Interview with Lee University Flames Head Coach Mark Brew, at the NAIA Baseball National Championship in Lewiston, ID:
Bob Broughton: The fans here just got to see a pretty good ball game between Lee and Fresno Pacific.
Mark Brew: That was a great game. That’s what happens in the losers’ bracket, when you get two teams fighting for their lives, it gets exciting, the drama and things like that. Both teams played extremely well. Some big pitches, some big hits. [Chris] Warters got a big hit. He’s a senior All-American, and you sort of expect him to do those things. Javier Lopez was good on the mound, at the end, he’s also a senior All-American, and in the end, we had the right guys in the right positions. Also, Trey Burstrom, a junior second baseman, had a big, big double. He’s a nine-hole hitter, and he sort of got us going.
BB: You just got your 166th win. I haven’t looked this up, but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t at least one major league coach who didn’t get than many wins in three seasons.
MB: To me, that’s all superficial. We just want kids that buy into our philosophy. It looks good on paper, but at the end of the day, it’s the kids out on the field doing it. I’m not the one that’s swinging the bat, throwing the pitches, and making the plays.
BB: I’m wondering if your success over the past three years has gotten people paying attention. Are you getting any additional interest, media coverage?
MB: From the perspective of recruiting, we’ve been to three national championship tournaments. It’s gotten us on the national stage. As far as the NAIA national polls go, it helps us.
BB: Have you done any work on your schedule for next year?
MB: We’re full for next year. We’ve added Union (KY), a top ten team for the past few years, so we’re excited about that.
BB: I was looking at your impressive list of seniors. What do you think the likelihood is for these guys to get drafted?
MB: I think that the two key guys for the pro side are LHP Jeff Ibarra, who just pitched. He has good velocity, 88-90, he’s 6′ 6”, and the pros like left-handers. I think that [Brian] Bistagne has an outside shot to make it as a middle infielder/outfielder. I think that Julian Alvarez, our right fielder, tools-wise, is probably our best player. He’s a great runner, he’s got power, he’s got 16 home runs this year, he got a great arm, and a lot of people like it that he’s 6′ 3”. He’s a physical player, and I think he’s got a really good chance to get taken. Pablo Lopez and Warters have got an outside chance, maybe in the independent leagues.
BB: Your team went to the Dominican Republic.
MB: We went there last Christmas. It was a missions trip for our team, to get down there and work with some disadvantaged kids, and obviously the country is baseball-hungry. A trip like that makes our players appreciate what they’re doing here much more. The talent they have down there is pretty good. I’d like to bottle up a few of those kids and bring them back.
We’ve got a red-shirt freshman, Kris Dockery, who’s going to Nicaragua to play with Atheletes in Action this summer.
BB: One more question, and it’s an obligatory one for anyone in a position of authority around here. What do you think of the new playoff format?
MB: I think it’s awesome. Everybody has a chance to earn their way onto the field here. And if you look at the final poll, nine of the top ten teams are here, and Fresno was 13th, so they’re obviously no slouch. I think it was done right, and they got the right teams into Lewiston. Whoever wins this is going to have earned it.
BB: Under the old format, you and Fresno Pacific wouldn’t have been here this time.
MB: Yeah, you’re right. I think a revision needs to be made to freeze the final poll the week before the conference tournaments. How can you negate 55 games of baseball for one tournament?