The College Baseball Blog recently had a chance to talk to new Kentucky head coach Gary Henderson. He is entering his first season in charge of the program after being an assistant coach for the previous five seasons. He discusses his expectations for the 2009 campaign and some issues in College Baseball.
1. The Kentucky Wildcats had a good season last year where they went 44-19 overall while having a conference record of 16-14. What are your goals for the 2009 Wildcats?
Good question. My first thought is that I want our kids to play with tremendous energy and intelligence. I want us to be GREAT competitors. Once we establish ourselves in those areas we can address the more measurable goals. The next step for this program is another SEC Championship, win a Super Regional, and win once we get to Omaha. We’ll see, it is a great challenge.
2. The Wildcats lost their top three hitters in Sawyer Carroll, Colin Cowgill, and Ryan Wilkes. Who do you expect to step up and fill into these big shoes?
Keenan Wiley, Chris McClendon, and Chris Wade will give us 3 returning players who were very successful offensively last year. They will provide a solid core, but it will obviously be a different group. Along with the 3 you mentioned we also need to replace Brian Spear’s production. We lost 61 of last year’s 83 home runs so it will take some time to define roles and to have spots won.
3. James Paxton and Chris Rusin are the top returning starting pitchers for 2009. Who do you expect to fill the other spot in the rotation left vacant by Greg Dombrowski?
Greg started the last 30 SEC weekends for us and was a great competitor. Replacing him will be a challenge. The top candidates are Logan Darnell, Mike Kaczmarek, Tyler Henry, Clint Tilford, and Alex Meyer.
4. Andrew Albers finished last season with a team high five saves but six different pitchers recorded at least one save. Who do you expect to settle into the closer’s role for this season?
At this point it is wide open. We have one of those years where there are a lot of spots to be won and not a lot of experience returning. We lost 6 seniors and Scott Green so there will be plenty of competition for this year’s innings.
5. Have any of your incoming freshmen impressed you during Fall Workouts? Do you see any of them breaking into the starting lineup/rotation this season?
I have been very impressed with our freshmen. On the mound Braden Kapteyn, Sean Bouthilette, and Alex Meyer have shown that they will be extremely good competitors here. Our freshmen position players will definitely push some of our returners for AB’s. Andy Burns, Kapteyn (1B), Cory Farris, Michael Williams, Chad Wright will all contribute. The competition amongst the players will make it very exciting for us this spring. At this point I do not have any FR penciled in the starting line-up or in the rotation.
6. After spending the past five seasons as the Associate Head Coach and Pitching Coach will you be more involved in the offense this coming season than in the past now that you’re the head coach?
Considering that I was involved very little in the past I will obviously be more involved. Brian Green is our hitting coach and he will do an outstanding job, however, he will certainly have my input.
7. Last season we saw the implementation of the Uniform Start Date. What are your early impressions on it? Did you think it has leveled the playing field?
My first impression is that the uniform date has leveled the playing field, but I’m not sure that that impression is accurate or that enough time has gone by to exactly sure what the ramifications will be. My opinion is that the season should be longer.
8. How will the new rules with the way the scholarships can be split on the team affect your program? Do you think it is a good change for college baseball?
I do not think that the 27 scholarships and 8 walk-ons rule is good for college baseball. If a roster limit is an absolute must I can live with that, however, I think we should be able to divide our scholarship allotment as we see fit.
9. With the removal of the one-time transfer exemption that allowed student-athletes to change schools once without having to sit out a red-shirt year, do you feel that there is more pressure on a coach to recruit with responsibility or for the student-athlete to be aware of what programs are the best fit for them?
While I think the rule increases accountability for both the recruits and the coaching staffs, I’m not sure that there is any more pressure for most coaches…there has always been plenty.
10. Final question, Who has been your biggest influence on your coaching philosophy or career?
Several very positive influences including 3 of my High school Football coaches, Dick Arbuckle, Roger Herbert, and Dennis Ludwig. All 3 were THE BEST role models I could have had. My American Legion coach, Garry Selby, was very instrumental in helping establish my thoughts regarding mind-set and self talk. The biggest influence in my Baseball coaching career has been Dennis Rogers…best teacher/coach I have been around, someone with whom I share a lot of the same perspectives, and a very good friend.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Gary Henderson for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer the questions for us. Special thanks to Brent Ingram of Kentucky Media Relations for setting up the interview for us. If you are an SID or a Coach that would like to be featured on a future interview feel free to email me by clicking here.