Let’s take a look at Auburn baseball’s all-time starting nine in this edition of the NCAA.com series of the best possible starting lineups for some of college baseball’s most successful programs.
Here is how we picked the team: We dug deep in the record books, only considering the players’ college career and accolades. We spoke to some of those around the team for a long time. The players’ achievements in professional baseball did not come into play. There was also consideration given to their positional fits and how well they fit into a batting order based on historical stats that could provide a combination of high batting averages, speed, and power. Simply put, we’re not just grabbing nine good players.
Auburn has a long history of college baseball with some very familiar names donning the record books: The Big Hurt and Bo to name two. Let’s take a look at the final selections for the Tigers’ all-time roster.
Auburn baseball: The Tigers all-time lineup
Catcher: Casey Dunn (1996-99)
Dunn was a relatively easy pick, although there have been some good catchers to come through Auburn. The mid- to late-90s were a strong period for the Tigers, and Dunn was a big part, hitting over .320 in each of his final three seasons and erupting for 16 home runs in his final campaign. The 1999 All-American is still third all-time in hits and tied for sixth all-time in runs in the Auburn record books.
First base: Frank Thomas (1987-89)
Believe it or not, The Big Hurt had some serious competition here. It was hard to leave 2010 SEC Player of the Year Hunter Morris of this list. Jay Waggoner and Josh Ethridge all spent time at first and both find themselves all over the Auburn record books. But, let’s not kid ourselves. Thomas was a special player. He was the Tigers’ first consensus All-American and led the SEC in home runs in 1987 before leading the conference in hitting in both 1988 (.385) and 1989 (.403). Over three decades later, Thomas is still second in Auburn history in batting average (.382), tied for third in homers (49) and fifth in RBI (205). He’s also the first Auburn Tiger elected into Cooperstown’s Baseball Hall of Fame.
Second base: Rob Macrory (1994-97)
We needed some help on this one as second base is not as deep in Auburn history as some of the other positions. We considered Jimmy Douglas who was a two-time All-SEC player in 1960 and 1961 leading the team in hitting and runs scored both of those years. Ultimately it was Macrory who began his career in Auburn with a trip to the College World Series and ended it in Omaha as well. His best season came in his senior finale when he hit .368 with a team-high 26 stolen bases, finishing his career as Auburn’s all-time leader in sacrifices.
Shortstop: Mark Bellhorn (1993-1995)
Bellhorn is the only shortstop to earn All-American honors as an Auburn Tiger and that gets him to the top of the list. He was a solid fixture up the middle all three seasons at Auburn, hitting .377 with a 1.106 OPS in the 1994 run to the CWS and then finishing his college baseball with a .342 average, a career-high 12 home runs and a 1.072 OPS in 1995. Bellhorn was also a master of drawing the walk, ninth all-time in Auburn lore.
Third base: Jimmy Barfield (1963-64)
Another position we needed to dig deep at was the hot corner. Josh Donaldson was considered here, who had a monster campaign in his 2007 Auburn finale leading the team in hitting, runs scored, and RBI, but he was also a pretty impressive catcher before transitioning full-time to third. Two-time All-SEC third baseman Kevin Henry and Jim Pyburn (1953-55) whose .360 batting average is still fifth all-time we also considered. We chose Barfield because, as we said, this is based on stats and nearly six decades after he left Auburn, Barfield — a 1964 All-American — is still Auburn’s all-time leader in batting average at a .385 lick.
Outfield: Bo Jackson (1983, 85-86)
You can argue so much about the legendary Bo Jack. He’s one of the greatest all-around athletes of his era and will be in the debate for greatest of all time in many circles. He will also forever be part of the “what-if” conversation. But what you can’t argue is how absurdly good he was during his time with the Auburn Tigers. When Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 1985 he also hit .401 with 17 home runs for the baseball team and his staggering .864 slugging percentage that same season is still the Tigers’ all-time single-season mark. His .715 career slugging percentage is second to only Frank Thomas. From his time as a Tiger to his time as an MLB All-Star and NFL Pro-Bowler, Jackson transcended sports as a true national celebrity. Bo definitely knows that.
Outfield: Gabe Gross (1999-2001)
Again, this lineup is based on statistical achievements in college and Gross’ achievements are all over the Auburn record books. Ready for some career numbers? Gross is in Auburn’s all-time top 10 in hits (ninth with 259), average (third with .375), home runs (eighth with 35), runs (tenth with 184), RBIs (fourth with 218) and total bases (fifth with 442). He is the ideal person for an all-time lineup seemingly good at every aspect of hitting. Gross also added Freshman All-American as well as All-American honors to his resume while at Auburn.
Outfield: Mailon Kent (1998-2001)
There is always some debate in the final outfield spot. Paul Foster is as good a choice as any, as is Todd Faulkner even though he spent more time as a DH. But we are building an all-time lineup and that lineup needs some speed. Kent is Auburn’s all-time leader in stolen bases with 90 and his 40 in 1999 are also tops for a single-season. Kent also finished tops in Auburn history in runs scored with 232 and second in hits with 309. Kent is an ideal modern-day top-of-the-order guy important in any lineup.
Starting pitcher: Tim Hudson (1996-97)
Narrowing down this spot to just one is always the most daunting task. Q.V. Love (1966-67) would certainly make our weekend rotation, his 1.69 ERA the best in Auburn history. John Powell would be in there as well, the Tigers’ all-time leader in wins. If we needed to pick a stopper, there’s no question we’d have Gregg Olson in there who is in the top 5 at Auburn in both wins and saves.
But Hudson was a special player, arguably the scariest two-way player in the SEC in the late 1990s. His 1997 SEC player-of-the-year campaign was absolutely ridiculous. At the plate he was dangerous, tied for the team lead in hitting (.396) with 18 home runs and 95 RBIs, but on the bump he was the key to the Tigers’ run to Omaha. He led all of Division I college baseball with 15 wins while leading the SEC with 165 strikeouts. Any time you can have an ace on a Friday night and a heart-of-the-lineup hitter every other day of the week, you’re getting the nod in our lineup.
Head coach: Hal Baird (1985-2000)
Baird had a strong run with the Tigers and ended his career with the most wins in program history with 634. He took over a team that had 16 and 27 wins in the two seasons prior to his arrival and didn’t post a season with less that 30 wins in any of his 15 years at the helm. He also did it at a very strong pace, amassing a .659 winning percentage. The Tigers have made five trips to the College World Series and two of them came on Baird’s watch. Butch Thompson definitely has something special going right now in Auburn, but for now, Baird gets the nod.