The College Baseball Blog recently had a chance to talk to Tracy Smith of Indiana. He is entering his fourth season with the Hoosiers after spending nine seasons with Miami (Ohio) where he won two conference tournament titles. Coach Smith talks about his expectations for the 2009 squad and some of the hottest topics in College Baseball today.
1. The Indiana Hoosiers are coming off a 31-30 season while going 15-17 in the Big Ten conference for a sixth place finish. What are your expectations for the 2009 season?
I think that we want to build on our strong second-half finish and Big Ten Tournament. I would be disappointed if we didn’t compete for the conference championship this year.
2. Last season, Indiana had four different players who recorded at least one save. Who do you see filling this role in the upcoming season?
That’s a good question. I see that shaping up as we progress through the early part of the season. We have a lot of capable guys and I’m honestly not sure. Chris Squires has done that in the past, and we have Wyatt Hoff and Jake Dunning as newcomers who could easily fill that role. We’ll have to see how things play out.
3. Matt Bashore is the top returning pitcher for the Hoosiers after a solid 2008 season. Who do you expect to fill the other two spots in the rotation?
Right now, Eric Arnett and Blake Monar should be in there with a few other guys pushing them. Wyatt Hoff as a newcomer joins Joey O’Gara and Matt Carr as guys in our program who could fill a weekend spot.
4. Josh Phegley had an outstanding 2008 campaign which saw him hit .438 with 15 homers and 80 RBI. What makes him such an outstanding hitter? How important is he to the Indiana pitching staff?
Josh is a very disciplined hitter who doesn’t swing at a lot of bad pitches. He has great strength and is tough to strike out. You always have to have the chemistry between the pitchers and catcher and he is working hard to be the more complete catcher this season. They have confidence that he can block any ball out of the strike zone.
5. What is your opinion the Big Ten switching from four game weekend series to the traditional three game sets played in most conferences?
I like it. It’s more representative of baseball across the country, so I’m in favor of it.
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?
Whatever is good for the betterment of college baseball as a whole I am in favor of, and I definitely think this is. I certainly think it has moved the playing field in the right direction. It hasn’t altered our schedule all that much in terms of practice and when we get outside, but what it has done is allowed our first game to be our opposition’s first game, where that used to be their 20th game.
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?
It really hasn’t affected us much. It makes programs be more committed to players finishing their careers because you have to invest a little bit more in players. I like that it was implemented.
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 think it works both ways. What I have found is that the process has accelerated the recruitment of kids, whereas the process should be slowing down. Kids have to be sure a program is a good fit and coaches need to be sure that kids are a good fit. The best way to do that is to have players come in on official visits, which is not allowed until their senior year. So in order for the process to work best, kids need to be committing later, but right now it seems to be going the other way.
9. Final question, who has been your biggest influence on your coaching philosophy or career?
I would say a combination of a guy named Jim Sliger – my first coaching job was in basketball with him – and my father-in-law, Lynn Darbyshire, who was an athletic director at Miami-Middletown, has had a great impact on my coaching philosophy. I’m sure not a lot of people have heard of them, but they shaped me quite a bit both as a coach and as a person.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Tracy Smith for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer these questions for us. Special thanks to Matthew Brady of Indiana Media Relations for setting up the interview and sending us the picture of Coach Smith. 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.