
"I'm a huge Red Sox fan, so it was cool to see what I could do against the Yankees," Nogowski said.
With most of the high-profile Yankees taking that game off, FSU fielded that game's biggest star: sophomore pitcher/outfielder Jameis Winston, the reigning winner of the Heisman Trophy.
Both Nogowski and Sansone played with Winston last spring, but each admitted that playing with Winston is a little different this time around. Winston, a quarterback in the fall, led the Seminoles football team to the national championship in a season in which he became a household name for both his play on the gridiron and because he was named in a sexual assault investigation that gained widespread attention.
Now, Winston is likely the most well-known college baseball player in the country, making the Seminoles' 2014 baseball season a bit of a circus.
"Florida State fans always travel well and we usually get 6,500 to 7,000 fans a night at home," said Nogowski. "But there is so much attention with Jameis. The guy really can't do too much without having people waiting for him at restaurants when we're eating for him to sign autographs or waiting at the hotel lobby."
"They just go nuts over him," said Sansone. "We try to really not pay too much attention to all that, but, at the same time, it is weird to think he's a Heisman Trophy winner when he's also one of us. He's one of our good friends."
Nogowski said it is a little odd to see fans flock to the bullpen whenever Winston warms up to pitch, but he credited his teammate for handing it well.
"To be able to handle that, all the publicity and everything else he had to deal with during the (football) season, and still be the same down-to-earth guy (as last year) and a great teammate takes something special," Nogowski said.
FSU next plays today against Central Florida at 6:30 p.m.
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