Terry Puhl, Field Manager of Canada’s entry in the 2008 Olympics, was a Major League outfielder for 15 seasons with the Houston Astros and the Kansas City Royals. He was a National League All Star in 1978 and played in the 1980 National League Championship Series vs. Philadelphia, setting a then-NLCS record with a .526 batting average. He holds the Major League record for career fielding percentage (.993).
Puhl’s day job is Coach of the University of Houston-Victoria Jaguars, an NAIA program entering its second year. He gave this interview on his way home from Beijing.
Bob Broughton, The College Baseball Blog: Do you think that baseball should be an Olympic sport?
Terry Puhl, Houston-Victoria: Yes; however, emphasis must be put on two areas. First, the qualifying structure must be as good as what was used for 2008. That makes sure the best countries are there. Secondly, MLB must be a part of the baseball planning going forward. Getting the “best” players in the world to the Games is a priority with the IOC.
CBB: What can baseball fans do to get baseball back into the Olympics?
TP: Keep supporting International Baseball Events. The World Cup Classic in 2009 will again put baseball on the front page and in different countries in the preliminary rounds.
CBB: Do you have any ideas about the format?
TP: A 24 man roster is necessary for the Olympics because you are playing a round robin and must have the pitchers to make it through. I still believe the only way that baseball returns will be with the use of major league players. A possible longer all-star break (if Chicago gets the bid) may work in 2016
CBB: Were you surprised that South Korea got the gold? And do you think we’ll see any of the Koreans in the Major Leagues?
TP: Korea played solid baseball and they earned the gold medal. Any team there was capable of medaling and Korea put their best 9 games together. Korea’s first baseman [Seungyuop Lee] and young righthander [Han Ki-Joo are possibles.
CBB: You’re entering your second season at Houston-Victoria, and it’s also the second year of the baseball program. Since most of the readers of CBB haven’t heard of Houston-Victoria, what can you tell us about the school?
TP: We are located in Victoria, Texas… about 100 miles southwest of Houston. We currently are a Junior/Senior College only (the reverse of a Junior College) with possible plans to make it a four year school.
CBB: What was behind bringing baseball to Houston-Victoria?
TP: President Tim Hudson, Vice President Dick Phillips, and Athletic Director Ashley Walyuchow had a baseball vision for UHV and Victoria. The City has been very supportive with people like Claude Jacobs and Bobby Burdge leading the way.
CBB: How did you end up as the coach there?
TP: Carl Warwick (former St. Louis Cardinal) called me and set up a meeting with Dick Phillips and Ashley Walyuchow. The timing was good for me and our family.
CBB: What is your schedule going to look like for 2009? I know that Lubbock Christian and Oklahoma City are a long bus ride away from you, but are you going to try to get them on your schedule? How about LSU-Shreveport? Are you going to be able to keep Houston Baptist on the schedule?
TP: At present, we are at 45 games this Spring.
CBB: Tony Rothman hit .469 for you last year, and Ray Maldonado had a 9-2 record, with 84 strikeouts. What can you tell us about these guys, and are they coming back next year?
TP: Both are returning and both are leaders on the club. Refreshing to have such leadership and it is very important to our program.
CBB: How is recruiting going for the 2009 season?
TP: Returning most of the team. I am done with recruiting and may add a player between now and the Spring season.
CBB: You’re hosting an NAIA tournament in 2009. Tell us about it.
TP: Houston-Victoria has been selected to host the inaugural NAIA Association of Independent Institutions (AII) Baseball Championship Tournament April 29-May 2. The winner of this tournament earns a berth in one of the NAIA sectional tournaments. There are currently six other NAIA independents eligible for the field.
Hosting this championship tournament in Victoria will give baseball fans a unique opportunity to experience the college playoff atmosphere.
Houston-Victoria site: http://uhvjaguars.com/