Catching Up With: Ritch Price
July 25, 2008
Kansas head baseball coach Ritch Price is serving as an assistant coach with the U.S. Collegiate National Team this summer. Price’s team is just two wins away from becoming the first national team in 30 years to go through the summer undefeated. The team has already defeated the Cuban national team twice this year, becoming the first U.S. team to accomplish this. Kuathletics.com caught up with Price as he helps his team prepare for the final games this weekend.
1) How has the experience with USA Baseball been this summer? In what capacity are you serving with the coaching staff?
RP: It’s been an unbelievable experience to work with some of the best players in the country, and compete against international teams for the first time. I’m the infield coach, coach first base, and throw bp (batting practice) and hit pre-game infield/outfield everyday. I work under one of the best coaches in the college game in Rob Walton (of Oral Roberts).
2) What has it been like to coach with/against the best players in the world on a nightly basis?
RP: You see guys do some amazing things. There are probably six potential first round draft picks on our pitching staff. They have been unbelievable to watch on a day in day out basis. Having the chance to coach and compete against the Cuban National team and beat them twice for the first time in USA baseball history has been the highlight of the summer. They have tremendous talent a couple of their guys would be major league all-stars if they were allowed to play major league baseball.
3) There are several Big 12 athletes on the team. Being that you’ve coached against most of these guys, what is it like having them on your side now, and does it help you to coach them now when you’ve coached against them in the past?
RP: The Big 12 guys have been great to work with. All four of the pitchers have had great summers, they are tremendous kids, and we’ll had a lot of fun together. We joke about our rivalries almost on a daily basis. Kendall Voz (Baylor) has been our closer and will be a first round draft pick next spring. Kyle Gibson (Missouri) is the set-up man and has been outstanding. He will be a first round draft pick and we have had a great time talking about the KU-MU rivalry.
Andrew Oliver and Tyler Lyons (Oklahoma State) have also been outstanding. Oliver is one of the starters and will be a first round draft pick next spring, and Lyons has been the left-handed specialist out of the bullpen. He has a big time curveball, and sits 88-90 (mph) with his fastball. I like him a lot and believe that he will also be a major league pitcher in the very near future. It speaks volumes about the talent in the Big 12 Conference.
4) What has been your most memorable experience with the team thus far?
RP: Beating Cuba in the Honkball Tournament for the first time was a great thrill, and then to beat them again for the championship was the highlight of the summer. It’s the first time Cuba has lost a tournament championship to Team USA and the first time Team USA has beaten the Cuban National Team twice in the same summer.
The other highlight of the summer was playing against Hiarali Garcia and the Canadian National Team. I have such great respect for Hiarali as a person and as a player. He pitched a scoreless 10th inning against us, and I was really proud of him, to see him in that Canadian National uniform, and have the chance to give him a hug after the game was a really special moment for me.
5) What is the most important thing from this summer that you’ll be able to take with you back to KU?
RP: I’m going to use some of the drills that they other coaches use to help develop our players. It also has shown me how good our players are at KU and that they are capable of playing with these guys and being successful. We had four guys on our team last year who could start on Team USA right now, and Paul Smyth could pitch on this team.
Coach Price and Team USA return to action Saturday, facing a yet-to-be-determined opponent in the first of two semifinal games. First pitch is scheduled for 3:30 a.m. CDT at Mestsky Stadium in Brno, Czech Republic. Fans can follow the action at www.usabaseball.com.