The College Baseball Blog continues our series of interviews with coaches around the nation today with Indiana head coach Tracy Smith. He is entering his fifth year in charge of the Hoosiers program after spending the previous nine seasons with Miami (OH). Smith led the Hoosiers to the Big Ten Tournament title for the program’s first conference title in 13 seasons. Indiana was put into the Louisville KY regional where they went 0-2 with losses to Louisville and Vanderbilt.
1. Indiana finished last season with a 32-27 overall record and 16-7 in Big Ten play. What are your expectations for the 2010 season?
With the amount of talent we lost from last year because of graduation and the draft we expect a drop off. How much? We’re not sure yet until we see the young guys compete. It’s tough to replace seven drafts.
2. The Hoosiers return Blake Monar to the weekend rotation while losing Eric Arnett and Matt Bashore. Who will fill those two spots in the rotation?
Really not sure at this point. There’s a good chance it will be someone with limited or no experience at the D1 level.
3. Indiana lost catcher and offensive stalwart Josh Phegley to the 2009 MLB Draft. Who do you expect to step into his leadership role behind the plate and at the plate?
We have a great battle shaping up behind the plate between Josh Lyon, Dylan Swift and Wes Wilson. All three of those guys bring something different to the table, so it is making our job tough. The early part of spring will allow us time to find out which guy wants the job.
4 Chris Squires recorded eight of the team’s ten saves last season. Do you see him making the transition to the starting rotation or staying in the backend of your bullpen?
Ideally we would like to keep him in the bullpen. However, it’s still unclear as to whether or not we have enough depth with starting pitching to keep him as the closer.
5. Have any of the incoming freshmen impressed you during Fall Workouts? Do you expect any of them to break into the starting lineup/rotation this spring?
I thought Walker Stadler (RHP) really threw well towards the end of fall ball. If he continues to develop he should get considerable innings for us. In the field, guys were really up and down. They need to bring more consistency to their games.
6. The Big Ten is getting stronger every season with Minnesota and Ohio State each winning games in the 2009 Regional round. What team is going to be the biggest challenge to winning the 2010 Big Ten title?
Certainly those two programs are going to be tough as they return some key veterans. I think Illinois will be strong, and Michigan signed some good freshmen, so they will be back up there too.
7. Indiana sent players in the summer of 2009 to the Cape Cod Baseball League and the Great Lakes League to just name a few. How do you decide
where to send your players during the offseason?
We just try to match the team’s need with the player’s abilities.
8. We have now been through two seasons with the Uniform Start Date being in effect. What is your early opinion on the rule change?
I was okay with it even though it still wasn’t great. We still play our first 15-20 games on the road. However, since the NCAA added another week on the front, I really have been struggling with the logic of that decision. Everybody says it’s better than what we had, but I say, “that still doesn’t make it right.”
9. 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?
Overall, I think it is a good rule for college baseball. It makes teams be more selective in the players they offer scholarships to.
10. 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 it forces coaches to be more selective. At the same time, student-athletes should be identifying the real factors when choosing a school, because, as you have pointed out, the consequences are greater if a student-athlete makes a mistake.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Tracy Smith for taking some time out of his busy schedule and doing this interview. Special thanks to Matt Brady of Indiana Media Relations for setting up the interview. If any other schools would like to be featured in a similar article feel free to send me an email by clicking here.