The College Baseball Blog recently had a chance to send some questions to Gary Gilmore of Coastal Carolina. Gary is entering his 13th season in charge of the Chanticleer program after a very strong 2007 season in which they went 50-13 and hosted the school’s first regional. They ended up losing the regional championship game to Clemson.
1. Coastal Carolina had a great season in 2007 which saw them go an outstanding 50-13 overall and 17-4 in the Big South. The Chanticleers hosted a Regional for the first time in school history but fell to Clemson in the Championship game. Your team returns your top two hitters in Tommy Baldridge and David Sappelt from the 2007 team and ace pitcher Bobby Gagg. What is the realistic goal for your 2008 squad?
A realistic goal, first and foremost, is to try to win a conference championship and get into a regional again. This team has numerous unproven pieces, but I feel very confident to say we have great athletes. It just comes down to can they put up the numbers that their athletic ability dictates. If they can, then we’ll be a region contender. The other part is health and getting everybody 100 percent healthy, getting Tommy (Baldridge) back to 100 percent. That’s a big piece. We potentially could start the season without him. Hopefully not, but we may. I don’t want to put a bigger target on this club than it’s capable of handling but we have more proven stars coming back this year than we did last year. We don’t have a proven Chris Raber or Dom Duggan or guys like that. Other people have to come in and fill their shoes. I think they’re great athletes; they just have to get out there and play. I think the overall success of this team will come by how fast we get out of the gate. We were very fortunate last year that we had DeLaGarza manning that Friday night hole with Gagg on Saturday and Mariotti on Sunday. When Mariotti was on, he was probably one of the better number three starters in the country. This year, Gagg is going to have to move up to that Friday night slot. I think one of the biggest pieces that is kind of off everyone’s radar is if Austin Fleet comes back to where he was or beyond from what he was his freshman year. He was the best guy on our staff as a freshman and sat out all last year. I keep my fingers crossed, but if he can assume that Saturday role, then we become a different team real fast. I think left-handed pitching wise was an albatross around our neck all of last year except for DeLaGarza. We never figured that out. Its huge this year that Jenkins, Meiners and Wheeler that they have some positive outings. They’re young guys, but they have ability. I feel good about that, but you never know until it starts.
2. Tommy Baldridge and David Sappelt have received a ton of preseason attention from national media with individual awards. How do you think these two young men will handle the pressure to live up to the lofty expectations?
I think their preparation in the offseason has been tremendous. David has been a possessed young man. I think he took three days off for Christmas and was back here working. He was locked in. If he comes to play every day like he did last year, he’ll be fine. There might be a bigger target on his back, but I think he’ll be more prepared for it. Tommy plays the same way all of the time. He has the same demeanor. I don’t see an issue with those two guys because I think there is enough good guys around him that you’re not going to be able to come in and get one or two guys out. Dock Doyle is going to step up. There are going to be guys in this program that will make life easier for those guys.
3. Coastal Carolina lose 34 starts between John Mariotti and Andy DeLaGarza but return All-American candidate Bobby Gagg. Will David Anderson who had 10 saves in 2007 jump into the rotation? Who do you expect to fill these roles?
Right now, my trump card is McCully. We’re going to start the season, provided that he is 100 percent healthy, with McCully in the closer position on Friday nights and if we can limit him to one inning, see if he can start on Sunday. He wants to pitch yet I don’t think he wants to be just a starter. He cherishes that closer role and I think he was a different pitcher, having gotten some experience and confidence in that role. Pete Andrelczyk has come a long, long way in the last year. His arm strength and pitchability have increased tremendously. He is a legit power closer in the low to mid 90’s. Andrelczyk and Jeff Richard have the ability to be power-type closers. With all of the games we have to play in a condensed amount of time, it is going to be a little bit of a shell game in the beginning to try and figure out how to maximize McCully’s ability as a consistent closer or to use him as a starter. As unsure of our rotation as I was a year ago, I’m every bit as unsure now as to where each piece goes. The strength of this team is in the 13 to 14 arms that we have. This is as deep and as talented a pitching staff as I’ve been around. Where all the pieces go, I don’t have all of the answers. We lost two of our best guys who ate innings and were great on weekends for us. Those are big pieces to replace. If I could somehow figure out how to leave David Anderson on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s, life here would be real good. That’s the goal, I just don’t know if all of the other pieces are ready for that. I hope before the end of the year we can get to that point where I can use him there because he was as good a Tuesday/Wednesday guy as anybody we played against. Whose arms are good? I go back to Fleet. He is the trump card here. If he comes back and bumps forward a little bit, he can challenge Gagg for the Friday night spot, but that’s an unknown at this point.
4. The Big South has become a strong conference with Winthrop and Coastal Carolina becoming annual participants in the NCAA Tourney. Who do you think will provide the biggest challenge for repeating as Big South Champs?
I think the two clubs that will challenge us all year long will be Liberty and VMI. Liberty has their entire team back; I don’t think they lost anybody. VMI has experience in their pitching staff. I watched Bowman several times this summer and he’s come a long way. He’s somebody to fear. He’s a dominant arm. Liberty’s going to have a senior-laden team and they are a team that’s tired of Coastal beating them. They have a new coaching staff, so we’re going into a hornet’s nest in the first conference series of the year in late March. That’s going to be a battle for three days.
5. Gary, Your son Chance transferred from UVA to Coastal Carolina before the start of the 2007 season. What is the toughest challenge you face coaching him?
I think in the beginning was Chance getting his confidence back. He had some success in the summer and in the fall and is getting some looks for a scout here or there. He is more coachable now. I think that was the tough part. The last six or seven months, he’s been a different kid around me. He doesn’t have to prove to me or his teammates that he can play a little bit. They respect him. This is a big five months for him. It’s an opportunity to prove he can play at this level. He’s kind of in the spot that Tommy was in last year. He’s kind of off everyone’s radar, but he needs to step up and change the course he’s on to change the path of his career here. We need him to step forward. He needs to absorb a little bit of Raber and Duggan’s absence.
6. What is your biggest challenge on and off the field in dealing with young men from 18-23?
Everyone looks at our kids and say “You’re always doing something” and we are. If we aren’t practicing, we’re at Miracle League or are mentoring at schools. They don’t get a lot of free time, but they do get rewarding time. Having a commitment and a focus to things bigger and broader than baseball helps a lot of things go away. You keep them busy with productive and positive things going on, things they can learn life skills and goals from, I think are huge that they put those kids in their places.
7. What player or coach have you enjoyed working with the most?
I’ve had a great relationship with a bunch of coaches. We haven’t had a tremendous turnover here, but the guys we had I have a great relationship with and still do. This staff here, I cannot say enough about the rapport we have here. Everybody brings something different to this team and to this staff. They all bring energy and enthusiasm to this staff and everyone’s personality is different. Different kids bond to us in different ways. I can’t say enough about the group and I think the world of them.
8. Final question, who has been your biggest influence professionally or personally?
There have been many coaches and many people who have influenced my life and my career, but I would never have chosen the profession I chose if it wasn’t for my dad. He influenced me far more than anyone else. So much of my knowledge and inbred philosophies that I have in how you play baseball I’ve learned from him. I can never repay him for that.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Gary Gilmore for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Special thanks goes out to Kent Reichert of Coastal Carolina Media Relations for setting up the interview and providing us with the photo.
The CBB will be providing interviews with head coaches throughout the preseason with more coaches coming in the near future. If an SID wants me to interview their head coach feel free to email us by clicking here.