Baseball: Replacing CJ Chatham
Sophomore Tyler Frank, the Owls new shortstop, is taking over for the reigning conference player of the year.
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Florida Atlantic baseball’s Tyler Frank spent the majority of his freshman season behind the plate, a position he hadn’t played since his youth days. He surpassed expectations and earned a spot on Conference USA’s All-Freshman Team.
Now as the beginning of his sophomore season approaches, Frank faces an even bigger task — replacing arguably the greatest player in program history, CJ Chatham.
Chatham became the highest drafted FAU baseball alum in history after the Boston Red Sox selected him in the second round of last year’s MLB Draft. The All-American won Conference USA’s Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year awards after leading the team with a .357 batting average to go along with 50 RBIs and eight home runs.
“These guys don’t come along all the time and it might be a long time until someone like him is back in this program,” McCormack said after a game last April in which Chatham hit 5-for-6 with a home run, seven RBIs and three runs scored.
Frank received his first collegiate start at shortstop in last year’s regional matchup against Stetson University, after an injury to Chatham’s hand forced him out of the game. Frank proceeded to hit a home run, while accounting for two RBIs and two runs scored.
“It was definitely a great learning experience and everything [Chatham’s] taught me, he really showed me the ways, guided me through it,” Frank said. “Even through those games, he told me, ‘relax, you’ve played this game your whole life, you know how to do it.’
“And I think coming into this year it was good to kind of get my feet wet and learn the position a little bit on the Division I level.”
Two years prior, the New York Yankees faced a similar situation. Derek Jeter occupied the shortstop position in New York for 20 years, until he retired and left a void following the 2014 season.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who was tasked with replacing the future Hall of Famer, spoke to FAU head coach John McCormack and his players on Feb. 7 — 10 days prior to their season opener.
“One of the things we have to watch ourselves with Tyler Frank taking over shortstop, and the old saying in sports, ‘you never want to be the guy that replaces the guy,’” McCormack said.
“[Girardi] touched on it with Didi Gregorius, and I constantly reminded Tyler. He’s not CJ. And then on the other side, CJ’s not him.”
While Chatham heard his name called in last June’s draft, Frank was leading the Amsterdam Mohawks to a championship in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League in New York. He hit .302 while finishing the season tied for third in home runs and RBIs.
He played shortstop in every game.
“It was a good beat back into shortstop and everyone is really making me feel comfortable here,” Frank said. “I don’t think there’s going to be a transition problem at all.”
Frank will play shortstop for the first time at FAU Baseball Stadium on Friday, Feb. 17, when the Owls open up their season against Monmouth University at 6:30 p.m.