Kansas Baseball Holds Media Day

Jan. 26, 2007


The University of Kansas baseball team held its media day on Friday, Jan. 26. Members of the media spoke with fifth-year head coach Ritch Price and selected players that make up the 2007 Jayhawk squad.

Head Coach Ritch Price
A preview of the 2007 Jayhawk baseball team:
“We start next Thursday and we haven’t been outside for a single day of practice yet. The weather has been discouraging from that standpoint. I feel that we’re game ready to play and the only way we’re going to improve now is to actually get outside and play. But that’s the purpose of our early trip to Hawaii, similar to a Major League team participating in Spring Training. We’re going to try and get each of our position players 20 at-bats, and two appearances for each of our relievers out of the bullpen and also get each one of our five starters a start. We are hoping to build off this trip before we come home to host the Dakotas and head to Stanford to play a Top-25 program.”

On the status of Kansas’ pitching staff:

“We won 43 games a year ago, and obviously we got red-hot at the end of the year. We swept [Texas] A&M, and then swept four Top-25 teams to win the Big 12 Championship. We won the second-most games in our conference. I was at the National Coaches Conference this past weekend, and all the predictions are coming out. One of them has us 10th and another ninth. Some of our players printed them out and highlighted them before sticking them on the board, and I think that there’s a statement. Our players are really upset by the early prognosis of our season by our critics. But it’s also a statement to how good the players were that just left the program. People look at the fact the impact players have left, seven guys signed pro contracts. So if I were another coach I might put us down at the bottom as well; but at the same time we have six returning starters that have proven that they can play at this level. One of the things we keep talking about is that the guys coming back were key contributors. There’s a big difference between being an impact player and a contributor. You’re going to see some of those roles change, and if guys embrace their new roles and become impact players, you’re going to see a good bunch of guys be high draft picks in the spring.”

On the scheduling:
“We play Hawaii like we normally do, and then we play the Dakotas back-to-back before we go to Stanford and Arkansas. I’m trying to get 10 or 12 games under our belt before we start playing Top-25 teams. If you look at our rotation, Nick Czyz will be the only returning starter. So we’re trying to get the new guys some experience before getting thrown into big games versus big-time competition.”<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

On the Starting Rotation:
“Zach Ashwood, our transfer from TCU will start Game one. Nick Czyz will pitch Game two. Wally Marciel is going to pitch Game three. Andy Marks pitches Game four. And Andres Esquibel pitches Game five. Those are the guys that are going to compete for the starting three jobs.”

On the progress of Erik Morrison, who is switching from 3B to SS:

“I actually think it’s a more natural position for him. He was a high school shortstop, and he played third base when he and Ritchie [Price] were on the (Firestone) Rangers together in the summer. The ball Eric has the most trouble with is the ball that’s hit right at him. Third base is a reactionary position. At shortstop, he has more time until the ball is right on him, and obviously he had great lateral movement, plus an outstanding arm. He’s done a really nice job going back to his natural position. We need him to play well.”

On center fielder Kyle Murphy:

“He’s going to open the season in center field. In my mind, without question he’s the best defensive outfielder I’ve ever coached. The reality is he’s made progress with the bat and now he has to prove it. He hit less than .200 a year ago. If he hits .250 I’ll be the happiest coach in America. We’ll protect him at the end of our line-up and let him win games for us with his glove. But we also have Casey Larson, a junior college player who bats left-handed, and he’s a big-time player. It’s a luxury to be able to have two guys out there that can play at this level.”

On the status of the program:

“I feel we have arrived. It’s been a four-year process, and one of the things I was asked to do when I arrived here was to do it right. I believe we’ve done that. We’ve offered guys scholarships, we are predominately a high-school recruiting team, and then we fill in the holes with junior college players. I think the foundation has been laid and I think that we are better than we were when I arrived here four years ago. Our goal now is to stay there. We’ve won 30-plus games four years in a row for the first time in school history, and we do not want to go backwards. I think that there’s a sense of pride now that finishing ninth or 10th at Kansas isn’t acceptable. From the day I got here, I knew we were in a baseball conference, and we have a great tradition with our basketball program, and we make no excuses. We’re going to find a way to get it done and that’s our expectation here.”

On the Big 12 Conference:

“When you look at the top of the list, Texas is obviously a legitimate national title contender. They have a tremendous group of players back, and most people think that they will win our league. Oklahoma State also has an opportunity to win the conference as well, they have six or seven of the best offensive players in our league. I think it will be those two teams contending for the conference championship. Certainly Nebraska will be solid like they’ve always been. The Baylor coaches believe that their sophomore and freshmen recruiting classes are the two best they’ve ever had. They think that they can win a national championship at Baylor with that group of guys. Oklahoma will be in the mix. Texas A&M was really down last year, but they had a great recruiting class and they’ll be back up there. Texas Tech has two of the best arms in the league and they’ll be good. I think Missouri is somewhat in the same situation that we are in. They lost two of the best arms in the league and some impact players, so they’re trying to reload as well.”

Junior outfielder John Allman

On team projections:

“We don’t really think about that stuff; we just have to worry about us as a team and how we are playing. We just need to go out there and compete every day and worry about what we can control. We can’t worry about what people are saying.”

On Kansas’ improvement:

“It’s incredible – everything has improved 10-fold. They are always improving our facilities, and giving us the best opportunity to be successful. You can’t ask for anything more; you just have to take advantage of it.”

On the bar raised from last season:

“Our goal is to make it to Omaha. We just have to play within ourselves, control what we can control and go out there every day and compete. We need to not worry about who is in the other dugout, and worry about what we are doing. Let the marbles fall where they may.”

On not having the same protection in the lineup:

“We have some guys that will step up this year. E-Mo (Erik Morrison), Preston (Land) and Brock (Simpson) and all these guys – our hitting is going to be fine. We just need to go out there, see some live pitching and get comfortable.”

Junior infielder Ryne Price

On Kansas stacking up in Big 12 standings:

“I think we have a chance to finish among the top of the Big 12 if we use our capabilities and get stuff done.”

On the team’s confidence:

“I think we are all pretty stoked and looking forward to the year. I don’t think anyone is nervous, and all the new guys got over their freshmen nerves in the fall.”

On being on a team with so many younger players:

“Mainly we are just out here to play, and try to become better all-around.”

Sophomore pitcher Paul Smyth

On the pressure of filling shoes:

“For me, I feel like it is more like an opportunity. Donnie (Czyz) really set the table for everybody of what a closer is supposed to do. Coming into the program, I didn’t know how great of a pitcher he was – I’d never seen him throw before. I got to learn a lot about closing and pitching from him. I know that I am ready to take over that role if it’s available to me. If it is, I will do my best. You can’t do much better than Stopper of the Year, so it’d be great to have those honors too.”

On losing starting pitchers:

“We lost all three weekend guys, weekday starters and, obviously, our stopper. That’s drawn a lot of concern; you can see it in the ratings. The team has dropped down, almost unnecessarily. A lot of the polls have overlooked that we’ve had a lot of guys that have grown a lot. A lot of the younger guys from last year, including myself, felt hesitant at the beginning of the year. Now, we are at the point where we feel like we can be impact players, and can really control the situation that we’re going to be put in.”