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Modest about abilities, Hazen places team glory ahead of personal honors

In his final season for the Tigers, and in possibly his final year playing baseball, senior Michael Hazen looks back among his many baseball memories, and without hesitation recalls his greatest moment – winning the Ivy League championship at Clarke Field two years ago.

"I don't have any stories of winning a game in the ninth inning with a home run or anything," Hazen says. "I don't have any hero stories or stuff like that."

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Hazen may not consider himself a hero, but he is an integral part for a team that will look to challenge for the Ivy title, a year removed from a loss to Harvard in the championship series. And more than anything, Hazen would like to relive that moment of two years ago, just one last time.

Solid offense

A first-team All-Ivy outfielder last year, Hazen hit .368 and knocked in 38 runs in 45 games as the Tigers' No. 3 hitter. Yet Hazen insists he is more of a contact hitter who just does his role in the lineup than one of the Tigers' main offensive weapons.

"I don't have a lot of power and I don't have a lot of speed, but I don't strike out much either," Hazen says. "I'm clearly not the best guy on the team. There are other guys who have all the physical skills."

"I suppose I bring experience and leadership (to the team) more than anything. I've been a starter now for four years. I kind of let (the more skilled players) do all the work and go along for the ride."

Most All-Ivy players don't just go along for the ride, and as much as Hazen says otherwise, neither does he. In fact, it is Hazen's combination of ability and character that prompts new head coach Scott Bradley to call him an invaluable presence on the team.

"Michael Hazen is sort of our spirited leader on our team," Bradley says. "He is in baseball terms what everybody would describe as a 'gamer'. He plays extremely hard. He takes the game very, very seriously.

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"He's a great leader because he's not afraid to get on some of the younger guys and sort of say, 'well look, we just don't do things like that here.' I think that it's his character and his personality that is sort of the reflection of our team."

"Mike's the type of guy who would run through a brick wall to win a game," junior pitcher and fellow Massachusetts native Tim Killgoar says, echoing his coach's sentiment.

This season, Hazen will start in center field and probably spend most of his time hitting second in the order. Along with junior first baseman Matt Evans and junior leftfielder Andrew Koonin, the senior co-captain will be called upon to provide significant offensive production to support a strong pitching staff – a staff that carried a Tiger offense that finished seventh in the Ivy League in hitting last year.

Be the ball

Hazen also provides a defensive presence up the middle, consistently making big plays – more because he gets a good jump on the ball than because he possesses blazing speed.

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Such baseball instincts don't just surface in the outfield, but characterize his entire game. Hazen stole 19 bases last season – an impressive number for "a guy without great speed" – mainly on his ability to read a pitcher's delivery to the plate and pickoff moves.

Hazen may play down his talents, but Bradley insists that his captain is a special player.

"He might not have any one skill that really comes out and just blows you away, but he does everything pretty well," Bradley says. "At least in terms of college baseball, he's a better than average baserunner, he's a better than average centerfielder.

He has some power. He's capable of hitting some home runs. He hits the ball in the gaps. When you add everything together and look at him as a whole, he's a terrific baseball player."

Hazen will look to take a more mellow approach to this season as compared to years past, hoping to avoid getting caught up in worries about slumps or excitement about hitting streaks. It is an approach that he thinks suits a veteran team that knows what it takes to win the league, a goal he holds above everything else.

"As far as individual stuff, it doesn't really matter to me," he says. "If I hit .250 and we win the Ivy League Championship, that's ten times better than if I hit .400 and we lose."

This is the attitude that seems to define Michael Hazen, making him regard a team win as his best individual moment.

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