FORT MYERS, Fla. — Baseball is all about numbers. And it’s guys like Michael O’Neill that set numerical records.

The sophomore right fielder is currently batting a .438 with three home runs and leads the conference with 14 hits, seven stolen bases and six doubles in the first eight games this season.

That is why he was named the Big Ten’s Co-Player of the Week on Monday.

Though the Michigan baseball team fell to Florida Gulf Coast on Wednesday night, O’Neill spoke with The Michigan Daily after the game about his accomplishments, decisions and the beginning of the season.

The Michigan Daily: Aside from today, how do you feel being named the Big Ten’s Co-Player of the Week?

Michael O’Neill: It’s an honor anytime you’re honored by your conference as a top player of the week. It’s nice to share with Eric Charles — he’s a good player from Purdue — I’ve played against him for two years. It’s an honor, especially being a sophomore. It’s one thing being a Big Ten Freshman of the Week because you’re only competing against freshmen. But to be the Conference Player of the Week is an honor because it’s against freshmen through seniors. It’s nice to be recognized.

TMD: So you’re not bothered that you have to share the spotlight?

MO: Not really. It was actually kind of funny — a bunch of guys were giving me a hard time because I guess some college baseball magazine came out with their players of the week and they chose me over Charles. But that’s not that big of a deal. I mean it was my first one, so it was nice — it doesn’t really bother me that I have to share it.

TMD: Before the season began, you were named to the Big Ten Players to Watch List, so obviously they were watching and liked what they saw. Why do you think you earned the title?

MO: I work hard. I get pushed by my teammates everyday with Patrick (Biondi) and Will (Drake). There’s always a competition between the three of us — we’re all fast and we all have similar playing styles. So with that competition I’m always gettin’ pushed at practice, so it’s not like there’s nobody to push me and I get complacent. Worth ethic and confidence, I guess, would be the two big things for me in playing well.

TMD: From statistics and from a spectator’s standpoint you’re doing really well, but you’re your own worst critic. So what do you think you can improve on?

MO: I would say gettin’ deeper into at bats. Like tonight, when I homered, it was a five-pitch at-bat and I finally hit the pitch. And then the next three at-bats, I think it was a three-pitch at-bat, swung at a bad pitch and then a one-pitch at-bat and another one-pitch at-bat. So you see five pitches in your first at-bat and your last three you see combined five pitches. I would say get deeper into the counts because I’d seen everything he’d had, but I don’t know, I was just fishin’ I guess.

TMD: I know it gets old when I keep referring back to last season, but it’s hard not to when you guys have turned it around thus far. With the last-place finish in the conference did you ever regret your decision to play for Michigan rather than entering the major leagues?

MO: No, not one bit. I actually said this a couple of days ago to one of the freshmen: If I would’ve gone and played professional, my career would be over. I weighed 175 pounds. I was immature. Baseball is not just about baseball. Being around the education level at Michigan and how academic the school is, you grow up pretty quick. The academics have helped me just as much as baseball in growing up as a person. And obviously the strength staff, Jason Cole, has helped me put on 25 or 30 pounds. I think there’s no chance that I should have gone to play pro baseball. I’m very happy here and I’m doing well — it was a great fit.

TMD: Do you think it’s in your future after college?

MO: Hopefully. Hopefully, yeah.

TMD: You’ve mentioned before your personal relationship with Michigan pitching coach Steve Merriman and how he scouted you in high school. Tell me about how your relationship has grown since then.

MO: We’re really really close. When we were hitting live inside before the season started, he would always give the pitchers advantage and joke with me. … But we’re really close and some guys at first didn’t really understand that and they were like, “Oh, Merriman’s mad at you.” It was such a personal relationship that I was the only one that knew what was really going on. We have a really good relationship.

TMD: Lastly, Michigan has climbed to No. 2 in the Big Ten under Purdue. What does that say about the team’s progress?

MO: I think it’s big going from winning 17 games (in a season) to winning — we’re eight games in — five. So we’ve won just under a third of our games from last year. … I think we’re definitely headed in the right direction.

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