The College Baseball Blog continues our series of interviews with various head coaches around the nation. We recently had a chance to talk with Jim Foster of Rhode Island. He is currently entering his fourth season with the Rams. He talks about the team’s expectations for the 2009 season and some of the hot button issues around College Baseball.
1. In 2008, Rhode Island returned to the 30 win plateau by going 31-27-1 for the fourth 30 win season in the last five years. How has URI become one of the top programs in New England with many other strong schools in the area?
There are many reasons URI has become one of the top programs in New England:
1.) Coach Frank Leoni put in 13 years here at URI builing it up through the lean years and working very hard to be competitive. His commitment to the program is a major reason why we are at the point we are now.
2.) We have found a few areas in recruiting that have been very successful for us. Guys have come in and played early and gotten some much needed experience, they have taken advantage of the opportunity and had great careers. Baseball is very important to them.
3.) URI is a very easy place to recruit, it is such a beautiful campus and there are alot of wonderful people working here.
4.) We have built up the infrastructure of the program. We received a 1.4 million dollar donation last year and are in the process of putting in a new field with a synthetic turf playing surface. We have also renovated our batting cages, locker room, and are planning new stands and a hitting barn with a team room in the future. These new facilities will put us in a better position to recruit talented student athletes from all over the country.
5.) I think we have done a very good job with player development, guys have put the work in and get better year after year.
2. Rhode Island lost catcher and leading hitter Zach Zaneski to graduation. Who do you expect to step into his leadership role behind the plate and in the lineup?
Rob Noe was supposed to step in this year but unfortunately he got hurt in the fall and is out for the season. I think Milan Adams who is a freshman and Rob Deveney who played right field for us last year will see time behind the plate and two other players who are a possibility are Mike Eschman and JP Stone. If we can find one or two of them to solidify that position this season I will be very happy. We need that to happen for us to be able to reach our goals. Zach was such a good player and leader, that will be very hard to replace. He is doing a good job with the Rangers.
3. URI returns two out of their top three starters from the 2008 campaign with the sophomores Nick Greenwood and Eric Smith leading the staff. Do you expect Tim Boyce to step into the rotation after a tremendous 2008 campaign out of the bullpen?
Tim Boyce will most likely start this year, he has been a very good player for us and he will get the opportunity to start for us after a great summer in the NECBL.
4. How will the new rules affect your program in the long run with the new scholarships and the uniform start date?
The uniform start date is something that will help but I do think that we need to add one week onto the season at the end, I think that would work well.
College baseball has never been more popular. Many teams have 35 players on a roster and I really think as a whole it is underfunded, we need to get more scholarships. The maximum amount is 11.7 and you have a 25% minimum right now and there are not many schools that have that many. It makes it very difficult for a program that doesn’t have the maximum amount of scholarships.
5. Has any of your incoming freshman impressed you during Fall Workouts? Do you see any of them breaking into the starting lineup this season?
Sam Vandenheuvel, Ryan Oneil, and Mike Label should contribute at some point.
6. What is your biggest challenge on and off the field in dealing with young men from 18-23?
The biggest challenge on the field is getting them to hear what the coaching staff are saying and really understand it to the point they can use it to help us win games. That and getting enough practice time in to work on it. We play so many games in the spring there really isn’t many practice days. Also, getting them to understand how important the mental side of the game is.
Off the field I would say just taking care of themselves. Getting the right amount of rest and proper nutrition is so important.
7. You’re a 1993 graduate from Providence College who no longer sponsors college baseball. Do you think your alma mater will ever bring back the sport? How has the collegiate game changed compared to your playing days with the Friars?
I had four great years playing at PC, I made some great friends and had the privilege to play with some very good players. Many of us went on to play professionally for a good number of years. It is very sad that they don’t have it considering it was the most successful sport in the school and had so much tradition and so many people cared about it. There is rarely a week that goes by without someone asking me the same question. I have not heard anything about them bringing the sport back, I hope they do but I don’t think it will happen anytime soon. I know it has helped URI Baseball out tremendously, that is one of the reasons the team has flourished the last eight years, you can add UNH as well. I think baseball in New England is a very special thing, there is so much history and there are so many good players and coaches. I hope that we can have four or five teams in our region of the country that can not only compete on a very high level in our area but on a national level also. I think it can be done at certain places and we hope to accomplish that at URI.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Jim for taking some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions for us. If another coach or SID would like to be featured feel free to email me by clicking here.