Feb. 15, 2012
By Leslie Saloom
In 2003, a 13-year old from Louisville, Ky., discovered Tennessee baseball for the first time during a trip to play in a tournament in Knoxville.
After a self-guided tour through downtown and around campus, current UT senior Zach Osborne and his parents stepped inside Lindsey Nelson Stadium where the Vols just happened to be practicing. The short visit made a lasting impression on the youngster.
"I just remember telling my parents that I would love to come to a place like this," Osborne said. "I'm very fortunate to be here."
Now a senior shortstop and the only four-year starter on the Tennessee roster, Osborne has been one the most consistent players for the Vols throughout his first three seasons at UT.
During that time, he has started 161 games, including 148 straight until a finger injury sidelined him for two games late last season, and has a career .297 batting average with 10 home runs and 77 RBIs.
With a new coaching staff in place, Osborne's experience will be even more vital to the Vols' success this season as he takes over as the team's elder statesman and veteran leader.
"Seeing as it's my fourth year here playing shortstop the whole time, I'm a leader now and I need to step up and take that role," Osborne said. "For instance with [Will Maddox] our freshman second baseman, I've been there and I've been in his shoes. I can kind of take him under my wing and show him the ropes."
First-year head coach Dave Serrano appreciates the consistency and work ethic Osborne brings to the team.
"All the guy does is make every play at short stop whether it's routine or spectacular and he's giving us good at bats," Serrano said.
Setting the tone for the future of this program is a priority and associate head coach Greg Bergeron believes that Osborne's leadership ability can help to do that.
"His work ethic is great," Bergeron said. "He is one of those guys that just goes about his business the right way. Some guys lead through voice, other guys lead through example. He is a guy that definitely leads through example."
As with any change there has been an adjustment period, but Osborne has prepared like he would during any off-season and embraced the new standard that has been set.
"I enjoy being around the [new coaching staff] because they make it fun to come out here every single day and give it all you got," Osborne said. "Coach [Serrano] has us on the same routine as we would during the season and being a baseball player that's very important to stay on the same routine. He doesn't want as the season picks up to get stuck in the mud. He is being very consistent towards our routine everyday."
In his final season in a Tennessee uniform, Osborne feels he has truly grown as a baseball player and is ready to experience something this season he has yet to accomplish in his time as a Vol.
"Our team goal, as Coach Serrano has said in the past, is trying to get to the SEC Tournament," Osborne said. "Obviously we want to get to Omaha, but our main goal right now is to get to the SEC Tournament and being in my fourth year I haven't been able to experience that yet so that's my personal goal too."
While he is still looking for his first postseason opportunity at Tennessee, playing in big games is nothing new to Osborne who was the MVP of the 2002 Little League World Series championship team from Louisville. A decade later, he is ready to take on his senior season and whatever comes next in his baseball career.
"I want to cherish being out here and being able to play the game that I love," Osborne said. "Hopefully I will have the opportunity to get drafted to play professional ball and see where that can take me. That's always been my dream growing up."