We continue our recent series of interviews this week with Lelo Prado of South Florida. He is entering his second season with the Bulls after a very successful run at Louisville.
1) The South Florida Bulls had a 34-26 overall record and went 13-14 in the Big East. Matt Quevedo (4-3, 4.06 ERA) is the only returning starting pitcher as you lost Danny Otero (9-7, 3.32 ERA) and Chris Delaney (9-4, 4.00 ERA) but return closer Shawn Sanford to the squad. Who do you expect to fill Otero’s and Delaney’s spots in the rotation? If Sanford moves to the rotation who is going to fill the closer’s role?
Sanford is going to stay closer. We hope to replace Otero and Delaney, but I don’t know if you can fully do that, but we’re going to try hopefully with a healthy Daniel Thomas. If he can come back it will be a plus. We have plenty of arms to pick for the third starter and middle relief. As far as pitching I feel good. We’re going to be young, but I feel confident in them. The key is also going to be Daniel Thomas coming back.
2) The Bulls return four out of their top five hitters from 2007 but the team hit a conference low 22 homers on the season. What player do you expect will make an impact on the power numbers during the 2008 season?
You’re going to have Brian Hobbs right off the bat, who’s going to be a big impact player there. Brandon Smith should be big for us. Ryan Lockwood, he’s going to be a leadoff guy with homerun potential. With [Addison] Maruszak, [Joey] Angelberger and [Dexter] Butler back, I feel those numbers will definitely go up.
3) Do you see any freshman breaking into the starting line-up or getting quality time on the mound in 2008?
If were going to be successful in 2008, the freshmen are going to have to play a huge role. Derrick Stultz is going to have to play a huge role. [Zach] Pietrzyk has been a great surprise all fall and [Randy] Fontanez are going to be freshmen we’re going to have to lean on. Juan Carlin and Stephen Hunt are definitely going to be a huge impact. Our pitching staff is going to be good but they are all going to have to step up and be sophomores real fast.
4) Lelo, What do you think is the biggest difference in coaching at South Florida when compared to your days at Division 2 power Tampa?
The biggest difference between D-I and D-II at the University of Tampa was that we could compete with anyone in America, that’s just not fair. They are like a D-I baseball program. You had more arms, you should be better. I think right now with these young freshmen coming and in the junior college transfers we’re at where we should be, and in the next couple of years we should be in the upper echelon of D-I baseball. Back in our days at UT, I’ve always had one or two great pitchers but you didn’t have eight or nine great arms. We had quality kids that played their role and I think here in the next couple of years once all these recruits get here we’ll be fine.”
5) The NCAA has implemented many new rules for college baseball for the 2008 season and the future. This season we see the implementation of the uniform start date. Do you think this is a good move for college baseball?
Being a southern school, no it’s not. It’s good for the northern schools because the weather is terrible there in January and February, but at least people can’t start till Feb. I think it helps them out a little bit more. I think it hurts the southern schools by playing more Tuesday and Wednesday games. That plays a major role in pitching and missed class time. I still think we still have a huge advantage because of the weather.
6) The NCAA also changed how players could transfer from one university to another without penalty. (USF has six transfers on roster for 2008) Will this impact the way you recruit?
I think it’s a great rule. Kids can’t jump ship and coaches can’t steal players. When you make a decision about a school, you’re making a decision about where you want to spend the next four years of your life. I love the rule; you can’t go stealing players in the summer time up in the Cape Cod leagues. I think that’s going to help kids and kids have to make sure they make the right decisions when they sign with a four-year school.
7) There has been a ton of talk about St. John’s having a chance to make a Super Regional run and the Louisville program is coming off a trip to Omaha. Do Louisville or St. John’s provide the biggest challenge for the Bulls this season or is it someone else?
Both of those schools will definitely be regional teams. I think Notre Dame will be better and I think we’re going to be a lot better. You have quality teams in Pitt, West Virginia, Cincinnati. All of those teams can come and beat you. Look what UConn did to us. All we had to do was win one game and they beat us up. I think it’s a great conference and we’re going to get better and better because of the type of coaches we have. It shows everyone if Louisville can make it to the College World Series so can anyone else.
8) The Louisville Cardinals made an impressive run in the 2007 NCAA Tournament as they reached the College World Series. You spent eleven seasons with the Cardinals as the head coach as you have the most wins in school history. How did it feel to see all the student-athletes you recruited have so much success?
I was very proud of them. I went up there and it was a lot of fun. It was great to see that everything we were talking about came true about playing in Omaha. I really believe that if we can do it at Louisville we can definitely do it at the University of South Florida. We’re going to get there. It’s just a matter of time. I can’t wait to see USF at Omaha.
9) What player or coach have you enjoyed working with the most?
I love the hard nosed kid of guy. I’ve had great players as Tampa, Louisville and even here at USF, but I enjoy the under-dog and the hard nose kid of kid. I love to see them turn into great players. There are too many players to name but I like the guy who goes to class everyday and plays hard out of the field. A lot of guys don’t do both, they do one or the other, but some do and those are the type of guys who are successful in baseball.
10) Final question, who has been your biggest influence on your coaching philosophy or career?
Well it all started with Ron Frasier, that’s why I wore the No. 1. I think college baseball is where it’s at because he’s one of the pioneers who got it going. Also, my parents were big influences because they came into this country with nothing and became very successful. I always use my parents as the people that I admire the most. As far as college baseball goes, Ron Frasier, but in life it would have to be my parents.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Lelo Prado and Amy Woodruff (USF Media Relations) for setting up this interview for the site. We will be talking with many more coaches before the 2008 season kicks off.
Photo courtesy of USF