FROM PRESS RELEASE
HEAD COACH AUGIE GARRIDO
Opening Statement: We’re excited about the 2008 Longhorn baseball season of course. One of the exciting things is the renovation of UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The renovation is really a complete change in the facility from the fans point of view. I’ve said often if it had been up to me I voted to tear it down and start over, but that would have been a mistake as it has turned out. I think the bowl remaining as a reminder of Disch-Falk field and the roof over the top blended with the new sightlines, new seats, new everything; the whole thing is completely new. It kind of embraces you with the past as well as introduces to the future. I think the excitement of all of that will continue over the next two to three years as phases of it continue to develop. It looks like it will be completed in time for the opening series, we’re excited about that, and the facilities are University of Texas well done. Meaning in 1975 Disch-Falk field was the crown jewel of college baseball and provided the leadership for all other universities to build the kind of facilities that would bring division one baseball to a new level and once again facilities have built up around the original Disch-Falk field at different places throughout the country, several in the Big 12, but it was the leadership that The University of Texas provided that prompted all this to happen. Once again we have taken a leadership role in not only showing that quality baseball facilities will drive division one baseball to another level, but the best possible facilities are also something to be recognized as valuable to developing you fan base and developing the revenues that go along with complimenting the sport and securing the sport in the United States on the collegiate baseball scene. So all of these things put together really is another crown jewel in the athletics facilities developed by DeLoss Dodds and The University and puts our university at probably the lead of any university in the country for all around facilities for all sports, men’s and women’s. Something to be very proud of and something to be very excited about, that’s the good news and lots of it.
The bad news is that it’s not going to improve the product a lot. I think when anyone would walk into the locker room or facilities and their first reaction might be ‘oh my goodness, with this they can recruit anybody they choose,’ well we already can and Coach Harmon already has and the product isn’t going to get a lot better because we already have the best players in the country as is and we will continue to have the best players in the county. In a funny way you’re going to have to be a little bit careful because I’m not sure you want players that want to come to a place because of the facilities. I think you want players that want to come to fulfill their dreams and fulfill their hopes of being a major league baseball player. Coach Harmon and Coach Johnson both know how to deal with that in the living rooms of the parents and we are extremely thankful for what we have in the way of facilities, but I don’t think it’s going to improve the product on the field. I think we have had a good product on the field since 2002 and as we run through this decade I think we will continue to have an outstanding championship type product on the field.
On the team: If we were going to play a game today this would be the starting lineup. That is the way we have approached it from the beginning to keep it competitive and let everyone know where they stand. We change the lineups on a weekly basis depending on who we think has shown the best attitude, the best growth, the best development mentally and physically on the field and are the most competitive and committed to getting the job done. So right now if everyone was healthy with that assumption made and everything ready to go like we hope it will be then the following team would be on the field:
Preston Clark would be the catcher. Everyone is familiar with Preston; most likely the best catcher offensively and defensively in the country this year.
At first base, we have a newcomer, Brandon Belt. He’s a sophomore transfer from a junior college. He’s a left-handed hitter becoming a good fielder and he also pitches. He will pitch in some relief situations.
At second base we have Michael Torres, he’s an infielder. He transferred from USC last year, he’s a junior.
At shortstop we have David Hernandez who was a freshman at Fresno State last year and started for them. He has a very high upside offensively and defensively.
At third base we have our beloved Travis Tucker. We moved him from second to third and the transition has been easy and good for him. He is excited about it and brings that special energy to the team on a daily basis; great leadership.
Left field is where there is a battle, but if we were going to start today we would probably start Kevin Keyes a freshman, right-handed hitter, good power and good speed. With young hitters at this level they get a new introduction to the slider and curve ball. He is adjusting pretty rapidly to that and appears to be a really fine division one player as a freshman. Battling for that position would be Russell Moldenhauer and certainly if Russell is not the leftfielder he will DH. He is one of the best left-handed hitters in the county. And also Kyle Lusson is another one in the hunt for starting position time.
In center field we all know Jordan Danks and how brilliant he is. He’s a better center fielder then he was left fielder. I think you’re going to be happy with his performance defensively and we all know what he can do offensively. He is even more mature, more experienced playing for the USA team really put a sharper edge on his competitive game. He’s a much better hitter now I think that all comes from confidence.
In right field we have Kyle Russell and Kyle had a great year for us last year and we are blessed that he and Preston Clark decided to forego their opportunities at professional baseball and be apart of this new stadium and the inaugural year.
I think what we have in the way of attitude that is kind of special is that we have a group of leaders with Kyle, Jordan, Preston and then on the mound which I’ll get to in a little bit, Austin Wood and Kenn Kasparek. Kenn has been to Omaha and played an important role in Omaha, none of the others have. I think the fact that are former players that went on that great run in 2002 and finished first, third, second and first in four years are on them pretty good on not getting back and letting down the tradition of it all because our professional players are all here working out, Curtis Thigpen, Huston Street, the list goes on. So they’re getting on them pretty good, so they’re taking some heat about not getting to Omaha from the players that got us there and I think it’s a good combination because the young players are going to follow the lead. They’re excited and exciting and I think it s a good blend of attitudes. There’s a lot of competitiveness and a lot of talent in those attitudes.
Our starting rotation for the weekend would be Austin Wood would start Friday. Cole Green, a freshman, would start Saturday and Kenn Kasparek would start on Sunday. We also like playing Brandon Workman who is probably starting on Tuesday, he’s a freshman and also another freshman, Chance Ruffin would be starting on Wednesday. Now we are playing 45 innings a week which is quite a task so you look at probably 10 to 12 pitchers would be the ideal way to attack the problem. If you did it that way you could do five starters once a week without doubling back. Then you bring in five relief pitchers and they can double back because the set-up guy throws two on Friday and then two again on Tuesday so you can start to double the other five back. Also your short relievers could start to do that as well. It is manageable, but it’s going to take a high number of pitchers to maintain the quality that we expect at UFCU Disch-Falk field from the pitching staff. I think another way to look at it, and certainly how we as a staff are looking at it, is that we also are going to have to win offensively. When we give up five runs we aren’t going to be able to look over our shoulder and say well we should have this game won because of the pitching and the defense. We need to be able to except whatever the run total is and get more runs then the other team. There will be more opportunities to win from the offensive side and there is going to be more responsibility to win from the offensive side because of the way the pitching staffs are going to struggle throughout the nation this year because of this new schedule, which I hope only lasts one more year.
One other highly competitive player at this point in time is Cameron Rupp. His development is coming along very well and he’s an offensive player that is pretty dynamic. Cameron will be starting in that five game series and when Belt comes into pitch Preston (Clark) will probably have to go to first base.
On if the construction from last year interfered with the team: In talking about what the team had to go through and how it affected us I choose not to go in that direction in any kind of excuse making. I think competitive athletics in about overcoming whatever the challenges are and finding a way to get the job done. As soon as you start to look at what’s wrong then I make it wrong because of it. So if it did affect us then it did what I do know we didn’t do the right thing and the right time to get to Omaha and I’m just accepting it from that point of view. I think it’s our responsibility to overcome whatever challenges we are faced with and be held accountable and responsible for that. We know that the bar is set high here and we’re not trying to escape that, we’re trying to fulfill that. We know it’s our responsibility and we accept that. We know that when we fall short, we’ve only won this thing 5 times, and that’s a lot more than failure than wins. It just shows you how precious it is when you do win; it’s not easy.
On how he addresses going to Omaha early in the season: Ultimate goals are a healthy thing. You have to have an ultimate goal to get there. Where would any of us be without our dreams? You need an ultimate goal, but to make it happen you have to be a lot more realistic and pragmatic in how you manage that and it gets down to one pitch at a time and living in the moment. That is really difficult to do, especially when a game isn’t going so well. Baseball is a game of adversity and depending on how you look at it and what your make up is it can be very depressing on a daily basis unless you find the fun in it. To find the fun you really have to maintain your confidence in yourself. We stay in the moment as much as possible and this is a new opportunity on a new day and this is another day that we can move closer to getting another out, to do that you have to be able to play good catch and until you can play good catch you don’t have many things going for you defensively. It ends up being pretty simple and basic. When you start thinking about it as a result it becomes impossible to control, but if you think about it from the development standpoint there is a way to perform and learn from your mistakes and get better and become more confident and chase away your anxieties and your fears, that’s the learning process, that’s the fun of it actually.
On if he has the same feeling he has for this team that he did for last year’s team during the preseason: I do, not for the same reasons though and I think the thing that is most interesting for me is the interaction of the leadership with Preston, Jordan, Austin Wood and Moldenhauer and Kasparek and that whole group that is hungry to return to the promise land, Omaha. I’m intrigued by that thought and how it’s going to play out. None of us are going to know until we watch, but that is really exciting to me.
On the transfers: The transfer rule has changed and this is going to be the last year that, that can happen and even though that rule would have hurt us this year because the two that are going to step in and become starters we as a coaching staff feel good about the fact that we would rather have the rule like football and basketball where there is not the transition.
LHP AUSTIN WOOD
On what the team has to get to Omaha: Like coach pointed out earlier we have the leadership, Preston (Clark), Kyle (Russell), Jordan (Danks), Kenn (Kasparek) and me we’re all back. We know what we want to do, we know what we want to accomplish and we haven’t been there in two years so we’re working hard everyday to get back. Our main goal is to win a national championship for the Texas Longhorns.
On if there is extra excitement this year because of the new stadium: Oh yeah (there is extra excitement), I’m looking forward to heading over there so I can sit in the new recliners. It’s going to be a lot of fun playing there; it’s a gorgeous ball park and can’t wait to get started. Our facilities are second to none.
OF RUSSELL MOLDENHAUER
On the competition in left field: Competition always makes people better and it’s definitely helping all three of us out there that are fighting for the spot. We’re just making ourselves better and it’s bringing us closer as a team, the competition doesn’t hurt us at all; just makes us closer and push each other harder.
On rankings: I try not to look at rankings. The only one that is important is the one at the end of the year. Right now we just have to go out there, do our best and win every game. The polls will take care of themselves. We just have to focus on ourselves and not the statistics.
On how difficult it is to get to Omaha: The ball bounces differently for everyone. You have to do the little things at the right time and just hope they go your way. You just have to keep you head up, fight through it and hopefully in the long run it will all happen for you.
OF KYLE RUSSELL
On how you can try to do the right things at the right time: I’ve really had a lot of time to think about after we lost to UC Irvine and you have to have three things, pitching, hitting and luck. Luck is a very important thing in this sport and so you have to have this mind set and think we’re going to win this game. You have to be mentally strong. When it matters the most you have to be mentally strong and I think that is the main focus of it all. When regionals come along I can guarantee our team is going to be ready because of the off-season. We’ve had 6 a.m. workouts this whole fall and waking up at 6 a.m. is hard enough as it is. I think it really helps us prepare for the season and I think we will progress into the regionals, super regionals and fingers crossed hopefully Omaha.
On the condensed season putting pressure on the offense: Well, it’s pretty crazy, the only time I’m really going to have it eat, sleep, school and play baseball. I’m not going to have a social life which is fine because baseball is cool. We’re going to depend on these freshmen to step up and bring in this pitching and hopefully our hitting will back up as well. I think we’ll get through it and hopefully get some wins out of it.
On if he feels he has changed as a leader: I think offensive it stands for itself. I really don’t have to say much we have enough offensive hitting here that I don’t have to say much. I think really on defensive, in the outfield I have really vocally stood up and helped these freshmen out with their routs. Hopefully they can learn from me and progress and get better as the season goes on.
On looking back towards the infield: It’s crazy to look back and see all the seats are green and the whole where the luxury boxes were going in are filled, I’m glad that little space where the sun would leak through and shine right in my face is gone. It’s pretty cool to look at, but instead of green I would rather see the burnt orange so I’m ready for the fans to come out.
C PRESTON CLARK
On the new season: We’ve made our ultimate goal to get back to Omaha again. That’s not are starting goal, we have a goal for each day and that’s just to play each game, pitch by pitch, inning by inning and win the first and second game then on to Omaha. Our big deal is we know we’re going to Omaha; we don’t make our plan to go to the playoffs. We know we’re going to make it there so our goal is to get to Omaha and win.
On if the changes to the stadium will add to the atmosphere: Mainly the fans bring that to us. Being that close and able to cheer and yell and have the support there is what makes us tick. It’s exciting for us to be able to hear everyone cheering for us.
On how the new condensed schedule will affect the catchers: I’m not going to be able to do it everyday. I would like to, I don’t mind going out there and catching five or six games a week, but in reality you need a break and coach realizes that. Cameron (Rupp) or Kawika Emsley-Pai, whichever one will play in that game that I’m not will take the role and they will have to step up and be a leader in that game. As far as the pitching, we’re going to have to go out there and use every guy. We’re confident in all the freshman and I think this is one of the best recruiting classes for pitching we’ve had in a few years.
OF JORDAN DANKS
On playing centerfield: It’s a little different, there’s a lot more seats on the left and right side, nothing that will be distracting. I’m glad to have all of that stuff out there. There is definitely a different leadership role as well.
RHP KENN KASPAREK
On how he’s feeling coming back: I’m ready to go and fired up about the season. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to play with these guys, it feels great to be playing again and I can’t wait to put the uniform back on.
On how his pitching is doing: I would say it’s pretty consistent at where it was the last time I pitched. Hopefully as the season goes on it will increase just like anyone else. Right now, we’re pretty happy with where it is.
On how his experience at Omaha helps the team: I think it will help in the long run when we start the post season. It will help the other guys understand where we’re trying to go with this because a lot of them don’t have that experience or haven’t felt that atmosphere so I think it will help them understand.