Kansas Baseball Holds Media Day

Feb. 19, 2008

LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Kansas baseball team held its annual media day Tuesday in Hadl Auditorium. Head coach Ritch Price along with a handful of players spoke with reporters about the upcoming season, which gets underway Friday in Kona, Hawaii.

<?xml:namespace prefix=”st1″ ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags”?>Kansas Baseball Media Day<?xml:namespace prefix=”o” ns=”urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office”?>

February 19, 2008

Head Coach Ritch Price:

Opening statement:

“We’re excited to get outside. We’ve basically taken the tarp off the infield and taken ground balls about four times and that’s been the extent (of what we’ve done outside). We’re eager to get outside. It’s been a tough month.”

On the depth of the pitching staff:

“Depth-wise, it’s the best we’ve been in the six years I’ve been here. As you well know, when you first take over, you put about a four-year plan together to try to have four freshmen, four sophomores, four juniors and four seniors on your roster. We finally have that kind of balance. The returners are significantly better than they were a year ago.”

“Nick Czyz is better than his previous two years. He’s improved his change-up. His hand speed is better, his arm speed is better. He’s improved his command, which is something he’s struggled with in the past.”

“Wally Marciel has probably been the best guy in his bullpen sessions. He’s making tremendous progress from his freshman year when he was in the rotation. The two new guys have been really good.”

“Shaeffer Hall, the junior college transfer was drafted out of high school and drafted last year after his freshman year. He probably has the best breaking ball, the best change-up and best location and command of all of our guys. He’s not as firm as our other guys, but his command has been very good.”

“Sam Freeman, the transfer from Marshall has been everything we hoped he would be. He throws about 93 with an outstanding change-up and an outstanding slider. Command is still an issue for him. He’s still learning how to pitch. He was a center fielder and a pitcher a year ago at his junior college, so he’s making that conversion full-time to pitching and so far he’s done very well.”

On the season being three weeks shorter:

“Personally, I’m not a big fan of the change of the season, even though we’re a cold weather team that it’s designed to supposedly help benefit. What it’s really done for us is it’s eliminated three road trips and nine weekends of games we would have played with only three-missed class days. When you’re geographically challenged like we are, it’s three hours to Wichita (WichitaStateUniversity), the closest non-conference opponent for us. The metropolitan schools can just drive across town after school and play Tuesday, Wednesday and miss no class time. That’s not the case for us. We have a 10-day missed class policy and we use five of those in the league. You look at our schedule and there’s eight Tuesday, Wednesdays and that’s going to put a premium on pitching. We’ve obviously continued to increase the amount of scholarship money that we spend on pitching. One of the things I shared with my players was that if you win a Big 12 series on the weekend and go back the next week and lose your mid-week games, you take a step backwards. Those games are just as important as the weekend series’ are at the end of the season if you’re going to win 40 times and make the NCAA Tournament.”

On pitcher Andy Marks’ rehab and his pitching status:

“He was supposed to throw at about 50 percent and he threw at about 75 percent. He was pain free. His mechanics were good. He’s on a plan where he pitches 35 pitches every other day. That’s what he’s at now. So far, we’re really encouraged by how his rehab is going. He will make his first appearance when we’re in Florida (in mid-March). He’ll miss the first Big 12 series, but we hope to pitch him twice in Florida, once at the start of the week and once at the end of the week and if he’s feeling better, we’ll put him in the rotation at that time.”

On Ryne Price:

“His natural position is behind the plate. He’s obviously a really good athlete. He can play second base and outfield. He’s got the best arm on our team, so I’m trying to put him in a position where he can focus on catching and playing right field and not have to worry as much about playing defense in the infield. Hopefully it will increase his RBI totals and get his run production numbers. We need him to be an impact player. We need him to play at a high level for us to be a good team.”

On the freshmen:

“We’re going to give a couple of them a chance to play early in there career and that’s something that you normally do. We’re not afraid to play those guys. If they’re going to be really good at this level, you have to take high school players and help those young men develop by playing them early. Tony Thompson will open the season at third base. He’s a big, strong physical guy. He helped lead his team to a state championship in Nevada last year. He’s got really good hands; he hit 19 home runs a year ago. He’s a big strong, physical right-handed hitter. He plays good defense. We really like his upside. He has a chance to be a tremendous college player. The other young man, Jimmy Waters, was the Iowa Male Athlete of the Year. He’s an outstanding left-handed hitter. He played shortstop on his high school team; he played third base in the summer time. We’re trying to convert him into catcher right now. We think he has the mentality to do that. We’re going to start him this season as our (designated hitter), we’re going to protect him against left handers, but he’s got a chance to be as good a hitter as I’ve coached in my career.”

On how the Big 12 will break down this year:

“I think Texas, without question, is probably the No. 1 preseason choice. I actually believe that Texas A&M has a really good chance of winning the league as well. (Texas A&M) had several guys drafted last year that didn’t sign and they came on very, very good at the end of the season. Baylor has really good pitching. They played several freshmen and sophomores a year ago, so I think they have the experience now to contend for a title berth. Then Missouri has really good pitching. They lost (center fielder) Evan Frey. He was the heart and soul of their team, a great college player, but Missouri has the pitching to be in the top three or four and contend. Our players understand that we play in one of the best leagues in America. If you can place fifth, you’re a Top 25 team. Our goal is to be in the top five. We understand we’ll have to overachieve to make that happen and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

On PrestonLand:

“PrestonLand has been outstanding. Obviously he had a really disappointing sophomore year after having a tremendous freshman year. He’s working really hard in the weight room and really hard with our strength coach. He’s down to about 258 and he’s rock solid.”

On pitching plans to start the season:

“We’re going to put Wally on a pitch count Friday in Hawaii and he’s going to open up Wednesday night at Arkansas. Any time we get a chance to play a SEC team, it’s a really important game for us. We’ve been there (Arkansas) four times since I’ve been here and we’ve lost three one-run games. Wally’s going to bounce back Wednesday. As for Friday when we get to Vanderbilt, we’ve won that tournament the last two times we’ve been there. We’re looking forward to that as well.”

Junior Catcher Buck Afenir

On dealing with the cold weather:

“It will be a little tough when we get to Hawaii and get on the field for the first time and we are in a game situation, but that is just the challenge we have. We are doing a good job of getting ready inside and working hard.”

On the team’s trip to Hawaii:

“It is a great trip. Everyone gets a lot of good experience and it is great to get out of the snow and into the sunshine. Everyone can’t wait.”

On being named the starting catcher to begin the new season:

“It is a good feeling going in that I have a spot right now. Just like everybody else I have to hold my spot and keep producing, and that is what I plan on doing.”

On the pitching staff:

“The pitching staff is looking great. Everybody is working really hard. Our bullpen is really good. Coach (Ryan) Graves is working with them on a lot of new things. I think we have both experience and some good, young guys. We are going to see some wins come from our improvement.”

On the team’s goals:

“We have some lofty goals around here. We would really like to get back into the top-25 like we did two years ago and I really think we have a good chance.”

Senior Outfielder John Allman

On the season:

“I feel really good, and very confident going into this year. I think we are going to have a great year and win some ballgames.”

On the changes in the outfield:

“We have (Ryne) Price out there now. I am excited to have him out there. Then we have (Nick) Faunce in center field, who I think will be a great addition. I think we are going to just go out there and make some great plays.”

On the lineup changes:

“Now I feel like guys are really starting to fit into their positions. I think guys are going to be more comfortable, which is going to lead to better at-bats. I think when guys are comfortable they relax and just play the game the way they know how to play.”

On pitching being the key to winning:

“Pitching is a very important part of the game and I feel like we are deeper than we have ever been in the five years I have been here. Going into the year I feel confident in our pitchers. We also bring back an experienced lineup, one through nine, and I’m really excited to see what happens.”

Sophomore Pitcher Wally Marciel

On the pitching staff:

“This year we have more depth with the two new guys, Shaeffer Hall and Sam Freeman that just came in this past year. They are both going to contribute a lot with Andy (Marks) out. I think our pitching staff will be just fine.”

On Andy Marks being injured, and the other pitchers stepping up:

“The Big 12 is pretty tough and we play against the best hitters in all of baseball. Losing Andy as a top pitcher on our squad is tough, but giving other guys the experience of playing in difficult situations is a good step for them.”

On the adjustments he has made in the offseason:

“All summer I have been working on my change up and the last game of the year I started using my slider. I was warming up with it in the bullpen and ended up using it in the game and it worked successfully. All summer I worked on my fastball command along with my slider and change up, the two things I struggled with last year. So hopefully the work I put in will be beneficial this season.”

Senior Outfielder/Catcher Ryne Price

On playing tough teams on the road:

“It’s something that we look forward to; we definitely love to play anyone anywhere in the country. We are not afraid to walk into other people’s houses. I think that we get pretty pumped up and it raises our level of play when we go there.”

On his position change:

“It’s going well; I played pretty well out there in the fall. Talking with (Assistant Coach Kevin Tucker) he says he likes me out there, so I am enjoying it.”

On playing catcher:

“I am still working to get the rust off, because I haven’t (caught) since high school. Here in the next couple of months I think I will feel comfortable behind the plate again.”