The College Baseball Blog is committed to bringing our readers some insight from coaches from around the nation. We continue our series of interviews with Temple’s Rob Valli. He is currently entering his fourth season in charge of the Temple program. The Owls finished 2008 with a fourth place finish in the Atlantic 10 conference and made their first postseason appearance since 2002. Valli came over to Temple after a highly successful run at Gloucester County College.
1. The Temple pitching staff returns eight pitchers from last season’s squad but only return one weekend starter in Matt Mongiardini. Who do you expect to fill the other two spots in the rotation?
Fortunately, we are returning our best starter from last season. We think having Matt take the mound on Fridays is a great way to begin a series. Sophomore righthanders Ben White and Steve Nikorak pitched significant innings as freshmen and proved they can win Atlantic 10 games. Freshman lefthander Dan Moller may have the best stuff of all of them, but only time will tell. We’ll use the four pre-conference weekends to sort it out.
2. Arshwin Asjes stepped into the closer’s role and gave the team 10 saves. Who do you expect to become the closer in 2009?
Junior Ryan Thomas has all the characteristics you want in a closer. He is a tough competitor who commands a live fastball with a plus slider. The only question is whether the other guys can consistently get the ball to him in the 8th or 9th with a chance to win. If not, Ryan will be prepared to transition into a starting role.
3. Kyle Obal has become your everyday starter behind the plate. What makes him such an outstanding player behind the plate?
Kyle’s work ethic sets him apart. He’s a 5th year senior who has worked hard for the opportunity to be an everyday starter. Kyle’s best tool has always been his arm strength. He’s made some adjustments in his swing and offensive approach that has allowed him to be a sparkplug in our lineup.
4. 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?
This freshmen class is the most talented in my three years at Temple. Dan Moller is a long, loose LHP with tremendous potential. Our goal is to put him in situations where he can be successful early in the season. We expect him to be an impact arm in our league, we’re just not sure how soon. Jabair Khan is an incredible athlete whose speed and strength can change the game at the plate, on the bases, and in the outfield. Taylor Juran is a left handed hitting catcher who will wait his turn behind two seniors, but shows signs of being an all-conference player later in his career.
5. 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 definitely think the uniform start was a step in the right direction to encourage a competitive balance throughout the country. I am also optimistic about the proposed RPI adjustment and the possibility of adding an additional week to the end of the season.
6. 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 am in favor of 25% minimum scholarship and maximum of 27 players on scholarship. This too will help level the playing field. Prior to the changes, college baseball was experiencing the trend of “the rich get richer.” It was easier for a successful, high profile program to sign talented players for less than market value while lesser programs would often times over pay in an attempt to remain competitive.
7. 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?
There is no doubt that coaches and recruits are forced to take the commitment more seriously. In previous years it wasn’t uncommon for coaches and/or players to enter into the NLI with a sense of “I’ll give it a try and if it doesn’t work out I can always….”
8. Final question, What team is going to be your biggest challenge to winning the Atlantic-10 title in 2009?
Believe it or not – Temple. Our biggest challenge may be our own ability to stay focused and compete throughout the entire season. Our success will depend on the ability of our eight seniors (all starters) to lead and perform in the games. Not to take anything away from our opponents – we have some great coaches and outstanding teams in our league. I truly believe we have enough talent and potential to play in the A-10 championship game. What happens at that point has a lot to do with the way the ball bounces.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Rob for checking in with us for the second straight year. Special thanks to Kevin Bonner of Temple Media Relations for setting up the interview for us. If any more coaches or SID’s are interested in doing a similar interview feel free to email us by clicking here.