“Hey, hey, hey. It’s Reese Albert!”
There is no-mistaking who is headed toward the batter’s box when that chant cascades down from the Animals of Section B to Mike Martin Field in Dick Howser Stadium.
Imitating the words, with one change, that are used to greet the animated comic character Fat Albert on television, the Animals, FSU’s energized cheering section, are alerting everyone that the Seminoles’ star center fielder is coming to home plate.
When Reese Albert settles in for his at-bat there’s no comedy involved. He means business.
To say that Albert — Reese not Fat — was born to play baseball wouldn’t be far from the truth. He started playing T-ball at three years old. His Dad, Keith, was his first coach. Grandfather Vince Ciaglia played baseball at Rutgers and has been a source of baseball information and support.
Albert’s life has been a steady progression through the ranks all the way to the preeminent center field position at Florida State. CF in Seminole Territory is a position that has seen a long string of star players over the years ranging from Mike Martin to J. D Drew, whose retired uniform numbers, 11 and 39, are draped on the outfield fence.
Head coach Mike Martin Jr., known as Meat by everyone, says that Albert perfectly fits in with the long line of Seminole primo center fielders: “He has a plus arm, and as far as his running ability, he’s a glider. He doesn’t look like he is really fast, but I’ve always thought he runs like Jim Edmonds (a 17-year Major Leaguer, four-time All Star, 8-time Golden Glover). They glide.”
Warming to the subject Meat added: “Yeah if you put them in a straight line they are not going to be as fast as some guys. But if you take the right angles and have a knack for tracking balls then add in that good arm and the power-speed combo that makes Reese Albert a valuable player.”
Growing up Albert says a player he always looked up to was David Ortiz because he and his dad were Red Sox fans. They even traveled up to Fenway Park, a pretty good haul from his South Florida home of Jupiter, to see a few games.
The competition among high school teams was stiff and the coaching at Jupiter High was good so his background prepared him well for college ball. Martin Jr. recalls: “When I first saw him, and he still does, he played hyper. The way we like to see our guys play. He has always been that way. All the travel ball coaches and high school coaches I talked to raved about his makeup and they were definitely right. That power-speed combo is hard to find.”
Albert says that coming to Florida State was a pretty easy decision even though he had some interest from other Florida schools. He said: “I kind of wanted to stay in Florida to be close to the family. After talking to Meat and coming up on my unofficial visit here and just walking around the campus and seeing how everything worked here it was kind of a done deal after that.”
In addition, his sister was in school at FSU and a couple of his FSU teammates (Shane Drohan and Tyler Ahearn) were from Jupiter as well.
Settling in at Florida State, Albert did not immediately get the CF job handed to him but he did get in the lineup quickly. In his freshman season (2018) Albert played in 56 games, spending time in right field, left field and as the designated hitter. He did start 16 games in center field.
One of those really stands out: May 5, 2018 at Clemson. He went four-for-six including a home run in the Seminoles 3-2, 13-inning victory. Albert can talk about that in detail: “One of my favorite series since I have been here. I thought it was a really cool place to be in the first place and just to be able to go in and perform the way I did as a freshman definitely boosted my confidence. It made me realize, ‘Ok, I am supposed to be in this lineup, I can do this.’ From there on out it was kind of, I don’t want to say smooth sailing, but I had a better head on my shoulders. It wasn’t about me worrying about making mistakes at that point. It was about helping the team.”
Oh, yeah, something else happened on that May day in Clemson. Coach Mike Martin Sr., won his 1,976th game to set the all-time wins record. So that was just one of the fond memories Albert has of playing for college baseball’s winningest coach.
“The thing I remember most about 11 is he could always tell if I was antsy or not myself,” Albert said. “He had a good way of kind of getting me to relax and just breathe a little bit. I don’t know how he did it, but it worked every time because I would always get a hit that next at bat.”
Albert was excited about his sophomore season, 2019. He had adjusted well to the college game and was enjoying the student-athlete experience and felt good. “I was just going out there every day doing my best for the team,” Albert said. “The people I met. The guys that have come through and those I lived with.”
Then a little over a month in the season the injury bug struck. He was batting around .300 at the time, playing right field.
“I am not entirely sure how it happened, I believe it was something that was just getting worse over time,” he said. “I had subluxed my shoulder (upper bone pulls out of its socket) in high school and as the years went by it started becoming more and more painful frequently.”
After the March 29th game against Boston College (in which he was 1 for 3 with two walks) he was forced to stop playing and rehab the shoulder. He chose not to have surgery at that point. “I just had to sit out a couple of weeks, wear that brace and do a bunch of rehab,” he recalled.
The super-competitive Albert had to shut down and miss key state rivalry games against Miami, Florida and Jacksonville as well as games against Boston College and Clemson. Having to do that was hurting him almost more than the injury was.
On April 18, Reese Albert was back in the lineup against Virginia and went 1 for 3, scored three runs and drove in two. The next day he went 3 for 4. He was on his way to some legendary performances himself in this final season of a legend as Martin Sr. soared past the 2,000 wins mark.
In early May his average topped the .350 mark and, while that pace tailed off a bit, the best was yet to come. As the team battled with determination to get one more trip to the College World Series for 11, Albert certainly did his part. In the Athens (Ga.) Regional, he hit a home run against Florida Atlantic, then another one in the tournament-winning game against host Georgia.
Albert wasn’t through yet. It was on to the Super Regional at LSU in Baton Rouge. There Reese blasted two more homers in the opening game as FSU went on to sweep the Tigers and return to the College World Series for the 17th and final time under Martin Sr.
Reflecting back on all that was accomplished, current head coach Mike Martin Jr. said:
“That was kind of the coming out party for Reese because he earned the respect of his teammates. He couldn’t hit during the week. He would just literally hit when he had to. They had that shoulder anchored down because it kept popping out. You can imagine how painful that was. He is just one tough kid. He also does the right thing in the classroom and off the field.”
With the long overdue surgery accomplished in the off-season Albert was ready for some more of that “Hey, Hey, Hey” stuff in 2020. “I love it. I consider it an honor,” he says. “The first time I heard the Animals say it in my freshman year it was a surprise. But it has stuck, and it has been a lot of fun.”
The pandemic shortened the 2020 season, but Albert is completely healed and ready for a big year in 2021. As Reese thinks about all that has happened, he appreciates his scholarship support by the Seminole Boosters even more. “The scholarship is definitely important. It gives you more of a push to succeed in what you want to do,” he said. “I’m here to get an education as well. Staying on top of my grades has always been important to me. My dad and my family are always on me about grades and making sure everything is good.”
As the 2021 season approached with its strict protocol requirements Albert has a positive viewpoint.: “I think the pandemic has brought us (the team) all closer. (Because of it) we couldn’t really hang out with anybody but ourselves.”
Reflecting on it all Albert says: “I’m here for a reason and happy with everything I’ve accomplished and looking forward to accomplishing much more.”
The 2021 Seminoles
The Seminoles that Reese Albert joins for his fourth season in Tallahassee are unique in that it is really top-heavy with pitching. Coach Mike Martin Jr. and pitching coach Jimmy Belanger have assembled an impressive array of arms.
Because of the pandemic players were granted an extra season, which accounts for the fact that of a 43-man roster 24 of those are pitchers. The group is led by younger arms, like left-hander Parker Messick, as well as veterans like Conor Grady. Senior Chase Haney, who will be wearing Mike Martin’s No. 11, is part of a bullpen that gives the coaches versatile options from the right or left side.
The outfield is a strength with two other veterans joining Albert: Golden Spikes award nominee Robby Martin is in right and power-hitting Elijah Cabell plays left. While the infield is still unsettled Nander De Sedas starts at shortstop. The others who must keep winning their jobs daily are Dylan Simmons (first base), Jackson Greene (second base) and Vince Smith (third base).
A key piece of the puzzle is Tyler Martin, a versatile, dependable player who can play several positions, especially 1B and will be the designated hitter. Behind the plate is the dependable Mat Nelson, a team leader, who helps keep the pitchers under control, and hits with power.
Even though the Seminoles got off to a slow start (2-4 in the two opening series), once all the pieces of the puzzle are in the right place look for the usual winning results on the diamond.