bleedCrimson.net will be conducting weekly interviews with Aggie baseball head coach Rocky Ward throughout the 2008 season as the Aggies open their third season in the WAC. In this week's interview Coach Ward talks about the changes that were made by the NCAA in the offseason, his non-conference schedule, his two new assistant coaches and the team's goals for the upcoming 2008 season.
bleedCrimson.net: First off, for the fans who might not be familiar with college baseball, what are some of the differences between college baseball and say minor leagues or major league baseball?
Rocky Ward: Well, if you want to equate quality at the level we're playing at, Division I quality baseball is somewhere between high 'A' ball and 'AA, that's an opinion. Pro baseball has rookie leagues, 'A', 'AA', 'AAA' and the major leagues, college baseball plays somewhere in the middle of that as far as quality goes. The major difference is that we play in really different seasons. We play sandwiched in the middle of the spring semester of the traditional bi-semester school year where obviously major league baseball starts in April and plays through the summer. a year ago we started in late January and if you went all the way to Omaha you played through the middle of June. They've made some major changes this year in our scheduling, we're not allowed to start playing baseball games until the last weekend of February and we'll still play through late June. In essence condensed the season down from a potential 16 week season to a 13 week season and moved the season back a couple of weeks in the process.
bc.net: That was one of the big changes in the offseason, in addition, they're giving you 45 days in the fall semester to do individual and full team practices, can you talk about that change?
RW: That's been a fluid situation for the last 10 years, if you go back even longer than 10, if you go back to the late 80's when I was playing at Oklahoma State in the mid to late 80's there weren't really any practice restrictions, you practiced when you wanted, where you wanted. There weren't any game restrictions in the mid 80's then the NCAA came down with the 56 game limit in the late 80's and since that time there have been tweaks on average every other year to the point where they restricted practices down to 20 hours a week maximum and you had to keep records of that. That was when you were in season. Then offseason at one point in the early 90's you could only work with players two hours a week in groups of three or less and expanded that later to groups of four or less and those weren't just baseball rules, those were basketball and all sports rules. In the last couple years they've given us a little more freedom back we still in our offseason are only allowed two hours a week in instructional work but we can do it in any form we want. We can have all the players there at one time or we can work with them in broken up groups. So it gave us some of our flexibility back. At one point when we were only allowed four players or less and only two hours a week per player, that's not much requirement for the player but coaching staffs were wearing themselves out trying to get all the work done that needs to be done. Maybe in a lot of cases 30 to 40 hours a week on the field that doesn't include all the other responsibilities. Our hours are already kind of crazy but that forced us to work 60 to 80 hours weeks in order to get done everything that needed to get done.
The rule as it stands right now is you're allowed 132 practice or playing days a year and so what you do is you go to your last potential game, what would be the championship game of the conference tournament and you work backwards to when you want to start and you block those games off and then whatever days you have left, whatever balance you're able to use during the fall. The only change this year is that they limited when you could do that work in the fall. You still have the same number of days, but you have to do it in September, October November in those three months and you had to do it in a 45 day window. It looked more restrictive at first, but the end result was that it didn't impact things that much. I think they [NCAA] were just trying to maintain some sort of consistency. I'll give you an example, Fresno State didn't practice at all in the fall. They used all of their days starting right after Christmas. Obviously teams in the northeast can't do that. So it was a competitive advantage that some people perceive. I could have done that as well because the weather is good enough down here but I didn't see the value in waiting that long to assess your full talent pool. We feel like in the fall we bring our kids in that are obviously scholarship kids, recruited kids and returning players that we already have a good idea of but there's always a group of kids, walk on kids or kids that you're giving an opportunity to make the ballclub you need to make an assessment on but you need to make that assessment pretty quickly and we always use the fall to do that.
bc.net: As far as some of the other changes that were made in the offseason, the pro signing date was moved to August 15th, how does that affect college baseball in general and how does it affect schools like NMSU?
RW: It impacts all of us to a certain extent. The people it's really impacting were the traditional schools that are going to the regionals, super regionals and playoffs. We've been there a couple times but we're still building a program trying to get to a point where we can be consistent doing that. But those teams, I know the teams I played for at Oklahoma State, it was a problem because we were playing in regionals and in the national tournament when we were being drafted. So competitively you're getting ready to play a regional game to go to Omaha and you're drafted in the first round getting ready to become a millionaire and coaches were really concerned how it affected players psychologically and it did. I played on a team when Ventura and Ferris were first round draft choices, now granted back then a first round draft choice could expect a $50,000 to $100,000 paycheck, now a first round draft choice can expect a $2 million, $3 million or $4 million paycheck, there's a big difference. Still, psychologically it was really just a bad time to have it in the middle of a college season. The August deal is a great thing because guys can finish the college season and not be influence by the professional people. One of the things that dad [Gary Ward] always struggled with at Oklahoma State was pro scouts were all over us trying to talk to players trying to assess what they call his signability. First round draft is first round draft but they need to find out whether or not if they draft John Smith in the 8th round whether or not he'll sign a contract or return to school those type of things they're concerned about getting established. That'll eliminate a lot of those problems. It'll really be better in the long run for professional baseball because what they were doing, they have short season 'A' ball, they call it short season baseball because they don't start until mid June. It was a league specifically designed for all the new drafted players to go into. They play half a season. I don't know what they're going to do. I assume they'll eliminate the short season 'A' ball. That'll be better off because guys are coming off a long college season going right into high pressure, playing a game you love for a job all of the sudden and there were a certain number of guys that didn't transition well. In particular, even the high school kids who were drafted, it's the same thing. It's good for them to have an offseason period of time. If they're going to go in August maybe they'll play a short 30 or 40 game season with those guys. I don't know if that's been established or not. It's a good thing.
bc.net: One of the other things they've changed is the 35 player roster limits and the scholarship allocations.
RW: If you take the scholarship minimums, it really doesn't impact us very much at all. The people it impacts are the colleges that are in major cities that have a lot of players of their caliber right around there. Arizona State is a good example. For a long time they'd sign a bunch of kids around their area for just books which really equates to about a 4 or 5 percent scholarship. The kid got the prestige of signing a national letter of intent with their local school but they weren't really given anything except a chance. And what really happened, those schools in those types of cities, ASU is just an example and there are a lot of them, a lot of those schools in what is an argumentative ethical thing were doing that to take players off a board, they'd sign these kids to book scholarships with no intention at all of those kids every playing for them. That kind of eliminated that. I think that's good. Clearly there's special cases where it may be a negative in the long run it's probably a lot better off.
Now the other side of it, the roster limitation, it may or may not impact us. The limitation, you don't have to meet that roster size until the first game or a week before you open the season. This year will be tough because we have several players, we have a lot of kids who are redshirting and we have a lot of kids that may not be playing this year but we are fully expecting to influence the ballclub a year from now and you end up sometimes in situations like that where you have a large roster and your roster isn't necessarily for this year but it's a two year roster because of how things worked out. But really anyway you look at it, even with as big as our roster is this year we would have met the limitation when it came down to spring. It's not a real big issue.
The two rules are combined to do the same thing. The rules are there to help baseball's APR but that's a whole other conversation. Let's put it this way, the NCAA thought that some of these types of things where there's just signing kids for small scholarships and then moving them out to junior colleges would be eliminated to a certain extent by APR because you sign a kid and move them to junior college you lose some points. Well it hasn't worked that way, in some cases it has but in a lot of cases it hasn't. Some of the big schools have just pretty much ignored it, now I think they've ignored APR and eventually it's gonna really hurt them. But you've got to understand when APR came in five years ago we had the general concept of it but they've just in the last six months have really established what the penalties are going to be. We've worked under the APR for three or four years without any understanding of what they were going to do from the standpoint of a penalty system. We knew what the short term penalties were, if you had a player that if you were under 925 in the APR and you had a player that was ineligible and left your program, you not only lost the player but you lost a scholarship for a year and that's what people have been reading about and most people that read about APR don't understand it. They just read Hawai'i lost 1.17 scholarships, they don't know why or how, Fresno lost 1.17 last year, there's a new report out now that we show up on, we lost .13 scholarships, that's a whole different story in itself. We're losing it because a kid came to NMSU, did a couple things he shouldn't have done, and in the process decided he didn't want to stay and so he went back home. What am I supposed to do about that? He happened to be on scholarship, he came in, stayed for two weeks and went home. He didn't flunk out, technically he did because he enrolled in school and then disenrolled, I thought it was a bad interpretation but I couldn't do much about it. There's a lot of small things about APR.
The 25% minimum scholarship was thrown in there for APR. These guys think they can sign a kid to a 4% book scholarship and then if he leaves they only lose 4% scholarship, fine, we're [NCAA] going to make them give 25% so now if the kid comes in and they ship him out then it's a bigger bite and that was kind of the essence of it. The roster limitations were set on the same side, if you're going to sign 10 kids at 4% scholarships, if the 25% doesn't reduce you down, we're going to reduce your squad down so you can't do that. You're not going to be able to get the 10 kids, it becomes a numbers problem. So this whole thing is "in progress" we get information about it day by day. Braun Cartwright is our compliance officer and he is fabulous. He really keeps us updated on what the NCAA is doing and the things that we can do to improve.
What you've got to understand is that my ballclub for the last two year has a GPA just under 3.0. We've put all kinds of kids on the academic All WAC team and we've done that for several years here yet our APR isn't at 925 yet, we'll be there within a year. It's really important for people to understand, the one thing that bothers me is I'm going to show up on this list and people are going to look at list and say NMSU lost .13 of a scholarship, this must've been a bad kid that flunked out and they didn't do a good job. It's really all negative. In a lot of these cases, let's just put it this way. The APR system is a system that a 4.0 kid can be ineligible. That's just crazy, it's just nuts but that's the way it is. There's more information that's getting out there but a lot of people don't understand a lot of the rules we have to deal with. This isn't just about grades. This is also about progress towards degrees, there's good students you lose points from. NMSU is a great example, there's a lot of kids that come in from all over the country into a great engineering program. The engineering program is difficult and there'll be kids that come and want to be an engineer and after two years say "you know what, this is tough and I want to do something else. I want to be an accountant" which is obviously another very high level type degree but when they transfer from one degree to another, they lose hours. Some of the classes they took in engineering don't count towards accounting. All of the sudden you end up with a 3.0 or 4.0 student who might be ineligible for a semester. In baseball because we're a single semester sport, we've had several kids over the years who were ineligible for the fall meaning they were ineligible to play in a contest but by rule they were eligible to receive scholarship, practice and do everything else. So it was kind of a phantom ineligibility. They may be six hours short of receiving their next degree percentage and they'd pass 12 hours with a 4.0 and they'd be eligible for the spring but I'd lose a point off a kid like that.
One of the big issues we have in baseball is because of the draft and because kids can be drafted out of high school and junior college, you have pro scouts out there all the time trying to convince kids to go to junior college instead of four year school because it maintains their draft status. I don't know how many times I've been told by a kid "Coach, I'm going to Cochise [Junior College] instead of coming to New Mexico State". I ask them why but I already know what the answer is. "My scout told me that if I go to Cochise and have a good year next year he's going to draft me." Well okay, that's pie in the sky and you have to go back to them and say if you come to New Mexico State play three years until your next draft status in a program that has quality facilities and quality instruction and I promise you in three years you'll be much better prepared player to play pro ball. What kids don't understand is with professional baseball it's a very very short window. When you get into it, you don't have six years to make it. It depends on the organization and it depends on what position you play but every year you've got a new draft with 1500 more players of which about 500 or 600 players get signed that means that there are 500 or 600 kids who are cut. When you get into professional baseball you have to be physically and mentally at your peak and prepared to make it. There are so many young kids at 18 or 19 that have great talent but aren't socially or psychologically prepared to make it. So there are a lot of issues. A lot of kids end up in junior college because of this. When you transfer from junior college to four year school, even if you take all real quality core classes a lot of hours don't transfer. And so a kid transfers from junior college, a 3.5 junior college student, maybe a 3.5 high school student, went to junior college, not because of grades but because a pro scout convinced him he needed to go there to maintain his draft status, after two years he didn't make the progress the pro people want so they let him go and he moves on to Division I baseball, but in the transfer process you have a 3.5 student that after two years has to have 40% of his degree completed and may only have 38%. There's a lot of cases like that.
bc.net: With those new roster limits and scholarship allocations affecting the bigger schools, will it positively impact the smaller schools like NMSU in the recruiting in maybe getting some of that higher graded talent?
RW: Yeah I believe it will. I just think it will take a long time it. It won't happen next year, maybe two or three years down the road. I think those big schools will still make an effort, instead of giving a kids books, they'll try to get him to walk on. The prestige, the local institutions like Arizona State have, they go back a long way with their history, they've got a couple national championships under their belt and things like that. They'll still make a strong effort to get kids to walk on but some of that will be controlled by the roster limitations. That's probably why the two rules were combined. One to have control of the scholarships and two to have control of those kids they're trying to get to walk on.
In the long run it'll help the kids. It'll help players get in better places. I grew up around the Oklahoma State program. I grew up all my life wanting to be a Cowboy. I was fortunate enough to have been good enough to do it. But there were 500 other kids in the state who wanted to do it and dad was the type of coach who only took a player, even if he was a walk-on, he only took a player if he really thought they had a legitimate chance to play. Other coaches don't they take anybody, all comers and let them weed themselves out. And then kids end up in these programs with two choices, one transfer to junior college and try to reestablish themselves or just become students and quit baseball. That's an ethical question that's been thrown around a lot among coaches over the years and to an extent I think these rules will help all of us but it should help players. There are kids out there, and I'm picking on Arizona, but there are kids in Arizona that grow up wanting to go to one of those two programs and they'll go there for nothing and then they'll sit around. Some of them make it but most of them don't and I think you'll end up with more kids that'll be forced into making more logical decisions instead of emotional decisions and that'll be good for us and a lot of people.
bc.net: It's been a busy offseason for you, you added a couple of new coaches in the summer, Chase Tidwell and Tom Rosati. What can you tell us about those two coaches and what benefits have you seen so far?
RW: The number one benefit is that we have in Chase Tidwell a legitimate pitching coach and recruiting coordinator. He's been head coach at Laredo Junior College. Coaches in junior college have to do it all. They have to recruit, they've got to fundraise, they've got to work on the field. He's done his work and he knows how to work. The real benefit is I've got a guy that has a good quality system that he can work with the pitching staff and that's been one of the issues with our program is consistency in that area. Not just in performance pitching wise but in pitching coaches. It got to the point where I got frustrated enough that we really didn't have the funding to go out there and grab one of the guys who were already established, we had to go find a young guy that might become a pretty good pitching coach, you had to train them. That's why few years ago I called my dad and said "Dad, you're retired, bored to death, driving mom nuts, why don't you come be my pitching coach?". He's been known nationally as a hitting guy but he also pitched and caught at NMSU, those were his positions. He just happened in his career to find better pitching guys as assistants so he took over the offensive side and he did a good job in those areas. But what this has done with Chase coming in and being a legitimate pitching coach and recruiting coordinator it's allowed dad to work on the side that he loves to and that's hitting. The way the staff's set up, Tom Rosati is a pitcher that pitched for Yavapi Junior College when dad was coaching there 30 years ago and he's coached in college and spent the last 20 years in Georgia as a high school coach. Right now what we have is for the first time we have two guys with experience working with a pitching staff and two guys with experience working with my offensive club. We feel like what we've got from a staff standpoint is we've got things covered a lot better. What it allows me to do I obviously continue to deal with my offensive club but it allows me to spend more time with my defensive players. That's kind of the third thing in the game, pitching and hitting are the two major aspects but defense is pretty important it's just overlooked sometimes. It allows me as a head coach to spend more time with my defensive players and developing a better defensive club than we've had in the past.
bc.net: Coming into this season you have another player named to the Wallace Watch list, Joseph Scaperotta. This is at least the second consecutive year that you've had a player named to the watch list. Can you talk about that and what it means for the program?
RW: Actually we go back seven straight years. The Wallace List is fairly new, going back, Ryan Kenning, Billy Becher, Mark Aranda, Luke Hopkins, Adam Harvey and now Scaperotta. It is a big deal in the program. You're working towards two things within a program. You're working towards team success but individual successes is equally important to the growth of a program. If your team's success isn't quite what you want it to be you can still hang your hat on what you've done with individual kids and what they've done on an individual basis for individual success.
It's important and when it's all said and done, you might end up adding another guy or two to that list. Marcus Quade who led the nation for the longest hitting streak is a kid who might show back up on the list. Richie Stout at 2B is a kid that came in here at midterm last year as kind of an unknown but he's well known in the league and if he opens up the year pretty good, he's the type of kid who might go out and steal 40 bases and might be the better leadoff guys. When you're looking at Wallace Award you're looking at guys who might steal 30 or more bases, guys might hit .400, guys that might hit 20 or more home runs and I think we have a couple guys that can do that.
bc.net: One of your alums, Brian Gausman signed a free agent contract with the Royals, and you've had a few players drafted over the past few season. Can you talk about the impact that has on your recruiting when you're able to walk into a player's homes and tell them that if they come to State that there's a chance that they can progress to the next level?
RW: It's a major impact. Again individual success of players is important to parents and future players. They want to feel like they have a program that they can come into and grow and then get benefit from it and in the 11 years I've been at NMSU we've had more players drafted than in the previous 40. We're proud of it, we feel like a lot of those players are players we've developed from undraftable guys to draftable guys.
bc.net: You had one of your biggest recruiting classes this season with a total of 17 guys. Can you talk about the class a little bit?
I think it's a very solid class where we have added five or six pitchers that potentially have a chance to be long term performers here and eventual draft choices. The early signing period always comes with a problem and that problem is they haven't been through the draft so we have to wait until August to see if they're going to come to school or not.
bc.net: Let's talk about the schedule you've got this season, you go to Fresno for the Fresno State Invitational, you've also got four games against New Mexico and two against Texas Tech that really highlight your non-conference part of your schedule as well as a four game series at home against Ball State and New Orleans to open the season. What are you looking to get out of the non-conference with evaluation and obviously wins?
RW: What really looking at is, our pitching staff, what'll be the key for us early is the fact that [Jason] Connor, [Tyler] Sturdevant and [Sebastian] Vendette all return from injury and how well they pitch early and how well they get back into to the game because Sturdevant hasn't pitched in two years and Connor got hurt early in the season last year so he's not as far off of it. But, Sturdevant has had plenty of time to rehab but Jason Connor is a little bit more of a concern because of how recent the surgery was. Sturdevant will be healthy but we're concerned with how well he'll adjust psychologically getting back into pitching. Connor psychologically will be fine, we're just concerned when he starts going and going full as a pitcher that things will be good [phsyically]. So we'll be holding our breath a little bit the first couple of weeks when those two take the mound.
Vendette is a kid that pitched halfway through the season but he had an injury that we just couldn't get diagnosed. The crazy thing about Sebastian was that he had offseason elbow surgery before he came to us that we knew about but what had happened to him is they just went in through the triceps and did a little cleanup on the elbow. When they sewed him up they either missed a stitch or a stitch broke and what ended up happening was they had to go back in and suture his triceps back together. They kept looking at the structure of the elbow and not at the muscle and the whole time where they had cut to do the surgery hadn't repaired. It was quick little easy surgery with a three or four week rehab but we lost him for the second half of the season because it took so long for people to find out what it was.
Those three guys returning early in the season along with [Heath] Goin and [Oliver] Webster, [Kent] Williamson and [Jacob] Wilson as four new quality pitchers, we'll really be paying attention early at how well we pitch. We think we have enough returning people on the position playing side and with three or four really good quality added offensive players, we think we'll be back to what people expect out of the Aggie offense. The last two seasons have been below par, two years ago mainly because of injury and last year because of inexperience. If you go back and reevaluate last year's club we were really looking to rely on Sturdevant, Connor and Vendette to carry us as a pitching staff early in the season while our offense got established. Those guys were all hurt so all of the sudden our offense had to play early in the season under pressure all the time and they just weren't quite prepared to deal with that and I think it burned some of them out later in the year where they're just saying "geez we gotta go out and score 10 runs each game" and I'm telling them "guys that's what's expected of the Aggie offense." As a coach I might have pushed them a little too quick but I didn't have much of a choice, we were so injured on the mound that we had to go do it and these guys will benefit from that and the offensive side of the game will be much improved.
We think we'll go score some runs and we're hopeful that our injured guys will return to form and that the new guys will pitch well and continue to get better and if they do we're going to have a very good baseball team, much better than we've been able to put out the last couple of years. The concern is the fact that our schedule is very very difficult. With the two against Texas Tech and when you get down to our conference schedule we have 17 games against Hawai'i and Fresno State, the two traditional top of the heap teams. That's the way the cycle works with scheduling but what we do with those guys will be pretty important. That's kind of part of the season that we went ahead and went out to Fresno in the non-conference schedule [Pepsi Johnny Quick Tournament]. It's unusual to play a conference team in a non-conference game and I've always kind of avoided that but I think that the series we play against Fresno later in the year will be I think a pretty important and I want my ballclub on that field for a week and I get the opportunity to do that [with the tournament].
New Orleans to open will be a quality club, Ball State, they've been down the past couple years but three or four years ago they've were a regional team. The real concern we have more than anything is we're trying to do this in three less week. We're playing four or five days out of the week and playing doubleheaders. College baseball up until this year as a whole did everything it could to not play doubleheaders. It's just a long day on the field. History says that if you look at doubleheaders that most doubleheaders are split, regardless of the talent just because you've gotta stay hooked up. It tough, you play the first game, win or lose, you've gotta play 20 minutes later it's really hard to separate the two psychologically. Especially if you lose, you've got to erase that because the first game has no influence on the second game. Part of the reason for the splits is that the winning team has just won and then they relax and don't play as well in the second game. It's a psychological thing. It's something you try hard as a coach to keep from happening and I've been pretty successful as a coach over the years.
bc.net: Your conference season includes games against Fresno State, who's being picked by just about everyone as the preseason favorite, they're also ranked 21st in the preseason poll by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper, Nevada and Hawai'i who also received votes, what are your goals for the conference season?
RW: I'm a really optimistic guy and there are times that the media gives me a hard time about it but I don't think you can coach and compete in any other way. Dad always asked him what they were going to do and he would say "we're going to go 56-0". The odds against it are, well, it's never been done but I think that's how you have to approach the year. The goals, the realistic goals are for us to play in the middle of this league and get ourselves to the conference tournament. We've always been, and maybe that's part of the tradition I bring to the table in the Ward family, Ward coached ballclubs have always done well tournament time. We've been there a lot, we've played in a lot of big tournament through the history, me as a player and a coach and same with dad, once we get there we do well.
The real thing that people really miss in the evaluation stage is that this is now our third year in the WAC. We've gone through the first two years, the first round through all the playing locations. The first two years in any league are difficult. You're going to new facilities, new hotels, you're trying to learn new ballclubs and their style and things like that. The first two years we played in the Sun Belt we didn't do well, we didn't make the conference tournament either of two years and then the third year we go to the conference tournament and we win it. There's something to be said about the experience of knowing how a league operates. I think it goes all the way down to umpires. Umpires don't know you. People think that's an odd statement but umpires know the way ballclubs play and they react to that stuff. I think there were a lot of calls in the first two years that were made against us because they don't recognize that style. We have more check swings called against us because we're a lower body hitting system and the bat doesn't come close to passing the front of the plate but because the lower body is already rotated it looks that way. It takes me a while with umpires to explain, quit looking at the legs of the hitter and look at where his bat is, that's what the rule says, eventually we've had less and less of them called against us. I'm looking at it in that the second time around the league is obviously playing the top two traditional guys in the league so often but it's also an opportunity if you go and play well against those people, then it's going to prepare you for games against the other guys. You don't just play for league titles in baseball, you play for power ratings. You play to put yourself in a position so that you can play in the conference tournament which gives you the opportunity to win it and get the automatic bid into the [NCAA] tournament. You also play throughout the year to gain enough power rating so that if you don't, even if the ball bounces a bad way in the finals and you lose, that you can still get in. That's what we did in '02 and '03. We won it [conference tournament] in '02 and then in '03 we finished half a game behind South Alabama and even though we got beat in two very close games, we had enough power rating to qualify as an at large bid.
In 2002 the team that won the conference tournament and went to the regionals, we'd taken a baseball team that had never in it's history qualified for a conference tournament. We took a team and we kind of broke our own form by a mile. We did things that nobody thought could be done and then we replicated that in '03. It was so difficult to get there and it's so difficult to maintain a quality program. During that period of time we still had no clubhouse, we still had bits and pieces of an okay baseball facility. Where we stand right now, we have decent facilities, we have a nice clubhouse for our kids but we're still the worst facility in the WAC. Those are the kinds of things that we're recruited against all the time. You've got to get lucky on a couple players, you've got to work your tail off, you've got to work circles around your opponents. Eventually success brings those rewards. That's what's been the neat thing about Dr. Martin and Dr. Boston, these guys understand a little bit better that you have to provide as much as you can up front. You can't give a team 1/10th of what everyone else has and throw them out there and say you gotta win before we can help you. When you don't have anything in place that will really truly allow you to do that. They've done a lot for us in the past two or three years, quietly, internally with budget stuff. It's not so quiet, Dr. Boston has made a lot of public statements with what we're doing with the budgets but a lot of those comments have been perceived to be football and basketball but they're not, they're helping everybody, all the programs. That's giving us hope. I'm able to spend more time coaching and less time trying to raise money to just to have baseballs to play.
Timing is everything, if Dr. Boston had been here in '02 I don't think we ever would have stumbled in the past two years. What he's done for us in the past two years, if we'd have had that in '03 and '04 we would have had what we needed to maintain. To be honest, that probably wouldn't have changed the injury problems we've had the last couple years but we would have had more depth to cover that. Things are good around campus and around the athetic program. We're getting more and more help and they're making commitments to all the programs. I believe that if I can get myself and my ballclub back to the middle of the league this year, am I gonna try and win it, you bet I am and I'm going to have a chance because we're playing those guys, if I can go out and go 12-4 in the games against Hawai'i and Fresno then I'm going to have a good chance to win the league. I really strongly believe that if I can get my ballclub there [to the conference tournament] that we have so many people returning we have a chance to do some damage in the tournament. We're not as far away as people think we are. If I can get them back in the middle, we're in a position that we are being reasonably funded now and we can maintain. For a team that goes 22-34 to go out and sign 17 players in the early signing period is unheard of. I think we have everything in place we just need to go out and put it on the field. If we can get ourselves in that position I think we'll be back where everybody expects us to be and I look forward to the challenge.
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