TAMPA - The stars were aligned for Eric Baumann on Friday at Legends Field.
Surrounded but not overwhelmed by the high-profile talent in the opposing dugout, the former Armwood High standout displayed his returning power stroke by belting a pinch-hit grand slam during USF's 11-4 loss to the Yankees in New York's exhibition opener.
Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy and Phil Hughes struck out two Bulls apiece as the Yankees built a 9-0 lead after five innings before a crowd of 10,482 that included eight members of Baumann's family.
"I was lucky enough to get some good wood on the ball, and I was like a kid in Disney World," Baumann said after depositing a 1-2 pitch over the left-field fence against Kei Igawa, who walked two batters and hit another in a nervous spring debut. "Those guys the Yankees are some of the best players the game has ever seen, and today was one of the coolest experiences of my life."
Baumann, a senior transfer from Duke, has missed two years following shoulder surgery.
"I'm happy for Eric, because he's a great kid," Bulls coach Lelo Prado said. "We need his bat in the lineup. I knew our guys would be nervous, but they did well - I'm proud of them."
While Yankees catcher Jorge Posada led a 14-hit attack with a double and a triple, USF was limited to Baumann's homer and Mike Consolmagno's leadoff single in the fourth against Kennedy.
"It was a dream come true out there," said Consolmagno, a junior outfielder from Staten Island, N.Y. "I was sitting fastball and I got a pitch to hit. I was a huge Yankees fan growing up."
Chamberlain, expected to open the season as Mariano Rivera's setup man, was happy to return to a starting role, even if only temporarily.
"It's a good start for all of us, and it's good to get the nerves out of the way," said Chamberlain, who threw 15 of his 22 pitches for strikes in an economical two-inning stint. "To be the first guy run out there in the spring is a great feeling. I thought they Bulls were definitely aggressive. They weren't intimidated at all."
Kennedy looked sharp in his two innings before Hughes retired the Bulls in order in the fifth, striking out the first two batters he faced.
"Hopefully, those guys play here a long time," Yankees captain Derek Jeter said of New York's dynamic mound trio. "They're going to struggle at some point, but they all have great demeanors and they work hard. This organization has really taken strides to keep our young guys."
NOTES: Former Yankees reliever Goose Gossage, who will enter the Hall of Fame this summer, threw out the honorary first pitch. ... With Yankees owner George Steinbrenner looking on from his suite, Alex Rodriguez drove in three runs with a sacrifice fly and a bases-loaded single. ... Tino Martinez, the former first baseman who won four championships with the Yankees, serves as a volunteer assistant coach with the Bulls. The ex-University of Tampa standout wore New York pinstripes Friday while wrestling with his loyalty. "Hey, Tino spent five innings in our dugout," Prado said of his brother-in-law. "We can't pay him as much as they can."
Reporter Ira Kaufman can be
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