Kansas Baseball Holds Media Day at the McCarthy Family Clubhouse

Feb. 12, 2009


Kansas head coach Ritch Price led a tour of the brand new Kent McCarthy Family Clubhouse and took questions as part of baseball media day Thursday. Following the press conference, several Kansas players fielded questions from reporters. Below is a transcript of Price’s press conference and quotes from the student-athletes.

Kansas Head Coach Ritch Price:

On the importance of getting off to a good start with his young team:

“We lost our No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 hitters. They were our best from a year ago and they all got a chance to play professional baseball. I think that one of the keys for us is going to be, obviously that we are going to have to pitch better than we did last year, because I don’t expect to score the same number of runs as last year. We have already talked to our guys about overachieving and trying to get better each month of the season.”

On the team’s tough schedule:

“There is the one stretch in there where we go to Arizona State, San Diego State, Texas, and finish up at Texas A&M. That might be the toughest two weeks that anybody in America is going to play. We are certainly going to have to be ready by the middle of March if we are going to compete.”

On the younger players stepping up:

“I really like the arm strength of our freshman class. When I got here six years ago the average velocity of our pitching staff was 84 mph. Last year we averaged 90 mph and that is an unbelievable increase in such a short period of time. The kids that we just brought in this year have the best arms of any class we have brought in so far. I think this provides us with hope for the future and something to build on.”

On the shaping up of the outfield:

“That is the area that we are going to have to have the most growth in. We lost the two starters in left and right from a year ago. Nick Faunce is back in centerfield and he will open up the season batting first. Jason Brunansky, whose dad spent 12 years in the big leagues, is a really talented young man. He is going to get a lot of playing time. He had a great fall and great spring as well for us. I couldn’t be more pleased with how well he is playing. In right field, Brian Heere is going to open the season and he has had a tremendous fall. I am really pleased with his development, he is a good runner and we are going to move him into the two hole in our line up. If he plays like he is playing right now I would be thrilled. Jimmy Waters, Jake Marasco, and Casey Lytle should also see significant time in the outfield.”

On the bullpen:

“I think that we are more solid in the bullpen than we were a year ago, we are deeper. I also think that because of our injury problems last year, it gave some players more experience than they normally would have gotten that early in their career.”

Freshman infielder Zac Elgie

On why he chose KU:

“Playing time is one of the reasons I decided to come here. I hope I’m going to have a pretty good opportunity to play. Hopefully I can help out the ball team in any way possible. College seemed like a chance that was right there and I just wanted to take the opportunity while I could.”

On playing in the Big 12 Conference:

“That’s another one of the reasons why I picked Kansas. Coach Price has always said it’s one of the top two or three conferences in the nation. He (Coach Price) always says if you can play here in the Big 12 you’ll have a chance to play professional ball.”

On his goals for the upcoming season:

“I just want to go out there and do what I can to help the team win. If that’s RBIs and only hitting .200, then that’s fine. It’s more about the team right now. We’re young and we’re going to go through some hard times. Anything that I can do to help the team out is going to be more important than my personal goals right now.”

Senior Centerfielder Nick Faunce:

On the inexperience of the two other guys in the outfield:

“They don’t have a lot of experience at the Big 12 level, but they do have experience. A couple of guys have been with the program for a few years and the other ones have experience at that position. I have faith in them.”

On taking up a leadership role in the clubhouse:

“I have definitely recognized recently, that I specifically need to step up and take a leadership role. I have been here for five years and I have a better grasp on what to expect that some of these younger guys. I just need to let them know what to expect in different environments and allow them to be confident in themselves.”

On batting first in the line up:

“I am pretty confident in myself batting first. I have done it last year and before in my life. It is just being consistent at that position. People attack you different; you see a lot more fastballs which is what I like, so I have no problem with that role.”

Junior Pitcher Shaeffer Hall

On what he wants to accomplish this year:

“As team I hope that we go out and play hard every game and good things will happen. I believe that we have some guys that are capable of doing some special things for this program.”

On how it feels being the number one pitcher:

“It is going to be tough keeping it, with all of these competitive guys competing for that top spot. I am going to go out there and work hard and hopefully get a few wins.”

On the advantage of having good weather at the beginning of the season:

“We have been out playing for about a week or so. Everyone is really excited about getting outside; hitting live balls off the bat, and pitching against live hitters is really going to help us out at the start of the season.”

Junior second baseman Robby Price

On how his role has changed:

“I think right now I might be batting in the middle of the order, so I will have a chance to drive in a few more runs this year. I’m going to have to have a different mindset, now I’m one of the older guys and people are looking up to me a little bit more. There is also a little more pressure, but I’m enjoying it right now.”

On how the team will make up for the production that was lost:

“It’s a different team, we will miss out on the guys who hit a lot of home runs and RBIs, but I think we will be a little bit faster this year. There will probably be more doubles here and there, which I think might help us. It’s a different style, we will have to put the ball in play more often and cut down on the strikeouts. I think we can still be productive.”

Freshman pitcher Lee Ridenhour

On deciding to come to KU instead of going pro:

“Coming to KU, I knew I was going to get much better coaching than I’d ever had before. It was a preparation for hopefully playing professional ball afterward. I’d never lived on my own before or gone through many life experiences. Also, I feel really comfortable with the coaches and the school. It was a good fit for me.”

On being able to practice outside early:

“It makes a huge difference. It’s much better than throwing inside. We’ve thrown inside a few times and it’s just weird with the screen and everything. Being able to throw outside, especially this early, is definitely good. If we hadn’t been outside yet it would make the trip to (Millington, Tenn.) next week much more difficult.”

On the upcoming season:

“I just want to go out and compete. Either way, (starting or bullpen), I just want to get out there and pitch as much as I can. I’m also really looking forward to the Big 12 experience. I’ve never been involved with anything this big before and it’s very exciting.”

Senior relief pitcher Paul Smyth

On the new faces in the clubhouse:

“There are definitely a lot of new guys this year, but we are really excited about what a lot of them can bring to the table.”

On the pitching staff:

“It’s been switching around a lot with new faces coming in and we are excited to mix Shaeffer Hall back into the weekend rotation. We also have a new guy, Cameron Selik, coming out of San Diego. A lot of guys have shown some good stuff and also T.J. Walz will be coming back for us, he became a place setter for us at the tail end of the season last year. I am really excited to see what he is capable of doing after the growth he has made this summer.”

On his role with the team:

“I have been closing for three years and I can say that every year I’m getting more and more valuable experience and I’m really excited about what we are capable of. Hopefully I can just do my best as long as they get the ball to me, I will keep trying to do what I can do.”