Last year, then-freshman Alan Ulrich attempted to walk on to the
baseball team. Like many others, he didn’t make the cut.

So why is he on the Wolverines’ roster as a sophomore?

Ulrich spent the summer fine-tuning his game and returned to
open tryouts to give his dream of playing Division I ball a second
chance.

“I just went in there thinking I’d give it my best
shot,” Ulrich said. “There’s no harm in
trying.”

This time around, the catcher had more luck.

Former starting catcher Jake Fox, the team’s MVP last
season and an All-Big Ten first team pick, left school after being
drafted by the Chicago Cubs as a junior. Another catcher, Alex
Coleman, graduated.

This left a gap that Ulrich was eager to fill.

“We really needed someone to help us in our
bullpen,” coach Rich Maloney said. “Because of the
weather, we have to carry more pitchers because our season’s
condensed, and we need a lot of help grooming our pitchers. Alan
was able to receive pretty well.”

Although Ulrich has not seen any game action yet this season, he
performs his role with vim, something his coach appreciates.

“What he brings to the team is hard work ethic, and a love
for the team,” Maloney said.

Maloney added that an attitude like Ulrich’s is not the
norm for everyone who walks on to a team.

“There are some people who — basically —
demand a big role, and sometimes that conflicts with what’s
best for the team,” Maloney said. “Alan’s known
his role at the beginning. He’s accepted it, worked hard at
it and I’d even say he’s excelled at it.”

Although Ulrich received offers to play at other schools at
which he may very well have had a more visible role, he does not
regret his choice to come to the University.

“I just thought a degree from the University of Michigan
would be a good thing to have,” Ulrich said.

Despite his dedication to academics, Ulrich is happy for the
chance to give the books a rest on occasion, and don the maize and
blue. On occasion, the fact that he is finally able to contribute
to the Wolverines’ cause catches up with him.

“Every once in awhile, as I’m walking into the
lockerroom, I’m like, ‘Wow,’ ” Ulrich
said.

That’s not to say that the experience has always been a
walk in the park. The transition from student to student-athlete
has been difficult for him. Due to the chilly conditions in the
Midwest, the baseball team is forced to play in warmer regions. Two
weeks ago, Ulrich and the Wolverines traveled to Duke, and this
weekend, they will trek to Louisiana. The schedule has taken its
toll on the catcher.

“It’s definitely challenging balancing school and
sports,” Ulrich said. “It took me a long time to get
used to being tired all the time — mentally and physically
tired. So it’s been a learning experience. I’ve
definitely learned to manage my time better.”

Whatever this season and his career as a Wolverine hold for
Ulrich, both he and Maloney feel that the choice to place him on
the roster was a good one, even though it took awhile for him to
get there.

“He’s a good kid and a hard worker, and he’s
glad and willing to do anything to be on the team, and so
we’re glad to give him that opportunity,” Maloney
said.

Be like mike: Junior Michael Penn was named co-winner of the Big
Ten Pitcher-of-the-Week Award after a four-hit shutout of
Youngstown State last weekend in a 4-0 win.

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