The College Baseball Blog recently had a chance to talk to Lelo Prado of South Florida. He is entering his third season with the Bulls after spending the previous eleven seasons with Louisville. He is still the career leader in victories for the Cardinals. He came to Louisville after spending seven seasons with the Tampa Spartans winning two national championships. In his interview with us, he speaks about his expectations for the 2009 season and some of the big issues around college baseball.
1. The South Florida Bulls went 31-27 while going 14-13 in the Big East Conference. The team returns two out of three weekend starting pitchers while returning two out of your top four hitters. What are your expectations for the 2009 campaign?
I expect to compete for the BIG EAST Championship. We have a lot of returning guys, although they are young as sophomores and juniors, we should definitely improve from last year.
2. Ryan Lockwood picked up Freshman of the Year honors from Collegiate Baseball News. What makes him such a great player?
Ryan knows how to play the game. He knows what he has to do out on the baseball field and that is more important than being 6-6 and running a 60 in 6.5. He just knows how to play the game and he plays it the right way. And he works extremely hard.
3. Who do you expect to join Derrick Stultz and Randy Fontanez in the starting rotation? Do you see Stephen Hunt making the jump to the rotation?
Stephen Hunt is probably going to be a closer because he’ll be playing a position or our DH. Matt Stull and Shawn Sanford are the two guys who are going to be pushing for that third spot.
4. Do you see any freshmen jumping into the everyday lineup or getting quality time on the mound?
At shortstop, freshman Sam Mende is going to be our starter every day. He should definitely help a lot. We have some other guys who should help us in the pitching and also in the field.
5. How do you think the Big East Conference will shake out this season? What players and teams should we watch out for?
The guy who has a chance to be the best player in college baseball is Chris Dominguez (Louisville). He’s back for another year. It’s going to be a dogfight. You’re going to see the BIG EAST getting better and better.
6. How are the plans for the new baseball facility at South Florida coming along? Do we have an expected completion date?
We are getting close to building a stadium. The funds are coming in and I think you’re going to see a nice field. We don’t need a huge field, we just need something with chairbacks and some new dugouts. We’re getting close to completing that.
7. Last season we saw the implementation of the Uniform Start Date. What are your early impressions on it? Do you think it has leveled the playing field?
The only reason I don’t like the start date is because you play more games during the week and it takes away from kids going to classes. You also have to have a ton of pitching because you are going to play five games in a week. Is that the correct date, I don’t think so, but I think everybody should have a start date.
8. 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?
Both. I think the coach has to be sure that he has the right guy coming into the program and also the student-athlete has to know that he can’t jump ship if it’s not working out for him. He has to stick it out. I like it because there are less guys being pulled away from summer ball and coaches stealing players from summer ball, which has gone on for years. That has now slowed down. I like the rule. I think if you are a walk-on and you don’t like the program, you should be allowed to transfer because we are not offering you scholarship money. But if you are on scholarship, then you made a commitment and the school made a commitment to you, then you must stick it out.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Lelo Prado for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer the questions for us. Special thanks to Amy Woodruff of South Florida Media Relations for setting up the interview for us and sending us the picture featured above. 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.