Monarch Spotlight - Dean Ali

February 22, 2013
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Feb. 22, 2013

That special time of year has approached yet again: baseball season. What's so great about a new season? A fresh start, no wins, no losses; only high hopes, expectations, and spirit. Following a disappointing 2012 campaign, it's doubtful that many teams have been eagerly anticipating the start of this new 2013 college baseball season quite like our own Old Dominion University Monarchs.

There's no question that each and every member of this 2013 squad is itching for a brand new shot at contention this season; but many have reason to expect great things from junior pitcher Dean Ali.

Last season Dean emerged in his role as a relief pitcher posting a 3-4 record making 24 appearances with one start. This season Dean will be embracing a new role as the team's number one starting pitcher. Although he served nearly the entirety of last season as a relief pitcher, Dean was amongst the team's best in terms of pitching statistics. In 2012 Dean finished third on the team in total innings pitched with 50.1, was second in total strikeouts with 60, and recorded a team best 2.32 ERA. Dean spoke very humbly about his respectable sophomore campaign but added that there is area for improvement.

"I think my strengths last season were my off-speed pitches. If I can increase the speed of my pitches this season I should have a lot more success." Dean wasn't the only one impressed with his sophomore season. Head coach Chris Finwood also had some positive things to say about the young right-hander's performance last season as well as expressing his confidence in his new role.

"We could always rely on Dean to give us some solid innings out of the bullpen last year. Even though he was a reliever, he still worked really hard and was very coachable. I doubt he'll have any trouble making the switch to a full-time starter." Although stats may help build a professional baseball resume, this 2013 Monarchs team is approaching a "redemption" season in order to return to their competitive ways as Dean gave us his thoughts on that matter.

"My main goal is doing whatever it takes to win baseball games. Stats and strikeouts are nice but at the end of the day all that matters are wins and losses." When asking Dean what player he strives to become and admires as a role model, we understandingly received a rather predictable answer.

"It's definitely (Justin) Verlander (ODU'04). After seeing him do what he's done in the majors, it's really inspiring to see him become the big time player he is today. He inspires me to keep working hard in order to make it to the bigs one day."

Dean was of course referring to former ODU ace and current Detroit Tigers Cy Young and American League MVP winner Justin Verlander.

Knowing Coach Finwood's reputation for stressing academics as well as baseball, it was interesting to discover that Dean is an electrical engineering major. Dean tells us how he manages his time between school work and baseball.

"It's certainly not easy taking a major like mine while having to practice every day too. But that's the sacrifice you have to make being a student athlete. You have to look at the bigger picture."

When teams take a look ahead at their schedule, there are usually one or two games that stand out above the rest. Interestingly enough, both Dean and Coach Finwood told us they were most looking forward to their matchup on April against VCU in the Inaugural Key Dog Strikeout Cancer Classic. The game will be played on a neutral site at War Memorial Stadium in Hampton, VA. Both teams will be honoring the former 1984 Old Dominion graduate and recent VCU baseball coach Paul Keyes who passed away this past November after his prolonging battle against cancer. Dean shares his thoughts on the game.

"We know how much (Paul) Keyes meant to coach, so we want to go out in win that one for him."

The 2012 Monarchs season is in the books which means that makes 2013 a clean slate with a revamped attitude. Let's hope that Dean Ali can lead this new-look ODU squad back to CAA contention.

By Matt Stevens - ODU student intern