Feb. 16, 2011
WACO, Texas - Baylor baseball head coach Steve Smith and four players discussed the upcoming season with members of the media on Wednesday afternoon at Baylor Ballpark.
Smith, Brooks Pinckard, Logan Verrett, Joey Hainsfurther and Landis Ware talked about the new bat standards and their expectations for the upcoming season:
Head coach Steve Smith
On what the impact of the new bat will be:
"I just think there can be a ton of impact in all different parts of the game. One of the early questions to the players kind of alluded to this: I am not sure many college players really know how to play the game. It has almost been get on base and then the next guy is swinging. The bat was such that anybody in the order pretty much on any given day could hit the ball out of the park. It created not just home runs, but quicker balls through the infield, much, much higher pop-ups than you would see off of a wood bat or even the bat we have now. So it made for more interesting plays in that regard. I am just excited for the players, I think they are going to get to learn how to play the game. I am excited as a coach to be able to maybe have more impact on the game, not just fold your arms and sit over there and just see what happens. There will be a little more strategy in play. I think the impact could be significant, beyond the obvious."
On what he thinks of the switch to the new bats:
"I thought this was going to be a good thing for the game. There are a lot of coaches that probably don't agree. I really think it has got a lot of positives. I think it would be like in golf if the technology would create a driver that would allow you to hit a ball 450 yards and you don't have to do anything anymore with your irons. You just eliminate them from the bag. That is what has happened in baseball. We've basically for all intents and purposes eliminated iron play and I think now we have got iron play back. The adjustment is as significant as if in basketball you raise the goal a foot and you narrowed the diameter of the rim. What adjustments would be made in basketball if those things happened? It would be significant. That is going to be the significance of adjustments that are going to have to be made in our sport as well."
On if he has a group that is ready to replace the graduated seniors:
"I think there has been more carry over from last year to this year and even from last fall to this spring than I have noticed before. Gregg (Glime) and Willie (Kempf) were exceptional leaders and I think their impact is still being felt within the team. Having said that, we have some really good guys. They are not unlike Willie and Gregg. They are not unlike a lot of the players that we have had, but I do think that their impact was definitely felt in the fall and I feel like there has been some carry over, not so much in the leadership question, but just in understanding how to play the game. We did some things in the fall from a practice standpoint that I think have had some carry over to the spring and they needed to, because you don't have very long to get ready."
On Joey Hainsfurther moving to catcher:
"Joey is a type-A personality. I am trying to help him become a little more type-B. What Joey and everybody in leadership at some point figures out is that they have to adjust to the people that follow them. Every pitcher that goes out there is a little bit different and unique. For sure every umpire that is going to stand behind him is going to be a little unique and I am as interested in watching that dynamic as anything. His performance and his ability to play that position is the most significant question on this club. Can he do it? Absolutely. The whole catch and throw part is very natural to him. I like the way he throws the ball. In terms of how, he does it as well as anyone we have had. He is accurate. He can throw like you would expect an infielder to be able to throw from different angles. He can catch the ball in different places and make the throw to first, make the throw to third or second. He is just a very athletic catcher with really good arm strength. The question is going to be catching the ball 120-140 times a game. He has never done that. I think it is probably one of the most underappreciated aspects of what a catcher does. We all notice it when they don't. We take it for granted when they do. I doubt we do that as well. I think we will see a little more running to the backstop then we have seen, but that is just a part of him learning how to do it. There is not an easy way to do it except to get out there and do it."
On playing someone with the talent level of Oral Roberts to start the season:
"Who knows how good anyone is? You get who you can play and hope they are good. Rob Walton is their head coach. He is a former Oklahoma State pitcher. He is a former professional guy. He is a good friend. He is an outstanding pitching guy. They will pitch. I promise you their pitchers love the bat and he can really help them in terms of pitch selection and how they will work hitters. It will be a real big challenge for us offensively. We will have to be very good pitching. They still have to go out and execute it, but he's outstanding and I think they are looking forward to playing ... I like it though because you find out who you are. You find out something about yourself and how good you really are ... You have to know what good is and you can't know what good is if you don't play somebody else that you expect to be good, so that is what we do."
On if he envisions Brooks Pinckard to have a similar role to his last year:
"At least at the beginning. That is one question I really pondered a lot. I used him in the fall. I started him a ton in fall. Every time he pitched in the fall he was starting. I did that to get him the experience in doing it, to see how he did it, to help him learn how to pitch more. I do think his future in baseball professionally is going to be on the mound. What that role will be professionally I don't know, but I think he has learned how to pitch a little bit. The reason I am interested to see him in this role to start with is because he did it last year and so let's give the guy an opportunity to see what that brings. He has had that experience. Now when he does it, it won't be a new thing for him. Plus, it fits what we need right now, but it may be not in a month. We may like him in a starting role, but we will play our way to that and see what happens."
On what Opening Day means to him:
"I can't remember every being not excited to play. I think I have described it in the past as being curious. When you are around the guys for such a long period of time and you get to see them perform in practice and intrasquads and things like that, I have in my mind what I think each guy is capable of doing based on what I have seen. That will change radically as the season progresses. For some guys, the game will make them better. The game will bring out the absolute best in them and they will rise up to a level that I didn't even imagine they could, and probably some will actually go the other direction. I am very optimistic ... I think these are the type of players that the game will bring out the best in them and so I am just curious to see if am right."
On what he thinks the fan reaction will be to the new bat:
"That is a question that got debated and bandied about amongst coaches - how would this be received by the fans? And I am sure that my answer is biased towards the bats, but I sort of think what fans want is an exciting finish to a game and they would rather not wait four hours for it to happen. That is my gut telling me that. I will say this though, I think that as time goes on the bat is going to become less of an issue ... I don't think it will take 10 years or 15 years for college players to adjust to this new bat. I don't think it will be that long and they will adjust to it. I don't think these two hour games are going to be the norm. I still think it will be a better game and I think it will be more like the professional game, in terms of everything: score, length, number of pitchers used, number of pitches thrown."
On his major concerns coming into the year, besides moving Hainsfurther behind the plate:
"Just replacing the innings on the mound. And I have less concern about that, number one because the bat is going to mediate some of that and number two, I like our pitchers. I would like our pitchers no matter what bat we were throwing against. I think we have some really good young arms that are throwing strikes and have good mentalities. I like that ... Everybody is going to have to deal with defending the short game more, but we have always worked that. We have always done it. We have always worked on defending the running game. We have always worked on defending the bunt ... But I think replacing those innings and just seeing how that situation evolves behind the plate, those would be the two red flags."
Junior C/IF Joey Hainsfurther
On his transition from infield to catcher:
"I think that helped me a little bit (playing infield). I think it transferred over footwork-wise, just trying to have quick feet back there. My arm transferred over pretty well. The biggest thing that coach Johnigan helped me with was just getting comfortable blocking. I knew how to block, but it is just one of those things that it took me a while to where it felt natural for me and it was an instinct. It has been fun working with him and he has helped me out a lot."
On stepping into a leadership roll on the team:
"Those are some big shoes to fill. I am not trying to live up to Gregg (Glime), I am just trying to create my own identity. So I am just trying to work with the guys and try to make the pitchers as comfortable with me as they were with Gregg."
On his personality when playing the game:
"I like to play the game aggressive. That's how I have always played it and how I was taught to play. I think I can use that to my advantage and I also think I can play the nice guy as well. Gregg did a great job at that, he was friends with all of the umpires so I look forward to trying to work with them."
Junior RHP Logan Verrett
On what the team has taken away from the past two postseasons:
"We have been disappointed the past two years going to regionals and playing some pretty tough games, playing hard but coming up short. I think we just take away from those past two years that you aren't done until the game is over. We have taken some innings off and we have paid the price for that, but down at the end of the season you have to fight for every little run, every little strike, and I think we have learned that and we have tried to instill that in the young guys who don't really know the difference between a high school schedule and a college schedule. So we are just trying to take that persona and teach the young guys and run with it."
On the new bats:
"It is great. I think we are kind of getting our game back. It is going to be more of get the lead off man on and get him over and then find a way to get him in. There are not going to be as many back-to-back doubles scoring runs, or leadoff walks and the next guy hits a triple. I think it is going to be a difference in pitch selection as well, for a number of pitchers. You are going to see a lot more fastballs and the game is going to go a little bit quicker than it used to."
On how the team is going to have to adjust to the bats:
"I think we have been a little bit spoiled with the bats that have been used. At the big league level they have the wood and that is what we all are preparing for at this stage. And now it's not going to be as much of an adjustment. Going from college with the bats we use here to the wood or even the summer ball where we play wood bats, you can kind of make that adjustment where you have to learn to play small ball, or you have to learn to pitch differently to the batters because of the type of bat that they are swinging. Now I think that pitchers and everyone that is using them are going to be able to make that adjustment now instead of later in their careers when it is almost too late."
Senior SS Landis Ware
On the new bats:
"When we first started using them in the fall, there was a big difference, in terms of what it felt like, what it sounded like. The more we're using it, I think there's still a difference, but we're kind of getting used to it. It's not like, 'I should have done this, I should have done that.' It's still baseball, and hits are hits. Every team has to use them, so it's still the same game. It's not that bad. We're getting used to it."
On being picked fourth in Big 12 preseason coaches poll:
"We're always picked to finish pretty close to there. We feel we could finish No. 1. That's our goal. Fourth isn't a bad spot. Some people think we're good, some people think we're not as good as we feel. But we're kind of in the middle of the pack, so nobody's really shooting for us for being on the top. It's going to be a tough league, and we don't mind that pick at all. We feel like if we play the way we want to and we should, we'll be right there, if not higher.
Junior OF/RHP Brooks Pinckard
On deciding not to turn pro after last season:
"I'm very excited. I was really glad that I did come back. I felt like I really needed to. I've got a great group of friends here, and a big goal of mine is to win a conference championship. We didn't do that last year or the year before. Hopefully this year we can take care of that"
On if he sees himself in the same role this season:
"I think so. They were trying to expand my innings a little bit, get my stamina up a little bit, so I can throw back-to-back days if I need to, compared to last year, when I needed to take a day off in between. So hopefully that'll work out this year and I'll have some more innings in me as well"
On the changes with new bats:
"It takes away some of the power that I had, if I had any. But just getting the ball on the ground or hitting any line drives in the gap and stuff. It helps with the bunting game for sure."
On starting the season Friday:
"It's exciting. I actually told Landis coming back from breakfast that I got pretty nervous today. It's the first time I'd gotten nervous so far. We're just looking forward to it. It's a big day. We've been looking forward to it all fall and after we got back from Christmas as well. We're just going to see how it plays out and have a great season."