Kansas opens 2017 season at Charleston Crab House Challenge
Senior closer Stephen Villines is just six saves away from becoming KU’s all-time leader.
Charleston Crab House Challenge
Feb. 17 at The Citadel, 3 p.m.
Feb. 18 vs. Liberty, 10 a.m.
Feb. 19 vs. Virginia, 9 a.m.
(KU) Rackoski vs. (CIT) Sears
(KU) Rincon vs. (LU) Evans
(KU) Turski vs. (UVA) Haseley
Instagram @kubaseballLAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas head coach Ritch Price, senior closer Stephen Villines and junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin met with the media Wednesday to preview the upcoming baseball season at the Jayhawks’ annual Media Day.
Kansas opens the 2017 campaign at the Charleston Crab House Challenge, hosted by The Citadel, where the Jayhawks will play the Bulldogs (Feb. 17), Liberty (Feb. 18) and No. 16 Virginia (Feb. 19).
A Full transcript of the Media Day press conference can be found at the bottom of the page or by clicking HERE.
- Kansas will begin its 127th season dating back to its first season of record in 1880 (KU did not field a team in 1881-82, 1895, 1901, 1933-36, 1943 and 1945).
- Kansas’ all-time record: 1,855-1,784-18 (.510).
- Head coach Ritch Price’s record in Division I: 651-631-4 (.508).
- Price (435-402-3 [.520]) is just four wins from becoming KU’s all-time winningest coach (Floyd Temple, 438).
- Kansas is 74-50-3 all-time in season openers and 8-6 under the direction of Price.
- The Jayhawks have never played their opening day game at Hoglund Ballpark under Price, and haven’t played one since Feb. 12, 2002, when Kansas defeated Ottawa, 10-6, at home.
- KU has never played a game against any of the three teams it will face in the Charleston Crab House Challenge.
- Kansas has only played four games against current Southern Conference schools – the same league that The Citadel is in – and holds a record of 1-3 in those contests.
- The Jayhawks’ Saturday contest against Liberty will mark the first time Kansas will play a member of the Big South Conference.
- KU holds an all-time record of 2-7 against Atlantic Coast Conference teams, with its last matchup against an ACC opponent coming on March 1, 2015, vs. Boston College (L, 4-6).
QUEST FOR 439
Kansas head coach Ritch Price stands four wins away from becoming KU’s all-time winningest coach. Currently, the title is held by legend Floyd Temple, who amassed 438 wins in his 28-year tenure with the Jayhawks. The earliest Price could achieve this feat is game four of the season against Omaha (Feb. 21). In addition, Price is the longest-tenured active coach at a Big 12 institution, as he begins his 15th season with KU. He also has won the most games at his institution among all active league skippers.
WATCH OUT FOR VILLINES
The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named closer Stephen Villines to the 2017 Preseason Stopper of the Year Watch List. In its 13th year, the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Award is given to the top relief pitcher in NCAA Division I baseball. In three seasons, Villines has logged 151 and 2/3 innings in 82 appearances out of the bullpen – both more than any other reliever during that span. He has compiled a 2.37 career ERA and has struck out 126 batters compared to 35 walks allowed, all while holding opponents to a .245 batting average. In the process, Villines has racked up the third-most saves in Kansas history (26) and is just five behind KU great Don Czyz (31) – who won the Stopper of the Year Award in 2006.
JAYHAWKS PICKED NINTH
The Jayhawks were predicted to finish ninth in the Big 12 Conference preseason poll. Kansas has been rebuilding since losing a large core of upperclassmen who guided the now-senior class to a berth in the 2014 NCAA Tournament and its highest finish in Big 12 play at third, and looks to outperform the poll like it has done so many times before. In 2014 KU was picked to finish last and ended league play in third, in 2013 it was picked to finish eighth and finished sixth, and in 2012, they were voted to finish ninth and ended the year in seventh.
PRICE NAMES 2017 CAPTAINS
Kansas skipper Ritch Price appointed senior catcher John Remick, senior closer Stephen Villines and junior shortstop Matt McLaughlin captains for the 2017 campaign. The trio will all be holding captain’s duties for the first time in their careers.
“These three have showed what it takes to be great leaders on and off the field,” Price said. “They represent our program in a first-class manner and have the respect from everybody associated with our program, from our players, our coaching staff and within the athletic department.”
JAYHAWKS IN THE PROS
As Kansas begins its 2017 campaign, 15 former players find themselves on professional rosters heading into Spring Training: Wes Benjamin (Hickory Crawdads – A), Frank Duncan (Reno Aces – AAA), Sam Freeman (Gwinnett Braves – AAA), Tom Gorzelanny (FA), Ben Krauth (Lake County Captains – A), Brandon Macias (Colorado Springs Sky Sox – AAA), Connor McKay (Hickory Crawdads – A), Colton Murray (Lehigh Valley IronPigs – AAA), Jordan Piche´ (Inland Empire 66ers – A), Dakota Smith (Lowell Spinners – A), Michael Suiter (Winston-Samel Dash – A), Tucker Tharp (Columbia Fireflies – A), Michael Tinsley (Mahoning Valley Scrappers – A), Colby Wright (Billings Mustangs – R) and Mike Zagurski (Toledo Mud Hens – AAA).
ALL JAYHAWKS, ALL THE TIME
All Kansas baseball games will be carried live and for free on the Jayhawk Radio Network, which can be found at KUAthletics.com/Radio or on the official Kansas Jayhawks app on your mobile device. A handful of games will also be broadcasted on the airwaves. In addition, all 32 home games will be carried live in HD on ESPN3, with eight broadcasted throughout the state of Kansas on the Jayhawk Television Network. Fans can access ESPN3 online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN and ESPN apps, through ESPN on Xbox Live to Gold Members, on Apple TV and a handful of other streaming and smart devices. For more information on the Jayhawk Television Network and ESPN3, visit KUAthletics.com/TV.
FOUR DRAFTED IN 2016
Four Jayhawks were selected in the 2016 MLB Draft with catcher Michael Tinsley picked inside the top-10 rounds by the Cleveland Indians (7th round, pick 212). He became the 26th player in Kansas history to be drafted in the top-10 rounds and just the second position player to don that honor in the Ritch Price era. He was also the highest draft pick among catchers all-time at KU. In addition to Tinsley, lefty Ben Krauth (Cleveland Indians), righty Sam Gilbert (Oakland Athletics) and second baseman Colby Wright (Cincinnati Reds) were also drafted.
WRAPPING UP THE 2016 SEASON
Fifteen different Jayhawks earned awards:
- Joven Afenir: Academic All-Big 12 Second Team
- Hayden Edwards: Academic All-Big 12 Second Team
- Devin Foyle: Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American
- Sam Gilbert: Academic All-Big 12 Second Team
- Ben Krauth: All-Big 12 First Team
- Matt McLaughlin: All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, Academic All-Big 12 First Team
- Tommy Mirabelli: Academic All-Big 12 First Team
- Joe Moroney: Academic All-Big 12 First Team
- Ryan Pidhaichuk: Academic All-Big 12 Second Team
- Owen Taylor: Academic All-Big 12 Second Team
- Michael Tinsley: All-Big 12 First Team, ABCA/Rawlings All-Midwest Region Second Team, Johnny Bench Award Semifinalist
- Stephen Villines: All-Big 12 Second Team
- Blake Weiman: Academic All-Big 12 First Team
- Marcus Wheeler: Academic All-Big 12 First Team
- Colby Wright: All-Big 12 Second Team, Academic All-Big 12 First Team
Kansas opens Hoglund Ballpark for the first of an unprecedented 32-game home slate, Tuesday, Feb. 21, as it plays host to Omaha. The Jayhawks will then hit the road for California where they will play a three-game set at Stanford, Feb. 24-26.
Kansas head coach Ritch Price
“I appreciate everyone being here, especially with how nice the weather has been. We’ve been fortunate enough to be outside every day but one in the months of January and February trying to get ready for the season opener. Marcia (Bagby, administrative assistant) told me today that there will be record temperatures here in Lawrence this weekend, so I wish we had a home series, but like every team in the country, we’re excited to get going.”
On having 32 home games this year:
“It kind of fell into place like that. We picked up some home-and-home series with teams and they’re starting here and then we’re returning them earlier in the year next year when we’re normally traveling out of state. You’ll be shocked when you see how young our team is that we put on the field. It’s partly designed for the fact that there could be as many as five freshmen and three sophomores playing at one time. When you have a team that young, you’d like to get comfortable and get them in a routine where they can get off to a good start and have some success before you throw them into the wolves of playing in the Big 12.”
On the strength of the early games/opponents on the schedule:
“I had this discussion with our guys on Sunday before our last intersquad game of the preseason. I came here to play against Texas and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and Nebraska and (Texas) A&M when they were national powers and in our league. The great thing about being in the Big 12 is we’re going to play the 2015 national champions (University of Virginia) on Sunday, and there won’t be anyone afraid in our dugout. If you’re afraid, you came to the wrong place. I think that the great thing about playing at KU is that even when you’re the underdog, and we know we’re the underdog going in there, you live for that moment. Usually I’ve had nine guys in the dugout that came to play for me for the same reason – so they could have those same opportunities. I’m pumped up that we have a chance to play them. We’re going to follow that up with going to Stanford and, you know, I’m a West Coast guy, I’ve had three former assistants be assistants at Stanford. It’s Coach (Mark) Marquess’ 41st and final season at Stanford. He’s second all-time in wins and won a couple of national championships, so we’re going to go walking in there with an opportunity to play in – in the last 40 years – maybe a top-five program in the history of college baseball. So it’s a really tough way to start the first two weeks before we come home and start the homestand. But Matt (McLaughlin) is from San Jose and Stephen (Villines) is from Southern California, so they’ll have all of their families and relatives at Stanford. I think the last time we were there, there were like 350 Jayhawk fans in the stands. Coach Marquess told me it was the first time he ever felt like he was the visitor (in his home stadium) when our starting lineup was introduced, and so we’re excited about that opportunity as well.”
On preparation for the upcoming games against highly regarded teams:
“I think the greatest thing that it does when you have a national power on your schedule, is that you don’t have to (prepare) as a coach. I think if you have to go there, you have the wrong guys. I mean, you should have goosebumps when you walk into Sunken Diamond (field). You know the history and the tradition and the major leaguers that have come out of that program, and I still get goosebumps. It’s like when you walk out into LSU. I use this analogy all the time, but it’s like walking into Allen Fieldhouse. You hear Dick Vitale raving about the crowd Monday night in one of the greatest comeback victories in the fieldhouse; I get that when I go to Alex Box Stadium at LSU because that’s what it’s like playing there. I get those same feelings when we walk into Stanford and Texas and some of those other places that have unbelievable tradition and history.”
On what he is looking for out of a younger team this season:
“I want to see us compete, that’s number one, and not walk on the field and make mental mistakes, so that they can play the game within the game the right way. They sounds like simple things to do, but throw the ball to the proper base on base hits when guys are going first-to-third so you don’t make a mental mistake and throw the ball to third and let the trail runner or hitter get to second base and so now you don’t have the double play in order. Some of those little things within the game are huge. When one-third of the games in college baseball are decided by one run, that’s how you lose games, in the third or fourth inning when you make a mental mistake. So I’m looking forward to that, and I’m looking forward to seeing us execute our short game assignments and put the ball in play with a runner at third and less than two outs. All of those things that you preach to your hitters and the drills you set up to put them in those situations to succeed, those are the little things that separate the teams that are average from the teams that are good.”
On junior infielder Matt McLaughlin:
“That is what he does best (in regards to previous question). Matt is a really good baseball player with a really high baseball IQ. There are guys in our league that run faster than he does, that have a better arm velocity-wise across the diamond than he does, but I think I read somewhere that that’s why he’s the preseason choice to be first team all-conference at shortstop. He does all of those little things.”
On preseason accolades awarded to McLaughlin and Villines:
“First off, it’s a great compliment to both young men. They came here for the opportunity to play in the great conference that the Big 12 is in baseball, and to chase their dreams of being professional baseball players. I think both of those guys are going to see that dream become a reality here this spring. The other thing is that I think these guys are winners. Their Cape Cod team last summer played for the Cape Cod Championship. Stephen pitched all summer and allowed two-run homers, three-run homers, the only runs he gave up the entire summer pitching in the Cape Cod this summer. Matt is playing third base and shortstop for his team, and I think the fact that their team got to the championship game speaks volumes about why they’re there. They know how to win and make the team and the players around them better.”
On depth of healthy pitchers:
“Well we actually feel really good about it. We still have the two young men out with Tommy John (surgery) that had it last year. They not only missed last season, they also miss this year with it being a 12-18 month rehab process. But we’ve added some junior college arms that have come in and given us more depth. And then the freshman, Ryan Zeferjahn from Topeka, has been about as good as advertised and will continue to get better throughout the season. But I think the only good thing to happen last year from a pitching standpoint – with the exception of Stephen being really good and being first team all-conference – is that those guys got experience that they wouldn’t normally have gotten if there hadn’t been so many guys hurt. And some of them have made a huge step forward. Blake Weiman has improved his velocity, he’s now pitching at 88 to 91 (mph), and he’s improved his breaking ball. We’re going to take him out of the rotation and in the bullpen where he can be a two-inning guy now and really showcase a power left-side arm to pro scouts. I think he’s better at two innings than he is at four, five or six innings because he can’t maintain his stuff. He’s still not physically that strong yet. When you’re 6-foot-7, there’s still going to be some development time to get that strength to go deep into games, but we’ve got him in a role where he can be really good at now. We’re going to do the same thing to start out with Jackson Goddard, we’re going to put him in the bullpen. He’s been 90 to 95 (mph) and we’ll see if we can get him to a power fastball to pound the strike zone and mix in (his) slider. So I think those guys won’t be thrust into starter roles that they weren’t ready for a year ago as weekend guys in the Big 12. The good thing for me is that I’ve got this young man (Villines) waiting to pitch the eighth or ninth inning. My goal is to hand him the ball 15 times with the lead. That’s my goal. And if that happens, we’ll have a really good year.”
On replacing Ben Krauth:
“I’m going to pay Ben a great, great compliment. I think the first thing he did was that he restored my faith in junior college players, that’s number one. And I’m a J.C. guy. I played junior college, coached junior college, believed in the process of the reps that you get to develop your skillset, but we got hurt in the draft three-straight years when guys signed on us a day before school started in August, when you used to be able to sign August 15. We stopped recruiting guys because of that. The second thing he did was he came in and performed at a really high level. He was first team all-conference. We’re not going to replace him. I was with his scout last Monday night, and he bumped three levels last summer. He pitched over 100 innings for us, so (in) pro ball, when you pitch over 100 innings the summer you sign, they barely use you. But they bumped him three levels last year, and put him on playoff teams each time they bumped him. He only allowed runs one time all summer because of how good he commanded his changeup. His scout told me he’ll pitch in the big leagues, I believe he’ll pitch in the big leagues as well, and we’re not going to replace him. But also we were 1-13 on Saturday and Sunday. So he’s 6-3 pitching in our league and that usually puts you in the NCAA playoffs if we had been healthy on Saturday and Sunday. We would’ve had a really good team with that guy pitching Friday night. But the good thing for us is that we’ll be better on Saturday, better on Sunday and better on Tuesday. So we hope to make up for it by pitching at a much higher level for three days of the week.”
On Villines’ new and improved game:
“His changeup and breaking ball are as good as they’ve ever been. He’s been electric the last two times out, and that’s making his fastball even better. Most sidearm guys pitch at 83 or 84 (mph) and he’s pitching at 87 or 88 now, along with much improved off-speed pitches. He could be a good starter. There’s no doubt. We did that a couple times last year (bring in Villines earlier than the last inning). We got to Sunday, and if he’d only pitched one inning on Friday night, I think we brought him in the third inning once and the fourth inning one other time after that. When Donnie Czyz was here, and was a national closer of the year, we had a saying, it was “Quick and Czyz.” It was a two-man game so Kodiak Quick, who won 11 games and set a school record, left in the sixth or seventh inning, there was no bridging that. The ball was handed straight to Czyz. It’s like the old Goose Gossage days, where he would pitch three innings and pick up saves compared to the one-inning guys who you see in modern baseball. So we’ll continue to use him like that if he hasn’t pitched the day before.”
On Brandon Johnson’s injury:
“He’s out this year. He’s still rehabbing this year from his Tommy John, so he not only missed last year but he’ll miss this year as well.”
On who will be the starting pitcher this Saturday and Sunday:
“It could change next weekend based on performance, but we’re going to run the junior college transfer from California, Jeider Rincon, on Saturday, and then we’ll run Taylor Turski on Sunday, who is also left handed. He’s the southern California J.C., pitcher of the year from a year ago. We’re going to start Zeferjahn on Tuesday for the home opener, the freshman from Topeka. Those four guys will go the first week and then (Sean) Rackoski will go Friday night.”
On the team’s struggles in batting average last season, possible improvements this season:
“Well I would hope it goes back to just having more quality at-bats. One of the most overrated stats in baseball is your batting average. The quality at-bats, I think, are more important at the end of the season than what your batting average is. What I mean by that is that the hardest thing about our game is to deal with the failure that happens. If you’re 0-4 and you walk in the ballpark the next day. We all preach next at-bat, next pitch, go play defense and don’t take your offense to the field with you, but all of us at the plate know that’s the hardest thing about playing baseball. If you hit .300, you make 10 million dollars a year, well you fail 70 percent of the time. But the reality of it is that the best players have the best at-bats at the plate over the course of the season. I saw a great thing with the Toronto hitting coach yesterday on video where he talks about the guy who lines out three times. He’s 0-4 but he’s got three hard contacts, three line drive outs, he had a really good day. But unfortunately in baseball he is 0-4. So one of the things we’ve been preaching to our guys is to be fastball efficient and really focus on having quality at-bats. Then over 56 games, you’ll be a .300 hitter if that’s what your skillset is. It’s the guys that panic that get themselves in trouble.”
On becoming Dean of Big 12 Conference coaches:
“I think it speaks volumes about the changes in college baseball that have taken place since I’ve started 24 years ago at the Division I level. Baseball is becoming more like football and basketball now, where if you have two bad seasons, you can get fired or let go. At the same time, the plus side to that is schools are making huge commitments to baseball resource-wise. You (talking to Brian Hanni) come from Texas Tech and saw the 15 million dollar upgrade in their stadium, and they’ve made two College World Series in the last three years. As I get to the end of my career, it’s really exciting to see how the emphasis now plays so much on baseball around the country. Improving stadiums and salaries and scholarships and paying assistant coaches, it’s really an exciting time to be entering the game. It’s a really hard league. If you sit and look at it, we had three (Big 12) teams playing in the College World Series last year, we had two teams playing to win their pools. So it could have been an all-Big 12 national championship a year ago. TCU is preseason No. 1. It is an incredible grind. It’s also a lot of fun to play in because everywhere you go, you play against an outstanding coach that has had great success. You play against teams with great fan bases or traditions. It’s pretty special to play in the league right now.”
On possibly becoming KU’s winningest all-time coach:
“I think I’m going to take that (scorecard) home and put it in my hall of fame room when I’m done. I’m a huge Floyd Temple fan, and we had a great relationship when I came here and took over. It’s the only number that is retired in college baseball history. His granddaughter works in the (Kansas Athletics) department; his son lives in Texas that played for him and comes and watches us play Baylor every year; we named our alumni game after Floyd Temple and honored him. One of the best things that I’ve done is I hosted a reunion for him here when his health started to slip. He coached 28 years here, and I think his first 12 he also coached football. So those were the days when baseball coaches were also assistant football coaches. He didn’t get to walk into Hoglund ballpark. He had no indoor facility, he didn’t have Padgett (Family Indoor Hitting Facility), he’s out in the freezing cold every day for 28 years. It’s a remarkable accomplishment to last that long under those conditions. He told me one day to break every single record. And when it happens, the first thing I’ll be thinking about is him and what he said to me seven years ago. I’m really proud of my relationship with him. I’ll be proud of the record and I’ll be proud of the players that have played here because we’re not Kansas basketball. Kansas basketball is a national brand, a national power. I get to coach the greatest kids walking the planet. They’ve all come to KU to become graduates of the University of Kansas. They’re outstanding people, outstanding students, who are preparing to be successful in life, and they have got to go out in that weather every day. I’m from California, you (speaking to reporter) worked with the Dodgers, so you know that baseball is supposed to be played where it is warm. We appreciate everything our players have done, we appreciate our donors. This is my 15th year and we’ve raised over five million dollars for improvements to Hoglund ballpark. And we’re honoring all of those major donors this spring by having a Gary Padgett and Sue Padgett Day at the ballpark. Right on down to Ritch Jantz, who just paid for our new outdoor hitting facility. So we’re honoring all of those major donors because they’ve made it a first-class place to play. When my career ends here, the great thing I’m going to get to do is turn it over to someone who can walk in and not one thing has to get done. He just gets to coach. I compliment Lew Perkins and Doctor (Sheahon) Zenger and my boss, Sean Lester, because they have allowed us to fundraise to make those improvements. I think it talks about the pride of being a Jayhawk, for those people to give that much money back to the program, to help us make those facility improvements at Hoglund Ballpark.”
On the success of KU’s MVP Club:
“I think the MVP Club is one of the best things we’ve done. USC is actually where I copied that from. Matt Kohorst, who played here for us, his mom and dad paid for that facility, the MVP Club, to be set up, and we are actually honoring his family during the spring as well. Matt is killing it in real estate in California right now.”
On the team’s trip to the Dominican Republic:
“It would have been a perfect trip if we would have gotten to play all the games as scheduled. Unfortunately, we went there when that hurricane was going through that part of the country, and we got rained out the final two days. You get 10 extra days of practice, number one, but it also puts some details in your practice. Your kids know you get to play the Giants and the Royals, so the focus is so much better in preparing, but the bonding that the kids get to experience is immeasurable. To see the culture that exists there, the passion for baseball, and the poverty that exists there – literally the only way you get off that island is to play baseball, and it’s something that I think our players have really bought into. The community service activities that our guys were involved in, and I know for me personally, have been one of the most amazing things of my career and I am sure that some of my players feel the same way. My good friend, Jeff Jacobsen, who is sitting in the back, has gone on that trip both times, so he can echo that sentiment. We go every four years, but we are actually going to go to Cuba the next time we go. We are going there to play the Cuban national team, and I am actually going to see if I can get Dr. (Bernie) Kish’s sport management class set up where we can study the Cuban culture and the economics of professional athletics in Cuba. I am going to try to take Dr. Kish with me and let him teach a class while we are over there, as we combine the culture experience with baseball.”
On Stephen Villines’ aggressiveness on the mound:
“I’ll tell you what, he is a great model for young guys, to be able to pound the strike zone like that and pitch with no fear and pitch to contact. I am a huge Stephen Villines fan. First off, the guy came here as a walk-on and now he is on a scholarship. I was the only guy to give him a chance. He’s got a high school teammate at USC, a high school teammate at Cal State Fullerton, two top-20 programs coming out of high school. Nobody else is in the state recruited him, and he is going to pitch in the big leagues. The best thing about Stephen is he is an honor roll student, he is going to graduate. If you can go hang out with somebody, this guy has swagger, big-time swagger. Ritchie (Price) says this guy has more fun playing baseball than anyone that has ever played here, that is how much fun this guy has. He is going to make it because of that swagger and because of his ability to command the fast ball down in the zone.”
Kansas senior pitcher Stephen Villines
On teammates who have surprised him in the rotation:
“Like Skip just said, we’ve got a lot of (junior college) guys coming in. (We) obviously (have) a lot of young talent, but I’m most excited for Sean Rackoski. He’s coming off that injury he had last year so he was out, but he’s been making a lot of good strides and he’ll kind of be our workhorse on Friday. He’ll be kind of leading the rest of the staff. I’m excited to see him get to work.”
On how last year’s success can translate to this year:
“I think just with summer and during the fall working on my off-speed and getting that control, getting that command. I’ve been working on that the last five months or so, and so hopefully I can take that into the season.”
On being a member of the preseason Stopper of the Year watch list:
“It’s crazy to even be mentioned with those guys, you look at the list you have all the top programs. There’s a lot of power arms and it just makes you even more excited to get the season rolling and see what all we can do as a team.”
On what he is looking forward to most this season:
“Kind of going off what Matt said. We all enjoy being around each other. In the short time that we did get to play in the Dominican, if one of our pitchers struck out a guy we were all excited. We have no ‘I’ guys, no guys that are only worried about themselves. Everyone is more worried about the team overall. If one guy got that big hit we were all pumped. Kind of moving forward with that, ‘One Team’ mentality, it will be exciting to be in the same dugout as everyone else and playing against a different opponent and just seeing how we work together.”
Kansas junior infielder Matt McLaughlin
On his mindset this season and helping the team’s young infielders:
“I think the biggest thing for me is having the exposure and the experience I had. As a freshman, we had a senior shortstop, junior second baseman, senior first baseman. Understanding how big those guys were for me and my development of the game, I’m trying to do the same thing that those guys did for me when I was a young guy. I think there’s a good chance that we have a second baseman who is a freshman quite a bit this year, maybe even the same deal at third base. I’ve played both of those positions and as much as I’ve worked with Skip here and Ritchie on my infield technique, (I’m) just trying to give back to some of those young guys and lead by example on the field.”
On what he looks forward to the most this season:
“I can’t speak for what they had when they made it to the (NCAA) regional a few years ago, but this team’s culture is different than it was my first two years. I don’t know if it was the trip to the Dominican like Skip said, or having those 10 extra days of practice, but I feel like between the fall and the early spring so far, we’ve spent so much more time together, not just on the field but off the field, as well. Building that camaraderie, especially with such a young group of guys, it’s a talented group and we are really excited and looking forward to seeing what we can do to get some of these young guys on the field as soon as possible and get some exposure so that way when Big 12 play rolls around we are ready to go.”
On getting recruited by his uncle, Washington head coach Lindsay Meggs:
“That is kind of a funny story. Skip is a really good friend with my uncle, Lindsay Meggs, who is the head coach at Washington. It was my dream to go play at Washington. It was like my sophomore or junior year (of high school) he called me and said, ‘Hey stud, I can’t recruit you because I can’t have my wife and my sister mad at me if you aren’t playing.’ It couldn’t have worked out any better. I absolutely love it here, I will be a Jayhawk for life, this is my home now, so it worked out great. I think part of it was he didn’t think I was good enough to play in the Pac 12 like most of the coaches in that conference thought. I kind of wore that on my shoulder a little bit and it bothered me for a while that coaches didn’t think I could play in that conference. Skip took a chance on me and it worked out great.”
On his preseason accolades:
“It’s nice, but you would rather see it at the end of the year. The preseason awards don’t mean nearly as much as the end of the year awards. It is a little confidence booster, but we all know that the end of the year means a lot more than what you see at the start.”
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