The College Baseball Blog recently had a chance to talk to Tim Sinicki of Binghamton University. He is entering his 17th season with the Bearcats. He has seen the program change from a Division III school into a Division 1 member of the America East conference. Coach Sinicki talks about his expectations for the 2009 squad and some of the hottest topics in College Baseball today.
1. The Binghamton Bearcats is coming off a 29-27 campaign which set a school record for wins but ended up as a runner up in the America East Tournament. What are you expectations for the 2009 season?
2008 was certainly an exciting season for our program. After winning our second-consecutive America East Conference regular-season title, we had four players named first-team all-conference, another named to the second team, and also the conference rookie of the year. We return a solid core of players to the 2009 team so I certainly expect this year’s club to be right in the mix again, competing for a regular-season championship and a conference tournament title.
2. The Bearcats have 10 true freshmen on the 2009 squad. Do you expect any of them to break into the starting lineup or contribute to the pitching staff?
We do have a talented group of freshmen in our program and I am hoping they push the returning players for playing time throughout the season. Right now, in regards to position players, Dave Ciocchi seems to be the closest to getting significant playing time at designated hitter, the outfield or first base. On the mound, based on fall workouts, it appears that Mike Augliera, Alex Adami and Aaron Schuldt have a chance to make an impact right away. But I do think with development, our other young arms have a chance to contribute early on in their careers.
3. Binghamton lost half of its weekend starting rotation with Zach Groh and Gio Yannuzzi leaving the program. Who do you expect to fill into these two key spots in the rotation?
Right now it appears that sophomore James Giulietti, red-shirt freshman Walker McKinven and freshman Mike Augliera have the inside track to fill the two open spots in the rotation. Giulietti is a left-hander who made 18 appearances for us last season including a start at Wichita State. McKinven, a right-hander, missed last season with an injury he sustained in high school but has tremendous upside and ability. Augliera is also a right-hander who is pretty polished for a freshman.
4. Jeff Dennis finished last season with a 4-5 record and an ERA of 3.97. He finished the season strong with a 0.67 ERA over his last four starts. The Oakland A’s drafted him in the 40th round but Jeff decided to come back for his senior season. What makes him such an outstanding pitcher?
Everyone knows there are no shortcuts if you want to be the best and play professional baseball, and Jeff is certainly no exception. He has worked extremely hard during his time here at Binghamton in all areas including the weight room, his coachability and his willingness to try different things. As he enters his senior year I think Jeff has realized what his strengths are and is now focused on pitching to and with those strengths.
5. Binghamton is in one of the toughest areas of the country to get outside in the middle of February for early season practices. How are the indoor facilities for the Bearcats as they prepare for the early portion of the season?
We are blessed at Binghamton with tremendous indoor facilities. I think recruits and their families are blown away when they come to campus and see what we have to offer. I feel like a young man who wants to stay in the Northeast to play Division I college baseball will not find indoor facilities better than ours. We have access to two facilities for defensive (infield/outfield/team) workouts; then we have a separate indoor hitting area with four batting cages that stay up year round and are only for the players. And in that hitting facility is also an area for our pitchers to throw bullpens, ride the bike, and do flat ground and mirror work.
6. 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?
I like the uniform start date. I think it will, over time, level the playing field a bit more. But what I really like is that in our early season games, when we are stepping out of the gym and onto the field, our warm-weather opponents don’t have 8-10 games, or more, already played on their side. I remember in 2006 we were fortunate enough to travel to Fresno State for their tournament and on a Tuesday night we played the Bulldogs in front of nearly 2,000 people. For us, it was game six; for Fresno State, game 24. The uniform start date should allow schools who are working out indoors in February a chance to at least compete early on and that is good for college baseball.
7. 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 don’t like the 25% scholarship rule at all and, consequently, I am also not in favor of the limit of 27 players on scholarship. We’ve had quite a few players in our program who received 10-15% baseball scholarships but decided to attend Binghamton because of the outstanding education the University provides and were major contributors – all-conference type players, in our back-to-back championship seasons. If an institution is the right “fit” for a young man and he is willing to come for less than 25% of a baseball scholarship then so be it. And if that means you have 29 or 30 or whatever number of players on scholarship on your roster limit of 35, well I am fine with that as well.
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?
I do think the elimination of the one-time transfer exemption is good for Division I college baseball, but I don’t think it puts any more pressure on a coach or recruit. I would like to think that most coaches have been and will continue to be responsible in their recruiting. I mean coaches don’t have a crystal ball, and we all swing and miss on a young man every now and then. But I think all coaches try and keep that to a minimum. For the recruits, they are going to have to really do some more work on the front end of the recruiting process since the consequences are now so much greater on the back side if things don’t work out.
9. Final question, who has been your biggest influence on your coaching philosophy or career?
I’ve been very fortunate to have so many great people in my life that have allowed me to shape my coaching style, philosophy and career. It would be impossible to name just one person. First off, I grew up in a home with unbelievably supportive parents who taught me about discipline, hard work and making good decisions. These are three things I strive to have in our baseball program and in everyday of my life. I am married to a wonderful person (Tina) with three beautiful children (Allison, Tanner and Ashley), and each and everyday they show me how to important it is to love and to laugh, again things I try to bring to our program daily. Finally, my head baseball coach at Western Carolina, Jack Leggett. He always came to the field or weight room or wherever with a tremendous amount of pride, passion and determination to get the very best out of his players.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Tim Sinicki for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions 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.