Our friend Sam Wasson of BleedCrimson.net secured a great interview with New Mexico State head coach Rocky Ward. He discusses many different topics with his Aggie program from the APR to how the new start date will change his program. The full article is available here.
The College Baseball Blog recently had a chance to send some questions to Gary Gilmore of Coastal Carolina. Gary is entering his 13th season in charge of the Chanticleer program after a very strong 2007 season in which they went 50-13 and hosted the school’s first regional. They ended up losing the regional championship game to Clemson. Continue reading
REPRINTED FROM ROCK CHALK TALK
KU Baseball has been a new type of animal since the arrival of Ritch Price five years ago. When Price inherited the program the Jayhawks had struggled through five straight losing seasons and not made an appearance in the NCAA tournament since 1994. Under Price the Jayhawks have a record of 171-144-1 and fought their way back into the post-season by winning the Big-12 tournament in 2006. During this time Price has overseen tremendous improvements to the baseball facilities (almost entirely financed by private donor contributions) and watched two of his former players quickly reach the majors. Last month Price received a national pat on the back by being named one of Team USA’s coaches. KU has a nationally respected baseball coach who has transformed a dormant program into a player on the national scene. Continue reading
The College Baseball Blog recently had a chance to talk to John Cole who is entering his third season with the Penn Quakers. They won the Lou Gehrig division in 2007 but were swept by the Brown Bears in two games.
1. In 2007, Penn had a great season in the Ivy League by going 12-8 in the conference but finishing with an overall record of 20-19. The Quakers return a veteran squad as seven out of the nine starters from the 2007 Gehrig Division championship team return. Who is going to replace Joey Boaen (.310 BA) and Josh Corn (.288 BA) who have both graduated? Continue reading
We continue our recent series of interviews this week with Lelo Prado of South Florida. He is entering his second season with the Bulls after a very successful run at Louisville.
1) The South Florida Bulls had a 34-26 overall record and went 13-14 in the Big East. Matt Quevedo (4-3, 4.06 ERA) is the only returning starting pitcher as you lost Danny Otero (9-7, 3.32 ERA) and Chris Delaney (9-4, 4.00 ERA) but return closer Shawn Sanford to the squad. Who do you expect to fill Otero’s and Delaney’s spots in the rotation? If Sanford moves to the rotation who is going to fill the closer’s role? Continue reading
The College Baseball Blog recently had the chance to talk with Donnie Watson of Stephen F. Austin to discuss his program. He is entering his third season with the Jacks after taking over in 2004 when the school decided to bring the program back after an eleven year absence.
1. Stephen F. Austin finished the 2007 season with a 31-28 overall record after having a tough first season in 2006 which saw the Jacks struggle to a 15-41 record. Who has improved the most over the summer and during fall workouts? Continue reading
The College Baseball Blog recently had a chance to speak with Scott Stricklin. He is entering his fourth season at the helm of the Golden Flashes program. He led the team to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and a conference championship game appearance in 2006.
1. In 2007, Kent State had a solid record of 33-26 with an outstanding record of 19-8 in the MAC. This season you return seven out of your nine starters from your MAC championship and NCAA participant squad. Who do you think has improved the most during fall practice from 2007?
We had several guys make jumps this fall for us. Doug Sanders, our second baseman, came back in great shape and worked very hard to become more athletic. Conor Egan saw limited time in the outfield last season but has really improved and will be pushing guys for more at bats. Jason Patton was the MVP of the MAC tournament last spring and he has added some strength and is ready to have a great junior year. On the mound, Kyle Smith and Jon Pokorny really impressed us this fall. Both guys gained strength over the summer and they now have one college season under their belt. Steven Ross has come back from injury and looks like he is going to be ready to make a push for a lot of innings.
2. Chris Carpenter entered the 2007 season as your top starter in terms of talent. He had an up and down season where he went 4-1 with a 4.50 ERA. I heard that he had some issues in the Cape Cod League on his surgically repaired right arm. Is he going to be ready to hold down your Number 1 starter role when play kicks off on February 22nd against UNC-Greensboro?
When you look only at Chris’ numbers from last year, they do appear average. However, when he pitched his way back into our rotation, we started winning. We won 16 of our last 17 games going into the regionals and Chris was a big reason why. He is our best prospect in terms of a professional player but he is also our hardest worker. Our kids really look up to him and he makes everyone around him better. He established himself as our number one starter this fall and is much more comfortable on the mound. When he was pitching last season, he was coming off almost a two year break due to Tommy John surgery. He has found the command for his fastball and his breaking ball has really sharpened up. We are all looking forward to watching him finally be able to pitch at 100% every Friday this spring.
3. You lost your top catcher in Will Vazquez who started 56 games last season. You have four catchers on your roster including Cory Hindel who is transferring from Wake Forest. Has any of the four put a hold onto the position heading into Spring practice?
Losing a leader like Will Vazquez is always difficult but I’m very optimistic about our catching situation. Cory Hindel came in and had a great fall for us and established himself as our starting catcher. However, Tyler Martin also had a good fall and has worked extremely hard. Those two will be pushing each other for the majority of innings behind the plate.
4. 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 think too many coaches are excited about having a minimum scholarship put into effect. We are already short-handed with 11.7 scholarships and now we are being told how to spend that money. The roster limit of 35 will not affect us because we are operating with a 32 man roster right now but I know that it will impact a lot of other schools and players on those rosters. The other dynamic that will be difficult to handle on a yearly basis is the rule that stipulates that only 27 players on the roster can receive athletic scholarships. The uncertainty of the pro draft will make this a tough issue for sure.
5. Has any of your incoming freshman impressed you during Fall Workouts? Do you see any of them breaking into the starting lineup this season?
We were very happy with our freshman this fall and feel like several of them will make an impact for us. Ben Klafczynski had a very solid fall with the bat and made some strides defensively in the outfield. Brett Weibley came into the fall injured but was able to practice at the end of the fall. He showed a lot of athletic ability at 3rd base and is going to hit for a lot of power. We feel that both Ben and Brett have a chance to be a great players here. The two freshman pitchers that performed well were Justin Gill and Kyle Hallock. Both showed that they can locate their fastballs and have command of their secondary stuff. Cory Martin, another one of our left handed freshman, has really made some improvements this off season and we feel that he is going to get some quality innings.
6. What is your biggest challenge on and off the field in dealing with young men from 18-23?
There are always challenges when you are dealing with 32 different individuals on a daily basis. It’s certainly never boring around here! I think as a coach you can limit those challenges if you recruit the right type of kids. Talented players are great, but if they are going to give you constant headaches off the field, it’s just not worth it. Our kids are required to go to class and we check to make sure they do. They are all required to do at least five hours of community service to make sure they are giving something back. If my kids are busy doing the right things, they don’t have much time to do the wrong things.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Scott for checking in with us for the second straight year. If any more coaches are interested in doing a similar interview feel free to email us by clicking here.
The College Baseball Blog is continuing the series of interviews this week talking with Penn Head Coach John Cole. He is entering his second season with the Quakers. He comes from Division 3 power Rowan where he was the head coach for seven season including making the tournament in five seasons. His record was an outstanding 229-73. We would like to thank Coach Cole for doing this interview and hope that his Quakers have a great season in the Ivy League.
1) The Penn program is coming off a rough 12-27 overall record and a 7-13 record in the Gehrig Division of the Ivy League. The good part is that you guys return seven starters from the team including Joey Boaen (.349 average in 2006) and Josh Corn (.346 average in 2006). Do you expect any of the newcomers to make a major impact in 2007?
We have an excellent freshman class highlighted by lefthander Jim Birmingham (24th round Washington Nationals). They are an athletic group made up mostly of pitchers and middle infielders. These freshmen will have to mature quickly, as many will see time in the field and a large quantity of our innings on the mound will come from this group.
2) Penn Baseball finished in 2nd place in the Gehrig Division in 2006 behind Princeton. What is a logical expectation for your team and the Ancient eight conference?
Our expectations this year are high; however we know several teams are much more experienced at key positions. The advantage this year is going through the league once gives you a realistic view of what to expect from your team and the other teams in the league.
3) The uniform start date goes into effect next season, How will that affect your team in the future? Also, What are your thoughts on the rule change?
The uniform date will have no effect on our team or on our league. Our league rules prevent us from practicing before February 1st and playing before March 1st. We will hopefully have a little more equality with the good weather teams as far as the number of games played before our spring trip.
4) John, You were named the head coach of Penn on March 30th 2005. What is the biggest challenge you have faced with the move from Division 3 Rowan University to Division 1 Penn?
The biggest challenge in the Ivy League is to accommodate so many different schedules. The time requirements for classes and exams can really compress the day. You really have to be able to adjust and try to accommodate as many variables as possible. The four game weekends also put pressure on a pitching staff. You must be really deep on the mound or you can be in trouble by the end of the weekend.
5) What player or coach have you enjoyed working with the most during your career?
I have enjoyed working with many players and all the coaches that I have come into contact during my career. The passion for the game, a strong work ethic and great people skills seems to be the kind of people I really enjoy working with. I am really looking forward to the beginning of the 2007 season!
Fred Jordan of the Citadel was kind enough to answer some few questions about the upcoming season. The College Baseball Blog would like to thanks Coach Jordan and Melanie Long of the Citadel Media Relations department for taking the time to set up the interview. Coach Jordan is coming off a 34-27 season where they finished as the runner-ups in the Southern Conference Tournament.
1) The Citadel lost some key players up the middle. Do you have any players that have stepped up to take their places?
Freshmen Kyle Jordan and Bryan Altman will play at shortstop and second base. Junior Chris Swauger could move over to center from left field in some situations along with Chance Smith and Graham Couch. Conrad Kellahan, who got some starts at second last year, and freshman Matt Simonelli will provide some offensive depth in the middle infield.
2) The Citadel is returning two of the three weekend starters this season. You have two sophomores in Matt Crim and Wes Wrenn who were able to be solid starters in the Southern Conference last year. After reading the season preview, it is expected that Justin Smith will fill the third starter role on the weekend. Who do you think will be able to replace Smith in the bullpen?
Freshman Matt Reifsnider will work as our top set-up guy and is the number four starter. Brett Bull, Timmy Martin and Chris Boyce are our right-handed set-up guys, while Jamie Maxwell, Chris McGuiness and Nick Sprowls are our left-handers. Freshman Raymond Copenhaver is our sidearm specialist.
3) The uniform start date goes into effect next season, how will that affect your team in the future? Do you see your school hosting any more tournaments? Also, what are your thoughts on the rule change?
The new start date will affect every team the same. Everyone is going to have to play more Tuesday/Wednesday combos than in years past. We are still planning on hosting two tournaments in the beginning of the season as we have done for the last 12 years. The rule is hopefully going to improve college baseball as a whole, so if that is the case then I am in agreement with the decision even though we play in a warm-weather climate.
4) What team in the Southern Conference will provide the biggest challenge for the Bulldogs this season?
Western Carolina, Elon and the College of Charleston all have outstanding teams. Georgia Southern and Furman have plenty of depth in certain areas. The SoCon is by far the strongest it has been in my 15 year tenure. This could be the first year that we place three teams in post-season play.
5) Your son is an incoming freshman this season. What is the toughest challenge in coaching your son at the collegiate level?
The toughest challenge is not being overcritical of Kyle. We have established that our assistant coaches will handle the majority of the coaching.
6) What player or coach have you enjoyed working with the most during your long career?
I established a tremendous relationship with Jack Stallings at Georgia Southern at the end of his career and the beginning of mine. I still draw from his wealth of knowledge in many instances. I can’t pick one player that I have enjoyed working with the most. All players become part of my family so they are all very special to me.
7) What is the greatest challenge you face coaching at one of the top military institutes in the country?
The greatest challenge is educating the parents and student-athletes during the recruiting process of how beneficial a Citadel career and degree can be for their future. Development within the program is a key element to success in college baseball, but recruiting is the lifeline for your success.
We would like to thank Coach Jordan for taking the time to do this interview and hope him so good luck in this season and his career.
Mikio Aoki recently took some time out of his schedule to talk to the College Baseball Blog. Mik is entering his first season as the head coach of the Boston College Eagles. He was promoted from the Associate Head Coach position in June of 2006 when Peter Hughes went to Virginia Tech. The Eagles are coming off a 28-25 season (9-21 in conference).
1) Boston College returns six position starters from last year’s team. Who has stepped up to fill Dave Preziosi’s role as the leader of the team and at first base? Who do you expect to step in behind the plate?
Pete Frates will be our everyday CF and he has definitely stepped into take a leadership position on the team. Nate Jeanes has returned for a 5th year and is doing a very good job as the leader of the pitching staff. We also have a number of seniors on the team (I think 9) this year as opposed to just 3 last year and our seniors have been great in terms of leading the younger guys, in particular the freshmen. As far as 1B goes, coming out of the fall Mike Belfiore was the frontrunner for the job and I think he still is. Jett Ruiz and Tony Sanchez will be our catchers this year. Neither player has clearly separated himself as the number 1 guy, but that’s fine because both of them are very good players. I would expect the one who is not catching on a particular day to be our DH or even see some time at 1B.
2) Boston College is returning their entire pitching staff from last season including CCBL Co-Pitcher of the Year Terry Doyle. Has their been any freshman or newcomers to the program that will be competing for a starting or closer role?
The closer’s role is definitely the most unsettled role on our pitching staff and probably the entire team. I think that we have a number of quality arms that can step in and assume that role, but because Kevin Boggan was so good in that role for us for the past few years nobody has been put in that position of closing out games in a while. Boggan has moved into the starting rotation so we’ll have to determine who the closer will be as we progress. Ryne Reynoso and Matt Meyer would have been the co-closers this year but we lost them to the draft so we’ll have some auditions for it. Ted Ratliff, Dan Houston, Nick Asselin, Kurt Hayer, and Steve Cadoret have all pitched well in our scrimmages in the Bubble so far and they’ll all get a chance to see if they can win that job. As far as freshmen arms are concerned, I would say that Geoff Oxley, Mike Belfiore and Jimmy Cozza are probably closest to helping us although Trent Kavnagh pitched really well in Saturday’s scrimmage.
3) The uniform start date goes into effect next season, How will that affect your team in the future? Also, What are your thoughts on the rule change?
I’m not really sure how that is going to effect us, but my feeling is not very much. We’ve got a great indoor situation and we’re lucky to have an early spring break. The idea behind is a sound one. I really like the fact that we will have played a similar number of games to our conference opponents when ACC play opens up. We’ll play one three-game set in a tournament or a single opponent on that first weekend and then we’ll play about five games on our spring break trip before our ACC opener. The eight games that we will have played will be a very similar amount to whoever we open with, which is great. However, we’re really fortunate that our spring break begins as early as it does. We’re also incredibly fortunate to have the indoor situation that we do. The Bubble allows us to scrimmage live and really be prepared to go down south without having been outside and compete at a high level. For the majority of northern schools, they don’t have an indoor situation like we do and they have to play weekend to weekend until they can play outside at home. The lack of midweek games will still hurt them as they go south because by the middle of March, the southern schools will have been playing one or two midweek games since the starting date and will be up to 15 or more games while most northern schools will have only played about nine or so games. In addition, you have to count all of the scrimmages that southern schools will have been playing since February 1.
I really hope that the NCAA does not decide to lessen the number of games that we can play, which is a thought attached to the new legislation. Northern schools are used to playing two midweek games a week. We, at BC, have been accustomed to it forever. We graduate 100% of our players, and I’d say 95% of our kids graduate in four years. If a school like us, with the academic reputation and standards that we have, can get to 56 games without hurting graduation rates, everybody else can do it too. Look at Notre Dame, they’re doing it as well.
Yes, it creates some situations where you play games with an unfavorable pitching match-up for you and perhaps you lose a game that you “aren’t supposed to” but on the flip side, you’re developing some depth on your pitching staff. In the larger picture, you’re probably going to have to spread scholarship dollars around a bit more than southern schools are used to do doing to create depth on a pitching staff and maybe that results in more parody in college baseball. If that’s the case, I think it is really good for college baseball – parody has been a really good thing for hoops and it would be for us as well.
4) Boston College is in a Southern conference with many traditional powers in baseball like Florida State and Miami among others. What is a realistic goal of the program? Do you expect to make the CWS?
Obviously we’re going to always be in an uphill battle in recruiting because we are a northern school. BUT, I think we have a great niche. Academically, we are a great school, and now we play in the best baseball conference in America. Our closest ACC rival is 500+ miles away. So for kids in the Northeast and in particular New England, we represent a tremendous opportunity. Those kids, who want to get a great education and play college baseball at the very highest level, can do it while playing in their own backyard. I think we have a really good recruiting class this year. I feel very strongly that we got the majority of the best kids in New England that we could recruit from an academic standpoint. The couple of big names that committed elsewhere from up here that we could have gotten into school are kids that are going to go really high in the draft, and while we would have loved to have signed them, the likelihood of those couple of kids playing in college is very questionable. Our goals are the same every year and they are in chronological order for our season – 1. Win the Beanpot 2. Play in the ACC Tournament 3. Get to the NCAA tournament 4. Get to Omaha We play in a conference that will allow us the opportunity to accomplish all of those things. Our are challenges as a highly academic school in an northern climate more difficult than some other places. They might be – every place has its own challenges and obstacles. However, I know that when it comes to achieving goals – if you can’t say it and envision it, it isn’t going to happen. I believe it can happen here and once we get our new facility in the next year or so, we’ll be that much closer to it because one more hurdle will have been cleared.
5) When do you expect the new baseball facility to become a reality?
Within the next year or two. There’s a lot of red tape with the City of Boston and we at BC want to be good neighbors. The property values of the surrounding neighborhood are out of sight and we don’t want to just jam things down there throats. We want to work them and be aware of their concerns before we start putting shovels in the ground. I’ve seen the drawings that they have and the stadium will be first-class in every way and precisely what we need and the right fit for BC.
6) Mik, You were named the head coach of Boston College on June 8th, 2006. What is the biggest challenge you see yourself dealing with?
I think it has to be the recruiting aspect. BC is doing everything they can to ensure that we’re going to be competitive in the ACC so we’ve got to hold up our end of the bargain by recruiting great players and students. We’ve had a great track record of developing players here. I think we’ve had 18 players drafted in the past three years and only two of them had been drafted out of high school including Chris Lambert who came to BC undrafted and left as a 1st-rounder three years later. If we can recruit the right fit for BC, I think we’re going to be pretty good
7)What player or coach have you enjoyed working with the most during your career?
The player question is tough because I’ve been blessed to have been around truly great kids here at BC and during my other coaching stops. The coaching one is tough too but it has to Pete Hughes. He and I have been friends for 20+ years now and he’s one of my closest friends and he is like a brother to me.
The College Baseball Blog would like to thank Coach Aoki again for taking the time to do this brief interview. If you have any questions or comments send them to me here.