Veteran Luke Greinke appeared to be the favorite heading into the season, but true freshman Trent Mummey has taken over the role and become one of the Tigers most important players as they head down the stretch in SEC play.
"He just brings great energy and great passion, I love the way he plays the game," Slater says of Mummey. "He's just a good ballplayer. At the top of the lineup he's got a good on base percentage and he's a tough out. He puts pitches in guys and it's rare that he has less than a six pitch at-bat. He forces pitchers to throw all their pitches in the first at-bat. He really understands how to lead off."
Hitting .308 this season with three home runs, 10 doubles, and 18 RBI, Mummey has been productive at the top of Auburn's lineup. He has also added a team-high 16 stolen bases and scored 39 runs, good enough for second on the team. While he has been very good this season Mummey says the toughest part about his first year has been keeping it up every single game.
"I think the toughest thing about the first season is being consistent," Mummey says. "You have your ups and downs, but it's about playing on a consistent level and going out every day and playing 110 percent and let everything fall into place."
A standout for Pinson Valley High just outside Birmingham, Mummey committed to Auburn during his junior year and was a player Slater says he though could be a good one by the time his college career was done. It wasn't until Mummey developed physically that Slater knew he would be better sooner rather than later.
"He was a guy we felt would develop into a really good player," Slater says. "Brandon Moore, who used to play here, in the off season works with a lot of kids in that area on hitting. Brandon called and said he had Wes (Gilmer) and Trent coming in and wanted to know about them. I said Trent wasn't the strongest kid in the world, a contact guy. Brandon called me back and said he was doing a little more than that, he had gotten a little stronger and doing more than just contact.
"In the springtime even after we've got guys committed while we're still out watching juniors we'll watch our signees. Last spring when we went to see Trent and Wes play it was evident to me that he had a chance to walk in here and impact us immediately. He just loves to play. We always knew that about him."
Mummey is a constant threat on the bases for the Tigers.
Showing power and being productive as a senior in high school is a long way from doing the same in the SEC, but Mummey says that having an extended fall practice session to get used to the differences in the game helped him get a head start on the 2008 season.
"When I first got here I just wanted to find my role on the team and learn from the juniors and sophomores about how everything was going to be," Mummey says. "Once we got 30 games in the fall then I really got a lot of confidence that I could play in the SEC. I found out I could have an impact on the team."
Now Mummey and the Tigers find themselves one game out of eighth place in the SEC standings with six games left on the schedule. A key part of a team loaded with freshmen contributors such as Hunter Morris, Brian Fletcher, Justin Hargett, David Cunningham, Kevin Patterson, Tony Caldwell, Grant Dayton, Corey Luckie and Bradley Hendrix, Mummey says that they're hoping to finish 2008 strong beginning this weekend in Oxford and build towards what appears to be an exciting future for the Tigers.
"It really makes you feel good," Mummey says. "We're in a good position to get into the tournament this year. We just have to win. We put ourselves in a hole and we've got to dig ourselves out. We've got a lot of confidence going into Ole Miss. They are a great team with a lot of great pitching. We hit the ball really well last weekend. Maybe we can carry it over to Ole Miss."